Stones of Palermo: Cultures of Marble at the Mediterranean Crossroads




Summer Schools, Tavola rotonda (Istituto Svizzero), Palazzo Butera



Sicily’s «entrails», writes the eighteenth-century Palermitan canon Antonino Mongitore, are «rich with mines of porphyry, jasper and the most valuable stones». This material wealth and its architectural and decorative applications have, at a crossroads of Mediterranean artistic and artisanal traditions, made an indelible contribution to the artistic and cultural identity of the city of Palermo. From imperial splendour to Byzantine refinement, from Siculo-Norman geometric intricacies to lavish baroque intarsia, from revivalist reinterpretations to a severe rationalist or indeed fascist rhetoric, the use of marble has formed a persistent cultural factor in the city. Beyond the whiteness and ideals of purity that have accompanied the artistic fortune of Carrara marble, the rich polychromatic qualities of Sicilian marbles and decorative stones tell another story, a story of contaminations and exchanges, of technical and cultural transfers.

The concluding roundtable discussion will be the closing event of the summer school Stones of Palermo: Cultures of Marble at the Mediterranean Crossroads. After a dense week of on site visits, collaborative work and discussion, the event will provide the opportunity to reflect on the presence of marble and decorative stones in the city of Palermo and share the participants’ findings and remaining questions with the larger public. Thereby we hope to touch upon the complex tensions between the construction of a local artistic and cultural identity, the processes of negotiation at the crossroads of various cultural traditions, and the city’s embeddedness in both a larger local and global ecology. 

The discussion will be led by Dr. Ariane Varela Braga (UZH). Discussants include Prof. Katrin Albrecht (OST–Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences), Prof. Joris van Gastel (UZH), Nora Guggenbühler (UZH), and Dr. Ruggero Longo (Bibliotheca Hertziana/IMT Lucca).

Organized by the University of Zurich.


The event will be held in English at Palazzo Butera, Palermo.
Free entry, register here.