Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Sicily - Part 1

Yes, Sicily is the correct answer. Val at Alentejo was the first, Jane and Lance at Hattat were second, Christa at Emilie's Daughter was third, and Gina at Gina Ceramics was fourth. Gina was at a disadvantage being later on the scene from USA. I am very impressed with you all - well done, everyone came close.
Sicily a sun drenched island, the ball to Italy's foot. A land bountiful in lemons, grapes, and olives. It formed a significant portion of the Greek empire, was strategically vital to Rome, and was invaded in succession by the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish and Bourbons, before unifying with Italy. Each conquest left its mark, to create an exotic mixture of cultures - an art lovers 'paradiso'. A cornucopia, a treasure house of art and architecture.
H travelled to Sicily many years ago as a student, but this was my first visit.
Three Norman Cathedrals -
Monreale, Cefalù and Palermo - and Palazzo Reale
The Duomo of Monreale is one of the great sights of Norman Sicily. Founded by the Norman King William II, it flanks a monastery of the Benedictine Order. The interior glitters with mosaics carried out by Sicilian and Byzantine artists - the inspiration of a king who wanted to rival the power of the Archbishop of Palermo, and like Cefalù it was to serve as a royal sepulchre.
The cloisters are a masterpiece of Norman artistic expression. Each column is different, carved deeply, left fairly plain or inlaid with Arabic mosaic. The details in the capitals tell the bible stories.
Adam and Eve
In the apse - Christ the Pantocrator.
To give some idea of scale the hand measures two metres. 
Eve coming out of Adam's rib
The mosaic cycle shows scenes from the Old Testament, teachings of Christ, and the Gospels.
Here Adam and Eve are being expelled from the Garden of Eden wearing fur coats to shield their modesty!!! I wonder whether this was prudery or the humour of the artist responsible for the mosaic?
The Norman Duomo in Cefalù
The pretty unspoilt seaside town of Cefalù is where we stayed. The Norman Cathedral was built in 1131 by Norman King Roger II. His boat was capsizing offshore, and he promised that if he was saved he would build a church wherever he landed!
The rock in the first photo and behind the Duomo is said to be Daphne!!! Now I am no expert on Greek mythology, but I remember that the nymph Daphne was turned into a laurel by her father to protect her from the advances of Apollo. Perhaps this is the Latin version of the myth. On the rock is also a 4th century BC megalithic Tempio di Diana, the Latin name for the Greek goddess is Artemis.
The Duomo, Palermo founded in 1184 displays many architectural styles. The exterior shows the development of the Gothic style from the 13th-14th centuries. Sturdy Norman work can be seen through an Islamic inspired overlay.
Before you all lose patience with me, a couple of images of Palazzo Reale, Palermo.
Inner courtyard Palazzo Reale
The nucleus of the present building was constructed by the Arabs, but after the Norman conquest of the city in 1072 is was enlarged for the Norman court.
Built by King Roger II in 1132, the dazzling chapel blends Byzantine, Islamic and Norman styles. It is lavishly adorned with fine mosaics and marble inlaid with gold. 
Finally, yesterday a big clue was, the cut down Sicilian flag.

27 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary:
    Thank you so much for the link. It is very generous!

    We have toyed with the idea of going to Sicily for many a season and this post has really focussed our thoughts. Sicily has such a rich history and an intriguing amalgamation of cultural influences, we are sure that we should love it.

    We shall look forward to future posts with great interest and in the meantime shall start to look at how we can get there!!!

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    1. Dear Jane and Lance - it has been the same for us, somewhere that I wanted to visit, but never got round to doing. H went such a long time ago when he was very young, and it was a cultural shock for him. Such a lot of poverty and child beggars, which coloured his ideas about returning. However, it is not like that now, and we intend returning to do parts we could not include in this trip.

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  2. Dear Rosemary, Lose patience. Never. Not with your great eye for composition and detail. Again, another sensationsl group of photographs.
    I would love to see and know more. Where did you stay? Did you go to Taormina. Did you drive around the island or did you stay in one particular spot.

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    1. Dear Gina - I will do one or two more posts, but I do not want to give people overkill. Sometimes I get too carried away with what I am doing. We stayed in the pretty seaside town of Cefalù which I showed above. The group we went with arranged trips for us, amongst them The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, which I will post later. Going at this time of year it is very quiet but lovely, and hiring a car would be easy as the roads are not too busy. We did not get to Taormina but intend returning, a recommendation from us in itself. Trains are also very cheap and regular.
      We bought a lovely ceramic pot from Giacomo Alessi in Caltagirone - www.giacomoalessi.it

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  3. oh Rosemary! Its not fair! Val mentioned it and from your Pythia like answer I did not get it was the right one!
    But it was a fun challenge : )

    Inreresting reading as always.

