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:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.