Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday 24 February 2024

The Cappella Palatina in Palermo

The Liturgical Arts Journal this week had a splendid article about the twelfth century Capella Palatina in the Royal Palace of Palermo.

The wonderful photographs show much more than the standard images that are reproduced in general books that refer to the chapel and are a visual delight. It is a very un-Lenten feast for the eyes. 

Commissioned in 1132 by King Roger II the chapel was a lavish celebration of the Christian faith and of the place within it of the Sicilian monarchy. Like the slightly later cathedral at Monreale this was elite work for an elite patron.  Some of the photographs are reminiscent of Cosmati work in Papal Rome in the same era and the great Westminster Abbey pavement of the next century, created for King Henry III’s inspired vision for the shrine church of St Edward.

The chapel displays not only the vitality of twelfth century art and design but also of intellectual pursuits. This was of great significance in the Sicilian court and kingdom, but was by no means confined to the cultural crossroads with was Sicily.

As I have done before when writing about Sicily I would commend John Julius Norwich’s books The Normans in the South and The Kingdom in the Sun as a means of understanding and appreciating the extraordinary achievements of the Hauteville dynasty and their rule in their southern kingdom.

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