1. Sacred Destinations
  2. Italy
  3. Palermo

Palermo, Italy

Palermo, the largest city in Sicily (pop. 700,000), is like nowhere else in the world. Its Arab-Norman buildings, many decorated with exquisite Byzantine-style mosaics, have no equal; the rest of the city is filled with old museums and Baroque oratories. Palermo's noisy outdoor markets evoke North Africa and are still dominated by the influence of the Arabs who departed centuries ago. A mixture of grandeur and poverty, beauty and ugliness, Palermo is loved and loathed by visitors with equal passion. Keep an eye on your camera but be sure to take it along, for Palermo is a city full of wonders of religious art, architecture and history.

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Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Palermo

  • Cappella Palatina
    Located within the Norman Palace, the Palatine Chapel is the finest example of Arab-Norman art in Palermo. Built by Roger II from 1130 to 1140, it is adorned with extraordinary Byzantine mosaics.
  • Capuchin Catacombs
    In 1599, Capuchin monks discovered their catacombs contained a mysterious preservative that helped mummify the dead. As a result, more than 8,000 Sicilians demanded to be buried here and are now on display.
  • La Cataldo
    Characterized by its striking red domes, this little Norman church was founded by Maio of Bari, chancellor to William I, in 1154. The interior was never finished, and has an austere medieval feel.
  • Palermo Cathedral
    In 1184, Palermo's archbishop founded this cathedral on the site of a mosque, which had itself been built over an early Christian church. His aim was to surpass the glory of the magnificent cathedral of nearby Monreale.
  • La Martorana
    Distinguished by an elegant Norman campanile, La Martorana dates from 1143 and is famed for its spectacular mosaics. Its official name is St. Mary of the Admiral.
  • Museo Archeologico
    Housed in a former monastery, Palermo's Regional Archaeological Museum is one of the grandest archaeological museums in Italy. it is stuffed with artifacts from prehistoric times to the Roman era.
  • Oratorio di Santa Cita
    Built in the 16th century in gratitude for the Virgin Mary's intervention at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) against the Turks, this oratory features a magnificent stucco relief of the battle by Giacomo Serpotta.
  • San Giovanni degli Eremiti
    With its Arab-inspired bulbous red domes, this church is the most romantic building remaining from the heyday of Norman Palermo. It was built in 1132 on the grounds of a mosque.
  • Santa Caterina
    An impressive example of Sicilian Baroque, the 17th- and 18th-century interior of Santa Caterina overwhelms the senses with colors, textures, sculpture and marble inlay.