Mercoledì, 19 Settembre 2018

Mosque emerges from Palermo home improvement


(By Gaetana D'Amico and Christopher Livesay)

Palermo, August 28 - Owners of a Palermo flat were
shocked to discover during recent renovations that part of their
home was once an ornate 18th-century mosque.
The flat in Via Porta di Castro is in an area of buildings
over what used to be the Kemonia river, before it was filled in
around the year 1600, near the Royal Palace of Palermo.
The couple, Giuseppe Cadili and Valeria Giarrusso, both
journalists, bought the apartment eight years ago.
They had planned to knock down the wall of a room to create
an open area, but Cadili soon realised that the plaster was
"There was a leak inside of a wall. Cleaning it up a bit I
realised that there was Arabic writing on it," he said, noting
the script was in gold and silver painted on blue background.
"I would never have imagined that the writing covered all
four walls".
Experts say the mosque was built inside a private dwelling,
the first discovery of its kind in Sicily.
It was at that point that the amazed owners decided to have
it examined.
Gaetano Basile, an expert in Palermo history, told them the
inscriptions were artisan versions of a decorative calligraphy
widespread in the 1700s.
Most of it is purely decorative, Basile told Salvatore
Ferro of the daily Il Giornale di Sicilia.
"This is a well-known part of our culture, marked by the
invention of 'rabbisco', an entirely Sicilian legacy of
arabesque design," he said.
"The Sicilian artisan, who did not know Arabic, mistook
calligraphic verses for decoration, and emulated them.
"It is likely that the house belonged to a North African
nobleman or merchant who had made his home in Palermo around the
later 1700s," he added, noting that a large Muslim community
lived in the Sicilian capital at the time.
"The owner basically had a mosque built in his house. There
are clear indications of this.
"First of all, it faces east, the walls are of an identical
size - 3.5 by 3.5 meters, it has doors located in such a way as
to prevent the placement of furniture, and the ceiling has a
repeating lamp pattern".
The owners intend to preserve the space as is.
"We wanted to give the proper weight to this discovery and
convey our love for the historic center," Cadili said.
"Too often things from our past are destroyed instead of
bringing them back to life.
"This room also transmits an extraordinary feeling of
"This is why we decided to keep it as we found it: we put
in a sofa and a desk and, out of respect for the Muslim culture,
we do not serve alcoholic beverages in this room".

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