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    1. Dearest Demie - do, please, forgive me. I did not want to spoil everybody else having a try, so I was not direct in my response. I bet your geography has improved a lot today!

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    2. Certainly : D
      - you would make a perfect Pythia by the way...
      please don't appologize I enjoyed the trip : )

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    3. I think that I would quite like to be a priestess at Delphi which is what I understand a Pythia to be! Thanks for your forgiveness, and pleased you enjoyed the trip x

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    4. Yes, all priestess at Delphi had the same name: Pythia : )

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  4. It's a beautiful post you've wrote about Scicily. The architecture looks wunderful. I am pleased you had a wonderful trip.
    gr. Marijke

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    1. Dear Marijke - It was a good trip, so much so that we intend to return to see more. The architecture and the ancient Greek monuments are superb.

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  5. Dear Rosemary, what a sensational post! It makes my jaws drop! I so much love Italy but I have never really been further south than near Rome. The photographs are fantastic and one senses the richness of history, beauty, architecture, culture. I can well imagine having a coffee or a glass of wine in that pretty street cafe! When does the next plane leave? Ciao and thank you for the medal! I am clever, aren't I? ;o)

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    1. Christa - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the beauty of the architecture and the rich history. Yes, a coffee or wine there would be lovely, we actually sat there and had a delicious ice cream.
      Yes, I should say that you have oodles of initiative and some to spare - you are a clever girl indeed.
      Thanks for your kind comments.

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  6. Rosemary, we were wrong I see but I am not well traveled but funny enough Italy was the last country we visited. We did not make it past Florence however. These images are stunning and I cannot wait for the next post. I will have Joe look at this post too as he was convinced of our answer. Thanks for your comment today, olive

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    1. It was a very good guess Olive, not so many differences there. Joe can take credit for nearly getting it right. The Valley of the Temples will be next when I have finished sorting myself out. Your posts are riveting reading.

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  7. What a wonderful vacation you had, and now I have yet another destination to add to my list. The church interiors, with their gold tiles, have a beautiful glow, and I imagine they're all the more lustrous in person. The architectural detail I enjoy the most is that double Gothic arch in Paermo, which I suppose is a buttress, but which reminds me a little of the Tower Bridge.

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    1. Sicily is somewhere I have had in my mind to visit for a long time, the trouble is, H has already been to so many places previously. We shall return again, there were sites we did not have time to see. I found the history so interesting, and the way invaders had left their mark collectively.

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  8. Beautiful post!
    What a wonderful place to visit.
    Mette

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    1. Dear Mette - thanks for your visit and pleased you enjoyed visiting Sicily. There is so much to see and do there, something for everyone.

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  9. Dear Roscmary
    I add to you the history of Daphne! Your post is so interesting and I like to read all about you write ! Thank you for sharing with us !
    The nymph Daphne was the daughter of the river Ladon , or according to others the Peneus and Gaia (Earth). Fell in love vehemently god Apollo , who began to chase endlessly. Sold by Daphne begged her mother, Gaia, to help her, and so transformed into a tree when Apollo tried to embrace her. Apollo, then comforted to cut a twig from the tree and crowned. Since the bay is the sacred plant of Apollo.
    Have a nice weekend
    Olympia

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    1. Dear Olympia - thank you so much for your comment and for providing so much extra information about the nymph Daphne. My information was very basic, it is good to have your input. I still do not understand how the rock in Cefalù is supposed to be Daphne, as previously mentioned, I think it must be the Latin representation of the myth, but perhaps I shall never know the answer.

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  10. Italian architecure is really great, I'm always impressed of it. Sometimes you walk five times the same street and each time you notice something special :)

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    1. Dear Agata - Thank you for your comment. You are right, it also pays to look up at the top of the buildings, and down the alleyways too.

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  11. Oh, I am envious, but oh so grateful for your wonderful report. Highlight for me was Adam and Eve, what a stunning little fresco; but everything was just so sumptuous! Glad you had such a wonderful time.

    While you were away, incidentally, a new Italian-language detective programme has started airing. Its backdrop? Sicily. Oh, soooo stylish.

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    1. Dear Kate - I too love the Adam and Eve cycle. There were at least 12 parts to it so I just picked out two of them to show. Glad you enjoyed seeing the post.

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  12. What a lovely couple of posts to welcome me to your blog, Sicily is looking more Spring like than our part of Italy, although the mimosa was in bloom in time for the 8th. I am delighted you found News From Italy and decided to follow, now following back. :)

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    1. Thank you for your visit and for becoming a follower. The weather in Sicily was just perfect, we could wander around without long sleeves and we did not see any rain - lovely.

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