Interior of Cappella Palatina, Palermo, c.1130-43. Source: Photo: Lillia Moroz, CCA SA 4.0 Int.

Online study days

The Normans in Southern Italy

  • Begins: Wednesday 22 November 2023
    Until: Thursday 23 November 2023
    (2.30-4.45pm each day - a recording will be available to ticketholders for one week after the event)
  • Lecturer: John McNeill

Interest in the Norman conquests of the eleventh and twelfth centuries has never been greater, a phenomenon perhaps best caught in a cluster of recent academic publications and the ‘Die Normannen-Norman Connections-Normands’ exhibitions in Mannheim and Rouen (by the time this flyer is published the Mannheim exhibition will have closed, though that at the Musée des Antiquités in Rouen runs from 14 April to 13 August, 2023). This study day is intended to examine one aspect of this; the Norman conquest of, and subsequent creation of a kingdom in, southern Italy. The emphasis is firmly on the architecture and material culture associated with the fitful, and ultimately rather brief, period during which Norman power was exercised in Apulia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Sicily and parts of the Abruzzi.

The first afternoon will consider the eleventh-century situation on the mainland – the strength of Romano-Byzantine architectural traditions, the tantalising and isolated experiments with imported Norman forms and the dramatic effect of the creation of a new shrine church dedicated to Saint Nicholas in Bari. The second afternoon will look at the island of Sicily; the initial tangled attempts to build a diocesan system that suited Norman interests on an island which had been under Moslem control for two centuries and where the indigenous Christian population was Greek; and the eventual emergence of a wholly remarkable Mediterranean visual language in Palermo during the reign of Roger II.

1   The Arrival of the Normans: Monte Sant’Angelo, Capua, Venosa, Salerno
2   The Arrival of Saint Nicholas in Bari
3   The Conquest of Sicily
4   Palermo

NB: Links to access recordings of the two-part event will be sent to all ticketholders after the second half and will be available for one week.


John McNeill lectures for the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University and is a Vice-President of the London Art History Society for whom he has delivered numerous courses and led study tours and cathedral visits. He is the Secretary of the British Archaeological Association, for whom he has edited and contributed to volumes on English medieval cloisters, chantries and Romanesque material culture.

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