SESSION 8 | MARCH 3 | 16:00-17:30

Chair Hermenegildo Fernandes (CH-ULisboa)

Reuse and transformation of sacred spaces in the Sicilian Middle Ages. Three cases: Agrigento, Siracusa and Palermo

16:00-16:30 Ferdinando Maurici (Regione Siciliana – Soprintendente del Mare) 

We will examined two 5th century BC Doric temples of Syracuse (Athenaion) and Agrigento (the temple known as "of Concord") transformed into Christian basilicas in Byzantine times (7th century). Palermo's cathedral will also be discussed. We know this monument in the rebuilt version of the late 12th century, with major additions from the 18th and 19th centuries. Before the the 12th century' reconstruction, there was a primitive Byzantine Christian basilica there, transformed after the Islamic conquest of the city (831) into a congregational mosque. Of the monuments that existed before the current one, nothing or almost nothing of their architecture has come down to us; therefore, we have to rely only on literary sources for an attempt to approximate the reality of monuments or monumental facies that have since disappeared.

From mosques to churches: reflections on the Sicilian case

16:30-17:00 |  Giuseppe Mandalá (CSIC) 

The mosque is the centre of the Islamic life of the cities, the very heart of the system of dīn wa-dawla, “religion and state”. The Iraqi traveller and geographer Ibn Ḥawqal, who visited Palermo in 973, left us an image of the city that rivals Cordova for the number of mosques, - three hundred -, situated inside and outside the walled city; however, none of the mosques mentioned by Ibn Ḥawqal has so far been located and archaeologically investigated. With the Norman conquest (1061-1091) we witness a process of transformation of the congregational mosques of the main Sicilian cities (Palermo, Syracuse) into important Christian churches. Besides that, during the Norman age (1091-1194) as the process of Latinisation of the island’s population progressively unfolded, important urban mosques were converted and put under the aegis of the particular Christian cults adopted by the Hauteville dynasty. The present paper intends to shed light on some of these transformation processes.


Ferdinando Maurici. (Palermo 1959). Superintendent of underwater archaeology in Sicily. BA degree in Letters, MA degree in Medieval Archaeology; he has three doctorates (Medieval History, Christian Archaeology, and Cultural Heritage Sciences), having studied in Spain and Germany. He has been adjunct professor of Christian and Medieval Archaeology at the universities of Bamberg and Bologna, and at the Catholic University LUMSA, in Rome. He has authored some 300 scientific publications. He obtained the qualification of university professor of history of architecture.

Giuseppe Mandalà. Associate Professor of History of Islamic Countries at the University of Milan “La Statale” where he teaches Cultural History of Mediterranean. He specialises in intellectual history and cultural transmission of texts and their contexts and he has published extensively on transcultural medieval studies, in particular on Sicily and Mediterranean. Since 2014 he leads the archaeological mission at San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi complex in Palermo (Sicily).