Roger I. Of Sicily.

Roger I. Of Sicily.

On The Sea Front, Palermo.

On The Sea Front, Palermo.

Frederick II. Of Sicily.

Frederick II. Of Sicily.

When one has made himself sufficiently familiar with this Chapel, which forms a portion of the Royal Palace. The lavish praise which I had read of this appeared to me, however, so exaggerated, that I was fearful of some disappointment, as I climbed the stately staircase of the royal edifice, and finally stepped across its threshold. But, far from finding it inferior to its reputation, I quickly came to the conclusion that, even in the finest eulogy that man had ever paid to it, the half had not been told. It certainly must rank as one of the most perfect manifestations of architectural beauty in the world, - magnificent, without a trace of tawdri-ness. Of course it cannot properly be compared with such immense interiors as those of St. Peter's and the Gothic cathedrals in the north of Europe. The structure which it most resembles in its marvelous mosaic-work and irised coloring is St. Mark's in Venice. Yet that is also larger than the Palatine Chapel, which is scarcely more than a hundred feet in length by forty in breadth. Its one defect is its obscurity. Thus, if one visits it at any hour save the early morning, he finds a twilight gloom pervading its interior, and several minutes must elapse before he can perceive the ineffable richness of this architectural jewel, fashioned and polished nearly eight hundred years ago. The precious gem had many lapidaries. The Saracens gave to it its pointed arches and stalactite ceiling, the Normans traced its Gothic lines, the East endowed it with its rare mosaics, while old Byzantium added its unrivaled colors; and all these gifts were skillfully combined into one splendid offering to the Son of God. It is not strange that this was made so cosmopolitan in style; for when in 1132, the founder of the Norman dynasty caused it to be built, Palermo had skilled architects and artisans from every section of the civilized world. As we have seen, he wisely took advantage of the fact, and called them to his aid in fashioning this masterpiece. - Normans undoubtedly did the solid work, but Saracenic and Byzantine artists labored in its decoration. A proof of this is seen in the magnificent floor, which leads to the high altar in a glistening plain of crimson porphyry, set in intricate designs of white and variegated marble. From this rise ten rare, monolithic shafts, which, although brought here from some earlier mosques or temples, now hold aloft the pointed Arabic arches separating nave and aisles. Above them gleams a wonderful stalactite roof of carved and inlaid cedar wood, painted and gilded by Mohammedan workmen in the style of the Alhambra; and through its countless cup-shaped cells and starlike pendants runs a sinuous line of Arabic inscription, like a silver thread. But it was when I saw the mural ornamentation of this chapel that I especially realized its preeminence. Around the walls, to the height of several feet, extends a wainscot of the finest inlaid marbles, interspersed with porphyry, forming a dado for the still more glorious decoration which surmounts it. For every square foot of the chapel's surface, between this and the apex of the dome, gleams with mosaic pictures, outlined on a golden background with the brilliant colors of Byzantium. The whole interior of the church is thus incrusted; and when the softened sunlight steals across the dusky nave, and touches them with tawny splendor, they form the most harmonious display of colors that can be imagined. The subjects thus delineated in mosaic - which Ghirlandajo rightly called, because of the permanency of its splendor, "the only painting worthy of eternity " - are naturally taken from the Bible, and portray the lives of the Apostles Paul and Peter. Yet one imposing, godlike figure dominates them all. It is that of Christ, - colossal in dimension and wonderful in execution, - His right hand raised in benediction, while His left supports an open Bible, with the Greek inscription, "I am the Light of the World." Few idealizations of the Founder of Christianity have impressed me more than this majestic personality, gazing benignly down upon me from that cupola of gold; and if there be on earth a representation of the Son of Man before which one might fancy every knee must bow and every tongue confess, it certainly would be this awe-inspiring Presence in the Norman chapel.