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The city is built on an inlet of the Mediterranean and is partly surrounded, to the south, by a semicircle of mountains and hills, of which the highest are Catalfano to the east, and Montepellegrino to the west. Among the churches are the Duomo, Built in 1170 by the Archbishop Gualtiero Offamiglio on the site of an ancient basilica which had been changed into a mosque during the Saracen domination. The walls are decorated with frescoes and mosaics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the first chapel on the right are six tombs of kings and queens of Sicily. Other objects of interest in the cathedral are sculptures by Gagini and by Villareale; an Assumption by Velasquez, and other paintings by well-know masters; the crypt with 21 tombs of archbishops of Palermo, and the tabularium, or archives with interesting Latin, Greek, and Arabic documents. S. Domenico (1300), restored in 1414 and in 1640 is the largest and one of the most beautiful churches of Palermo; it contains the tombs of many famous Sicilians, also paintings by Anemolo, Fondulli, Paladino, and Vito d'Anna, as well as sculptures by Gagini. In the Olivella (1598) there is a beautiful Madonna, said to be by Raphael or by Lorenzo di Credi. S. Giorgio dei Genovesi, which represents the most beautiful architecture of the sixteenth century in Palermo, has paintings by Palma Vecchio, Giordano, Paladino, and others. La Badia Nuova has paintings by Morrealese, by whom also are the frescoes in the vault of the church. At S. Giuseppe there are two admirable crucifixes, one in ivory, and the other in bronze, works of Fra Umile da Petralia, and also paintings by Tancredi, Morrealese and Giuseppe Velasquez. L'Annunziata, called la Martorana, was built by George of Antioch, an admiral of King Roger (twelfth century); it is famous for its mosaics and for a painting, the Ascension, by Anemolo. At Santa Maria di Gesù there are paintings of the thirteenth century. Other monumental churches are S. Antonio (1220); S. Matteo (seventeenth century), which as the "Sposalizio" by Novelli; S. Eulalia dei Catalani; Santa Maria la Nuova (1339), which has a fine portico; the church and the seminary "dei greci", dating, respectively, from 1540 and 1734; S. Cita, connected with the military hospital, which has a Madonna by C. Maratta. d'Aielo, chancellor of King William the Good; S. Caterina; S. Cataldo, which is in the Greco-Norman style; Santa Maria degli Angeli; S. Giacomo in Mazara (Norman); the parish church "dell' Albergheria", which has a fine belfry; S. Giovanni dell' Origlione; the Badia della Magione, of the Teutonic Order, which has a Pietà by Gagini; S. Giacomo la Marina (1336); S. Anna la Misericordia (statues by Gagini).
Among the secular buildings is the Palazzo Reale, built on the site of the Saracen fortress by the Norman kings. It was a mass of halls, of silk and of wool factories, churches chapels, and towers; of the latter, only one remains, that of S. Ninfa, which, since 1791 has been the seat of the astronomical observatory. It was from this observatory that Ceres, the first of the asteroids to be observed, was discovered by the Theatine Padre Piazzi (1801). The Palazzo dei Tribunali was the property of the Chiaramonte family, but was confiscated and served as the seat of the Inquisition. The university has a magnificent portico, and contains the Museo Nazionale and also a picture gallery with a Pietà by Spagnoletto, a Holy Family by Rubens, a Madonna with angels by Ruzzolone, etc. Others buildings are the Sopraintendenza agli Archivi di Stato; the Palazzo Firenze (1578) formerly the custom-house, now used for banks and other institutions; the tower of Palitelli, which dates from the Saracen period; the former college of the Jesuits, which contains a library (now national) of 120,000 volumes and 1269 manuscripts; the private palaces Aiutamicristo, Campofranco (collection of paintings), Trabia (art collection and library), Forcella, Butera, and others. There are, moreover, a conservatory of music, several educational institutes, and two other public libraries, one of the commune, and the other of the Oratoria di S. Filippo Neri. Outside the city, are the cave of St. Rosalia, where her relics were found, which has been transformed into a church; S. Giovanni dei lebbrosi; S. Spirito, where the first episode of the famous Sicilian Vespers took place; I Cappuccini, with its well-known catacombs; the ancient convent of Baida on the slopes of Mt Aguzzo.
Palermo is a city of Phoenician origin, the name of which means "surrounded by rocky cliffs". In time, it came under the rule of the Carthaginians. In 254, however, the Romans took possession of Palermo. Palermo retained its form of government, but under Augustus became a colony; and the Greek language, which under the Carthaginians was the predominant tongue of the city, little by little ceded its place to the Latin. The Saracens obtained possession of Palermo for a time in 820, but in 835 their rule was established permanently. In 1063, the Pisans made an unsuccessful attempt to take Palermo. Finally, Roger, abetted by the treason of the Christian soldiers in Palermo, took the city in 1071, and made it the capital of his Sicilian possessions. Under Roger II, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies, and so remained, until the conquest by Charles of Anjou. Under the Normans the arts and letters (Greek, Arabic, and Latin) flourished at Palermo, and the Mohammedan religion was tolerated, the kings being only too zealous imitators of the customs of the caliphs. The famous Sicilian Vespers (31 March, 1282) were the signal of revolt against the Angevin domination, in favour of Peter, King of Aragon, who was hailed as legitimate heir of the rights of Conradin; and in the new Kingdom of Sicily, Palermo again became a capital. At the death of Martin I (1409) Sicily was united with the Kingdom of Aragon, and at Palermo was governed by its own viceroys, independent of those of Naples after the conquest of the latter state by the Argonese. In fact, the customs of Sicily, and especially for the nobility, were left unchanged under Spanish rule, which was therefore peaceful, although the conduct of the troops of Diego Veru, returning from Tripoli in 1511, caused a sort of Second Vespers, soon suppressed, however, by the viceroy Moncada. There was another more serious revolt, contemporaneous with that of Masaniello at Naples; it took place in 1647, and was caused by a famine. The new governor, Cardinal Triyulzio, combining severity and clemency, re-established order. From 1713 to 1720 Sicily was again separated from the Kingdom of Naples, and Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy was crowned at Palermo. Afterwards, the island followed the fortunes of Naples, under the Bourbons. In 1798, the royal family was driven by the Revolution to seek refuge in Sicily, and again by the French occupation in 1806. The suppression of Sicilian autonomy was the cause of several revolutionary movements at Palermo. In that of 1820-21, a governing commission was created, with Cardinal Gravina at its head; on this occasion peace was re-established with Austrian aid. In 1848 a provisional government was established that offered the crown of Sicily to Ferdinand of Savoy, who, however, did not accept it. General Filangiere retook Palermo fourteen months later; and finally, Garibaldi overthrew the Bourbon government, and substituted for it, not the autonomy of Sicily, but the annexation of the island to the Kingdom of Italy. A last movement in favour of independence was made in 1866, but was quelled in its beginning.
