Highlights of Sicily (Italy)
Sicily Table of Contents
Sicily's many conquerors left their calling cards. Rome's
most important gift is a remarkable display of 4th century
mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale. The bikini girls make
an unexpected fashion statement. There are also vivid scenes
of wild animals and gladiators, all together the finest Roman
mosaics I have ever seen.
The Greeks built their Valley of the Temples much earlier,
near what is now Agriento. Here is the Temple of Concord,
dating back to 430 BC. It alone has been well preserved, first
as a Christian basilica. 18th century restoration left this
temple in wonderful shape, better than any I saw in Greece.
The Normans were a dominant military power of their age,
conquering Sicily in addition to England. This Norman
Castle at Erice is from the 12th and 13th centuries, built so it
appears to become part of the rock upon which the castle sits.
Well worth a climb, the views of both land and water below
are most spectacular.
Norman King William II proved that he could build a far
more spiritual vision. The Cattedrale di Monreale, near
Palermo, was completed in 1184. This Catholic Church
interior glitters with Byzantine mosaics telling detailed Bible
stories from the Old and New Testaments. I liked the Noah's
Ark panels, such as this one, in which animals are taken on
board the ark. Above the alter is a giant mosaic of Jesus in
the Byzantine style. The craftsmen who built this work of
religious art were primarily Moslem Arabs.
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