Salta direttamente ai contenuti

Norman architecture in Sicily

PDF Print E-mail
Home arrowNorman architecture in Sicily

Norman Sicily! Nowadays it is very difficult to replace the Arab myth of a fabulous island speckled with the minarets of thousands of mosques with the forgotten, yet historically more tangible and no less fascinating myth of a Euro-Mediterranean one, which is cosmopolitan, rich with Norman architecture, and which is among the most beautiful of its kind within Romanesque Europe and the Byzantine East. A myth that was commenced in an almost parallel manner, by the Norman dukes and counts during the period of the conquests: from the Channel to the Strait of Messina, implemented fully subsequent to the establishment of the kingdoms of England and Sicily.

To understand the essence of one hundred splendid years of Sicilian Norman architecture, it is necessary to discern the various cultural roots that it was made up of, although within the unity of a unique cultural reality. We will therefore trace out a brief comparative analysis of the construction structures and techniques, between Sicily and Normandy, referring to the relevant history and myths.
From the first half of the 11th century and throughout the whole of the 12th century, a social and religious rebirth got underway in Europe, founded by the rediscovery of Christian roots.
This was the century of the great Romanesque cathedrals, founded in the wake of the Carolingian and Ottonian traditions. During this period, Normandy, Sicily and England made up three cultural poles, among the most well-known of medieval architecture, producing works that still today bear witness to an original artistic spirit, associated with constructive techniques that offered a foretaste of Gothic structuralism.

The Norman myth drew its initial origins, after the year one thousand, within the region of the estuary of the Seine, where a Viking contingent was established thanks to the work of the famous leader Rollo, with Rouen as its political core. Later on, this community managed to maintain a certain ethnic and cultural social homogeneity, associated with Celtic traditions and artistic expressions. On the other hand, even prior to the Viking invasion, in the flatland between Caen and Bayeux, southern Normandy housed several Saxon enclaves, each of which brought with it original cultural connotations associated with the Carolingian world. As a consequence, architectonic experiences and popular artistic expressions associated with the Benedictine monastic orders founded during the empire of Charlemagne were circulating.
During those first decades of the 11th century, Normandy therefore had quite a heterogeneous ethnic reality, the factions of which willingly entered into conflict. It was thanks to Duke William, who would later become the conqueror of England, that disagreements came about within the region, with somewhat decided methods, he progressively imposed a centralised government from 1048 to 1060 within all the territories that he inherited from his father: Robert the Magnificent. The idea of a feudal-based political centrality in a century marred by widespread rebellion and anarchy, was soon revealed to be a winning concept, associated with the Norman expansion in England and southern Italy.