The Zisa is a castle in the western part of Palermo. It is included in the UNESCO Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale World Heritage Site.
The construction was begun in the 12th century by Arabian craftsmen for king William I of Sicily , and completed by his son William II. The edifice had been conceived as summer residence for the Norman kings, as a part of the large hunting resort known as Genoardo. that included also the Cuba Sottana, the Cuba Soprana and the Uscibene palace.
The Zisa is clearly inspired by Moorish architecture. The name Zisa itself derives from the Arab term al-Azīz, meaning 'dear' or 'splendid'. The same word, in Naskh script, is impressed in the entrance, according to the usual habit for the main Islamic edifices of the time.
In the 14th century merlons were added, by partly destroying the Arab inscription (in Kufic characters) which embellished the upper part of the edifice. More substantial modifications were introduced in the 17th century, when the Zisa, reduced to very poor conditions, was purchased by Giovanni di Sandoval e Platamone. The latter's marble coat of arms with two lions can be seen over the entrance fornix. Several rooms of the interior were modified and others added on the ceiling, a great stair was built, as well as new external windows.
From 1808 to the 1950s the building was used a residence by the princes Notarbartolo di Sciara. Acquired by the Region of Sicilia it was restored in the 1990s. The Zisa today is opened to tourists. Some rooms house Islamic art pieces, tools and artifacts from the Mediterranean area. The most notable room is the central hall, with a mosaic decoration; once it had a fountain too, from which the water flowed outside.References:
Spišskà Kapitula, a unique fortified ecclesiastical ensemble, began as a small fortified settlement overlooking Spišské Podhradie in the 12th century. It was the site of the residence of the Provost of the castle, in the no longer extant St Martin"s monastery, and later became a capitulary. This was destroyed in by Tatars in 1241-1243, but the pilgrim"s chapel, in rotunda form and dedicated to the Virgin, survived until the 18th century and the monastery until the 15th century.
The complex of buildings there is based on the Cathedral of St Martin, where building began in 1285 as a three-aisled Romanesque basilica with a chancel at the west end and a double spire. It owes its present form to successive remodellings and additions in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
The Provost's residence was completed in 1281 and further religious buildings were added. Frequent raids by marauding Bulgars and others led to its being fortified in the 14th century. The cathedral was rebuilt in the later 14th century. In 1776 it became the residence of the Bishop and four years later a seminary was established. In 1819 the first teacher training centre in Hungary was founded there.
The Bishop's Palace is largely Baroque, with some excellent interior decorations, like many of the religious buildings in the group. The oval ground plan of the centre of the town is due to its having been fortified in the 14th century. The various religious buildings had defensive functions in this early period. New monastery buildings were erected when the provost"s residence was rebuilt and the whole area fortified. The earlier central fortifications were removed in the 18th century.
Spišské Kapitula is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Levoča, Spiš Castle and the associated cultural monuments.