Norman Byzantine style

Norman byzantine style was a unique multicultural experiment that lasted several centuries. It was a singular movement which encompassed three diverse styles: Norman, Arab and Byzantine.

The Cathedral in Monreale, Side view of the nave, with depictions from the Bible.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/29fc6337-a0dc-4227-b4e9-4c72ffc36647 by Stacy Spensley

History and culture

The term Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture represents the combination of the Norman, Latin, Arab, and Byzantine Greek cultures. The fusion of cultures happened after the Norman conquest of Sicily and Norman Africa from 1061 to 1250. The Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture developed under the reign of Roger II of Sicily. He used Byzantine, Greek, and Arab troops in his campaigns in southern Italy. He also mobilized Arab and Byzantine architects to build monuments in the Norman-Arab-Byzantine style. Many Classical Greek works were translated from Byzantine Greek manuscripts found in Sicily directly into Latin. Under Norman rule, Sicily became a model which was widely admired throughout Europe and Arabia.

Close-up of the mosaic series in the santuary, with Christ Pantocrator and saints

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Norman-Arab-Byzantine art

Norman-Arab-Byzantine art combined Occidental features with typical Islamic decorations such as calligraphy and muqarnas. A lot of artistic techniques from the Islamic and Byzantine worlds were incorporated into Arab-Norman art. For example: sculpture of ivory or porphyry, inlays in mosaics or metals, sculpture of stones, manufacture of silk, bronze foundries. During a raid on the Byzantine Empire, the silk weavers had been transported from Greece by admiral George of Antioch. Byzantine silk industry was founded as part of the guarded monopoly The new Norman rulers started to build different constructions forming the Arab-Norman style. They incorporated the best practices of Byzantine and Arab architecture into the arts.

Byzantine mosaics

Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator (“the All-Powerful”), in the Monreale Cathedral, commissioned in 1174 by King William II of Sicily.

Image source:https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/fffb67d6-84c5-41ee-9e5b-f3181ba3562d by michael clarke stuff

Byzantine mosaics were produced from the 4th to 15th century under the heavy influence of the Byzantine Empire. Mosaic was the most popular and historically significant form of art in ancient empires. Byzantine mosaics evolved out of early Roman and Hellenic styles. Mosaics were made of small pieces of stone, glass, ceramic, or some material called tesserae by Romans. On the moist surface, artists drew images and used tools like compasses, strings, and calipers to outline geometric shapes. After that, the tesserae were cemented into position to create the final image. In addition, Byzantine mosaics went on to influence artists not only in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily but also in the Republic of Venice, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Russia.

Norman-Arab-Byzantine architecture

Internal view of the Palatine Chapel located on the ground floor at the center of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo, southern Italy.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/eade64a8-6b2d-451d-b46d-37f084ffc013 by Madmartigand

The Capella Palatina is a regal chapel located in the Palace of the Normans. It was first built as a palace for Arab emirs and their harems. During the reign of Roger II it had been abandoned by the Arabs, yet by 1140 Roger II had built the new chapel. The Cappella Palatina combines harmoniously a variety of architectural styles. The gold-laden mosaics in the Cappella Palatina recall to Byzantium. The set-up of the chapel looks like a traditional Roman basilica. The arches in the Cappella Palatina belong to Saracen style, with other Arabic influences apparent with the 10th century. Clusters of four eight-pointed stars are typical for a Muslim design but arranged to form a Christian cross.

The Cathedral of Palermo is an architectural complex in Palermo (Sicily, Italy).

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/cf43b9f8-775d-481f-a942-aa93291763a0 by Chiara Marra

Other examples of Arab-Norman architecture are the “Palazzo dei Normanni” or “Castelbuono”. Formerly called al-Qasr, it was founded by the Emir of Palermo in the 9th century. Some parts of the original building are still visible in the basement. After the Normans conquered Sicily the palace was chosen as the main castle of the regnants.

The Church of Saint-John of the Hermits was built by Roger II in Palermo. This church is unusual for its brilliant red domes. This type of decoration showcase the Arab influence in Sicily.

Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman-Arab-Byzantine_culture

http://www.seepalermo.com/byzantine.htm

http://interamericaninstitute.org/norman_sicily.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_mosaics

https://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/11829483

https://dreamofacity.com/2016/07/10/palermo-splendours-of-arab-norman-byzantine-culture/