Palatine Chapel: the side aisles--page 3 (of 3 pages)

built by the Norman King Roger II
consecrated 1143




The aisles are much narrower than the nave with their walls decorated in mosaics illustrating episodes from the lives of Peter and Paul (since the Chapel is in fact dedicated to these two saints). Sources for the events come not only from the Bible (Acts) but apocryphal sources as well. The aisles have sloping ceilings totally different from the nave although they are still painted wood. The walls above the arches separating the nave and aisles are also decorated with mosaics.

North Aisle

The western end of the aisle and then extending eastward
 
The north aisle shows the beginning of Peter's apostolic life and illustrates three miracles: the healing of the cripple (not shown below), the healing of Aeneas in Lydda, who had been bedridden, and the resurrection of Tabitha in Joppe.

 

Peter and Paul meet in Rome

The next scene shown below illustrates the dispute with Simon Magus before Nero and one of his courtiers. The mosaic artist has depicted the rich garments of the emperor in all their glory. In the next scene Simon Magus flies to demonstrate his powers although Peter orders the demons holding Simon to drop him. Simon Magus' confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts although extra-Biblical sources comment variously on his eventual fate.
 
 

Center: South Aisle, west end; Right: South aisle: Paul identified in the inscription as Saul, a Jew hired to persecute Christians

The episodes on this wall describe the conversion of Paul and end with Peter's miraculous escape from prison in Jerusalem.
 
The incidents below include Paul's baptism (slightly visible behind the column) and Paul defending his Christian faith to members of the synagogue. Then he was forced to flee and the town is guarded with soldiers instructed to arrest him. His disciples free him by lowering him in a basket. The details are remarkable here with the frightened face of Paul and the elegant armor of the soldier. In the last scene Peter is freed from prison in Jerusalem by an angel who has put the soldiers to sleep.

 

Painted wooden ceilings

It is assumed that the same artists (probably Egyptian) as those who did the nave ceiling carved and painted the side aisle ceilings. These, however, are structurally simpler with long narrow panels rounded at the end. At the ends of each ceiling there are panels arranged perpendicular to the main length of ceiling. (See right below.) They have paintings at intervals although these ceilings have been somewhat damaged by a leaky roof.

 

Decorative marble inlays

On the top register of the aisle walls, there are mosaic pictures and windows; the lower register has marble panels.


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Works Consulted or Quoted:
Alessandro Vicenzi. ed. La Cappella Palatina a Palermo/ The Palatine Chapel in Palermo. Modena, Italy: Franco Cosimo Panini, 2011.

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© 2017 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. (I would appreciate being told if you find them useful.) They are not available for commercial purposes without my explicit permission.