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French Connections: The Significance of the Fleurs-de-Lis in the Mosaic of King Roger II of Sicily in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, Palermo

French Connections: The Significance of the Fleurs-de-Lis in the Mosaic of King Roger II of Sicily in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, Palermo


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French Connections: The Significance of the Fleurs-de-Lis in the Mosaic of King Roger II of Sicily in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, Palermo

By Dawn Marie Hayes

Paper given at the 46th International Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo (2011)

Introduction: The focus of my paper is the image before you, a mosaic of Christ crowning King Roger II of Sicily in Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio – more commonly known as La Martorana – in Palermo, Sicily. Begun in the 1140s in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Martorana was built by George of Antioch, an Orthodox Christian from Syria who served as Roger’s admiral – a position akin to prime minister. Although we do not know who designed the mosaics, it is probably safe to assume that as founder George himself had some influence over their design. It is also highly probable that Roger knew about – and maybe even saw – the mosaic, which represented the source of his royal authority in a way with which he would be comfortable. Indeed, the king appears to have been involved in the foundation of the church and even assisted with its endowment. The foundation charter of 1143 makes it clear that Roger was asked to place his ‘alāma (signature) on the document. In fact, Ernst Kitzinger argues that the appearance of Roger’s signature, the motto “Praise be to God, and thanks for His blessings”, practically renders the king a co-founder of the church.


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