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L.I.S.A. Redaktion | 10/16/2019 | 1452 Views | Movies by the Gerda Henkel Foundation |

Hard Stone - Roman Prorphyry in Medieval Sicily

Reusing imperial stone | Episode 1

Sicily was once one of the territories of Europe most fiercely contested in political terms and to this day remains one of the most culturally diverse. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians settled the continent’s former breadbasket, to be followed later by the Hohenstaufens, the Saracens and, most importantly, the Normans. The latter defined the history of Sicily during the Middle Ages under Roger II, William I and William II, leaving behind a unique heritage that remains evident to this day. Examples include the magnificent Cappella Palatina in Palermo and the monumental Monreale Cathedral in the city of the same name. This famous edifice is the final resting place of the Norman ruler William I, who lies in a sarcophagus made of a stone known as red porphyry. Because it was so rare, this stone was reserved for the Roman Emperors, and is extraordinarily hard and therefore difficult to work. Archaeologist Dr Elise Morero and art historian Dr Ruggero Longo have a lot of questions about stone and sarcophagi.



Audio stream of the video

The Project
During the 11-13th c. the Norman kings of Sicily made extensive use of Roman porphyry spolia as part of their project to construct a politically eloquent art for the new kingdom. The most spectacular are the 5 porphyry sarcophagi of the Norman rulers in Palermo and Monreale. The sarcophagi are at the centre of Dr Elise Morero's (Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East - University of Oxford) work, focussing on the chemical characterisation of the stones and analysis of the carving techniques, to reconstruct their history and establish a plan for their future restoration. 

Funded by: the John Fell Fund (Oxford), Gerda Henkel Foundation



Project management
Dr Elise Morero

Peter Prestel

Resa Asarschahab

Resa Asarschahab

Series created by 
Gisela Graichen and Peter Prestel

All episodes
Reusing imperial stone
Episode 1
Analysis of the sarcophagi
Episode 2
Stupor Mundi
Episode 3
The General Interview with Dr Elise Morero
Episode 4

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