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(pälĕr`mō), Lat. Panormus, city (1991 pop. 698,556), capital of Palermo prov. and of Sicily, NW Sicily, Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Situated on the edge of the Conca d'Oro (Golden Conch Shell), a beautiful and fertile plain, it is Sicily's largest city and chief seaport. Manufactures include textiles, food products, chemicals, printed materials, and cement. There are also shipyards in the city.

An ancient Phoenician community founded between the 8th and 6th cent. B.C., it later became a Carthaginian military base and was conquered by the Romans in 254 B.C.–253 B.C. Palermo was under Byzantine rule from A.D. 535 to A.D. 831, when it fell to the Arabs, who held it until 1072. The city's prosperity dates from the Arab domination and continued when, under the Normans, it served (1072–1194) as the capital of the kingdom of Sicily. Under King Roger II (1130–54) and later under Emperor Frederick II (1220–50), Palermo attained its main artistic, cultural, and commercial flowering. The French Angevin dynasty transferred the capital to Naples; its misrule led to the Sicilian VespersSicilian Vespers,
in Italian history, name given the rebellion staged by the Sicilians against the Angevin French domination of Sicily; the rebellion broke out at Palermo at the start of Vespers on Easter Monday, Mar. 30, 1282.
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 insurrection (1282), which began in Palermo.

The city is rich in works of art; Byzantine, Arab, and Norman influence are blended in many buildings. Points of interest include the Arab-Norman Palatine Chapel (1130–40), located in the large palace of the Normans (today also the seat of the Sicilian parliament); the cathedral (founded in the late 12th cent.), which contains the tombs of Frederick II and other rulers; the Church of St. John of the Hermits (1132); the Palazzo Abbatellis (15th cent.), which houses the National Gallery of Sicily; the Gothic Palazzo Chiaramonte (1307); the Capuchin catacombs; and, among more modern structures, the Sports Palace (1998). The city has a university.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city and port in southern Italy, on the Bay of Palermo on the northern coast of the island of Sicily. Capital of the region of Sicily and province of Palermo.

Palermo is picturesquely situated on a coastal plain, Conca d’Oro (Golden Shell), which is surrounded by small mountains. Population, 651,600 (1972). Palermo ranks second to Naples among southern Italian cities in economic importance. The city has shipyards, an aviation industry, electrotechnic and electronics industries, and precision-instrument and agricultural-machinery enterprises that have a steel-casting capacity. It also has cement, chemical, textile, garment, footwear, furniture, woodworking, food-processing, tobacco, and printing industries. The port handled 2.2 million tons of goods in 1972.

The area surrounding Palermo is a region of subtropical fruit growing (citrus and other fruits). Mediterranean fairs are held yearly in Palermo, which is a tourist center and winter resort. Palermo has a university (founded 1777), an academy of fine arts, a conservatory, and opera and dramatic theaters.

Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians. From the fifth to the third century B.C. it was the Carthaginians’ center in Sicily. In 254 B.C. it was conquered by Rome, in A.D. 535 by Byzantium, in the first half of the ninth century by the Arabs, and in 1072 by the Normans. In 1130 it became the residence of the kings of the Kingdom of Sicily. It became the cultural and economic center of southern Europe in the 12th century. In 1282 a popular uprising in Palermo (the Sicilian Vespers) led to the expulsion from Sicily of the Angevin dynasty, which nominally ruled until 1302. The city decayed under the Angevins and their successors, the Aragonese (1302–1479). In 1504, Palermo, together with all of Sicily, became part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs, and from 1735 by the Spanish Bourbons). In 1647, G. d’Alessi led a popular uprising in Palermo against Spanish and local feudal lords.

From 1734 until 1816, Palermo was the capital of Sicily. In 1820, during the bourgeois revolution in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it was the center of an island uprising that was carried out under the banner of the restoration of Sicily’s autonomy. An uprising in Palermo (Jan. 12, 1848) marked the beginning of the Revolution of 1848–49 in Italy. The freeing of the city from Spanish Bourbon authority by G. Garibaldi’s troops on May 27,1860, played an important role in the victory of the Revolution of 1859–60 in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, leading to the unification of Italy.

In the old part of the city there are medieval buildings that combine features of Romanesque or Gothic style with elements of Arab and Byzantine architecture. Examples include the church of the Martorana (1143, mosaics from the middle of the 12th century), the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti (12th century), the Palazzo dei Normanni (Norman palace of the 11th century, a reconstructed Arab fortress; the palace’s Palatine Chapel has 12th-century mosaics), and the Zisa and Cuba palaces (both 12th century). In the 16th and 17th centuries avenues were laid through the medieval city, and numerous baroque churches and palaces were erected. Construction in the 20th century includes the residential districts of Borgo Ulvia (1960, architect G. Samona).

Palermo is the site of the National Archaeological Museum (ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art), the National Gallery of Sicily (Renaissance and baroque art), the Gallery of Modern Art, the Giuseppe Pitre Ethnographical Museum (folk art of Sicily), and the cathedral treasury.


Braun, F. Palermo und Monreale. Munich, 1960.
Falzone, G. Itinerari palermitani. Palermo, 1961.
Coppoler Orlando, O. Vecchia Palermo: Topografia storica ed urbanistica. Palermo, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of Sicily, on the NW coast: founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century bc. Pop.: 686 722 (2001)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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