By Jean Marie Carey

Rainulfo II of Alife became the “rebel king” of the southern Italian peninsula following a victory on 24 July 1132 at the Battle of Nocera during which the Norman ruler, Roger II, was briefly deposed.

Roger II (1095-1152) regained the territory around Capua and Naples by 1133, consolidating Norman rule on the southern peninsula and Sicily through the mid-12th Century. But local seats of power in the region continued to shift amid leaders of small city-states seeking protection and recognition from larger continental players. In addition to the contributions of the Italians and Normans, a legacy of architecture and artwork was left by residents and visitors alike.

Roger II and wealthy landowners recruited a wide variety of residents, including Greek mosaic-makers, scroll and manuscript artists from Constantinople; mathemeticians, painters, and artisans from Egypt and present-day Tunisia; philosophers and scribes from Jerusalem; and carvers and masons from northern Italy. Rainulfo II of Alife died in 1139.

The Tombstone of Anna, in four languages (Arabic written in Hebrew script, Latin, Greek, and Arabic), 1149. Soprintendenza Beni Culturali e Ambientali di Palermo. © Regione Siciliana.

16th-Century copy of a map of Sicily from Muhammad al-Idrisi’s 12th-Century Tabula Rogeriana. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS. Pococke 375, folios 187v-1884.

Ceiling panel from the Norman palace in Palermo, c. 1130-1200. Galleria Interdisciplinaire Regionale della Sicilia di Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo. © Regione Siciliana.

Gilded bronze falcon from southern Italy, 1200-1220. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection, 1947, (47.101.60). © The Metropolictan Museum of Art.

The Norman Cathedral of Gerace, Calabria, c. 1045. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

More Information: “Sicily: Culture and Conquest” at The British Museum through 14 August 2016.

Nino Zchomelidse. Art, Ritual, and Civic Identity in Medieval Southern Italy. Philadelphia: Penn State University Press, 2014.

Gordon S. Brown. The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Publishing, 2003.

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