The Kingdom

Until the unification of Italy (Risorgimento) in 1861, Sicily and the southern half of the Italian peninsula formed an independent kingdom created in 1130 by the Norman Count Roger II of Hauteville, who was crowned king by Pope Anacletus II. The Norman kingdom included everything south of Rome and Lazio, including the Normans’ first conquests of Apulia and Calabria, then of Sicily, and then of the southern mainland. It was inherited by the German Hohenstaufen dynasty in 1194. In 1266, Charles of Anjou, brother of the French king, Louis IX seized it. Alfonso V, king of Aragon conquered it in 1442. These four dynasties each fostered royal and noble courts, which contributed to a uniquely international flavor to the arts of Southern Italy. Buildings and decorative programs reinforced the distinct identity of each dynasty, enriched by indigenous Italian traditions and artistic currents in the broader Mediterranean. These included classical Greece and Rome, Greek Byzantium, the Islamic world, and Norman, German, French, Aragonese, and Spanish influences. With its unique geographic position and multi-cultural, ethnic and religious heritage, the Kingdom of Sicily was a confluence of various visual and architectural currents, many of which influenced artistic developments in northern Italy and beyond the Alps and inspired artists and architects in subsequent centuries.