There are a few palaces in Palermo but we just visited 2 of them, the Royal Palace and the Steri Palace.
The Royal Palace is home to the Palatine Chapel and the Royal Apartments, which are only open at the weekends. Construction of the Chapel was begun in 1130, is a mix of many differant styles and is quite beautiful, the decoration, inside and out is made entirely of mozaics.
It is accessed from the first floor of the Maqueda Courtyard which originated from a remodelling of the palace in in the late 16th century.
The Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri, was built in the early 14th Century by a powerful Sicílians nobleman and is famous for the painted ceiling in the great hall. The ceiling is covered in painted boards depicting subjects such as the Judgement of Solomon and the story of Helen of Troy.
From 1600 to 1782 the Palace housed the tribunal of the Holy Inquisition, and the main ‘attraction’ is in the building alongside the palace which was a prison by the Inquisition. The walls of the cells were covered in graffiti by the prisoners using water, brick dust, blood, urine and excrement.
Some of the grafitti is in English, originating with various Protestant missionaries trying to convert the Catholics.
Once incarcerated prisoners were never seen again. Families had to pay the Inquisition for their food but many starved to death. Under torture prisoners admitted their heresy, their possessions were forfeited to the Church and they were executed. The prison was also famous for the murder of an Inquisitor by a prisoner; apparently this was the second on and last time that ever occurred. The perpetrator is said to have spent a year manacles to a chair waiting for his sentance to be sent from Spain!
And as was pointed out these were educated men, one drew a detailed map of Sicily on a wall, obviously from memory.
Prisoners, without hope, even concealed hair and teeth in cracks in the walls apparently in an effort to show they had actually been there.
Very evocative and if you think about it, terrifying.