Sicily, Palermo, La Zisa palace

Era 12AD
Location Piazza Zisa, 90135 Palermo PA, Italy

The palace known as La Ziza was begun by King William I and finished by William II. It still contains some fragmentary mosaics. In the Sala Terrena, two narrow strips of conventionalised pattern, one in mosaic and one in opus saracenum, run round the whole room. There is a further surviving oblong panel of mosaic framed by opus saracenum in a fountain niche, and there may have been further mosaics on the vaults and walls but no traces survive. The mosaic pattern is formed from bands of palmettes and leaves. The panel consists of three interlocked medallions with a background of tendrils. The left and right medallions contain two peacocks either side of a palm tree; the central one has a tree with birds on the top branches and two archers below shooting at them.

This provides the only dated example of Norman secular mosaic – and one of the very, very few pieces of surviving secular mosaic from the Middle Ages.

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