Christianity was preached at an early date in Palermo, According to Praedestinatus (I, 6), its bishop, Theodorus, together with the Bishop of Lilybaeum, condemned the heresy of Heracleon, Theodorus being a contemporary of Pope S. Alexander (second decade of the eleventh century); his predecessor, it is said, was St. Philippus. The bishop, St. Mamilianas, who is said to have suffered martyrdom under Diocletian, and whose relics are preserved in the cathedral, may be identical with St. Mamilianus, whom the Vandals relegated to the island of Monte Cristo in 450. Other martyrs under Diocletian were Claudius, Sabinus, and Maximus. Among the bishops were Gratianus 503, Victor who died in 603, and Joannes, 603 (St. Gregory the Great was in correspondence with the two last named), Felix, 649, and Theodorus, 787. During the Saracen domination there appears to have been no bishop of Palermo; it was in that period (828) that SS. Philaretus and Oliva suffered martyrdom. In 1049, Leo IX sent to Sicily, as archbishop, the Humbertus who, later, became Cardinal Bishop of Silva Candida; but the Normans, then enemies of the pope, prevented the archbishop from landing. In 1065, Bishop Nicodemus was appointed. Other bishops were Alcherius (1083); Gualterius (1113), the first to bear the title of archbishop, although the pallium had been sent to Joannes (603); Stephanus (1166), compelled by his enemies to resign; Gualtiero Offamiglio (of the Mill), an Englishman, who died in 1191; Bartolomeo (1201), brother of the preceding, who was sent into exile; Gualtiero da Polena, who was appointed in 1201 by Innocent III and transferred to Catania, Parisius being installed in his stead; Berardo di Castaca (1214-52), a great diplomat and a mediator between the popes and Frederick II; Licio de Colle (1296), a benefactor of the cathedral; Bartomomeo da Antiochia (1305); Francesco da Antiochia (1311); Giovanni Orsini (1320); Matteo Orsini (1371); Nicolo d' Agrigento, O. Min. (1383); Lodovico Bonnito (1387) and Giliforte Riccobono (1397), both persecuted by the Chiaramonte faction; Nicolo da Tudisco (1434-1445), a great canonist (Panormitanus) and one of the pillars of the Council of Basle, who became a cardinal of the antipope, Felix V. Simone Beccatelli (1445)a generous restorer of the cathedral and of other churches; Nicolo Puxades (1466), who caused the stalls of the choir of the cathedral to be adorned with inlaid work; Giovanni Borghi (1467), who had been a famous physician; Filippo (1474), who was a nephew of King Ferdinand, and died under the walls of Granada in 1488; Cardinal Pietro, Count of Foix, O. Min. (1485); Cardinal Tommaso de Vio, O.P. (Caietanus), who was elected in 1519, but not recognized by Charles V, the pope not recognizing Giovanni Carandolet, the king's candidate; Ottavianno Preconi, O. Min. (1562), zealous for the decoration of the churches; Cesare Marulli (1578), who founded the seminary; Cardinal Giannetto Doria (1609-42), who was for a time viceroy and reformed the nuns, and distinguished himself for his charity during the famine of 1624; Martín de Leon y Cardenas (1650), who donated the beautiful tabernacle of the cathedral; Pietro Martinez Rubio (1656), who was noted for his charity and obtained the use of the mitre for his canons; Cardinal Domenico Pignatelli (1802); Cardinal Pietro Gravina (1816); Cardinal Gaetano M. Trigona e Parisi (1832); Cardinal Ferdinando M. Pignatelli (1839), who had been a general of the Theatines; Cardinal Geremia Celesia (1871-1904).
Cefalù, Mazzara, and Trapani, are the suffragans of Palermo; the archdiocese has 50 parishes, with 444,982 inhabitants, 18 religious houses of men and 24 of women, 12 educational establishments for male students and 27 for girls, and 1 Catholic daily paper.
Pirri, Sicilia sacra (Palermo, 1735); Cappalletti, Le chiese d'Italia, III; Mongitore, Palermo santificato (Palermo, 2d ed., 1888); Di Giovanni, Topografia antica di Palermo (Palermo, 1903); Annuario dell' archidiocesi di Palermo (1906).
APA citation. (1911). Palermo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11419b.htm
MLA citation. "Palermo." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11419b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Sally Nutini. Dedicated to Ignazia R. Pappalito.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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