International interdisciplinary symposium at the conclusion of the five-year restoration works on Cappella Palatina in Tübingen and Palermo ushers in a new era of scientific research

Under the heading “Overlay of Plans - The Palatine Chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily”, scientists discuss questions concerning construction, design and restoration history of Capella Palatina in Palermo / Cooperation between the Universities of Tübingen and Palermo / Würth Trust funds scientific exchange

Künzelsau / Tübingen / Palermo. The symposium entitled “Overlay of plans. The Palatine Chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily“ was hailed by international scientists as the onset of a new era of scientific research. Under the patronage of the Universities of Tübingen and Palermo, speakers from the United States, Switzerland, Italy and Germany looked into essential questions relating to the architecture, art, history, liturgy and restoration of the Cappella Palatina for four days. The final discussion headed by Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Institute of Art History in Florence - Max-Planck Institute, referred to this interdisciplinary setup as a model approach.

Cappella Palatina, the Norman’s court chapel in Palermo, is a gem among the few 12th-century buildings with interiors preserved entirely. The involvement of Greek mosaicists, Arab painters, Sicilian and southern Italian master builders and masons was never seriously called into question. The building is considered to be a unique synthesis of art. By contrast, how the collaboration of artists from different nations unfolded and what contents were to be communicated has been the subject of vivid debate for half a century.

Thanks to the fundamental restoration and reconstruction of the wall mosaics, the marble floors, the wooden ceiling of the nave, the windows and frames as well as the lower church, it was not only the preservation of the church that could be safeguarded. The chemical analysis of individual materials, a precise elevation of the lower church thanks to state-of-the-art digital measuring methods and an analysis of the artists’ imagery based on the cleaned works of art have yielded new hints in terms of the medieval building’s origin and construction history. The symposium, which was also attended by students from Italy and Germany as well as many interested listeners, had been organized by Professor Dr. Thomas Dittelbach (Bern).

The conference was supported by the Würth Trust. Within the framework of a cooperation treaty with the regional government of Sicily, Würth Italy and the charitable Würth Trust had supported the restoration of the Chapel with approximately EUR 2.5 million as it had been severely damaged in an earthquake in 2001. On more than 800 working days, restorators, crafts people and technicians had restored the Chapel outside and inside with its gold-based mosaics, precious paintings and valuable floors. Since the middle of July 2008, Cappella Palatina has again been open to the public.

The presentations of the symposium will be published in a conference volume, which will be released by the Swiridoff publishing house.