The Arabian dominion in Sicily lasted from the 9th to the 11th century and the Moslems remained in Taormina in particular from the year 902 to 1079. During the 11th century the Arabs reinforced the town’s defences by building, among other things, a tower which is really the main part of today’s Palazzo Corvaja.
The cubic tower reminded the Arabs of their sacred “Al Ka ‘bah” which, according to Mahomet, was the first tempie erected to God by Abraham at the Mecca. The tower was extended at the end of the 13th century with the addition of the area which is on the left of the entrance portal.
Together with this new wing, a staircase was built leading from the courtyard to the first floor and on the landing, there are three magnificent panels in Siracusa stone scuplted in high-relief:
- the first one pictures the creation of Eve
- the second panel, the originai sin
- the third is of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise
Taormina Palazzo Corvaja. The right wing of the building was constructed at the beginning of the 1400s in order to house the meetings of the Sicilian Parliament which were held, the first in 1411, in the large 15th century hall in the presence of Queen Bianca of Navarra, regent of the Kingdom of Sicily.
And for this same reason Palazzo Corvaja is also called Parliament House or the Palace of Queen Bianca of Navarra. In any case the mansion is named after the Corvaja family, one of the oldest and most noble families in Taormina. The men of the family have been renowned in the administration of the town as well as in arts and magistrature.
Palazzo Corvaja was in a pitiful state of total neglect with several families living there at the one time until the end of the Second World War in 1945. That same year the first mayor of Taormina had the building dispossessed and Armando Dillon, a Neopolitan architect, restored it all from 1945 until 1948.
In 1960 Palazzo Corvaja was enlarged and the new wing now houses the offices of the “Servizio Turistico Regionale”, the Tourist Office. Near the Odeon, just a few steps away from the Zecca, near the old entrance to the Naumachiae and not far from the Greek-Roman Theatre, Palazzo Corvaja is certainly one of Taormina’s historical landmarks.
As regards the architectural style of the building, it is a mixture of styles due to the different eras during which it was built and extended. Its styles go from Arabian to Norman to Gothic. The battlements of the tower are Arabian and are formed by a double row of square holes surmounted by small merlons.
Taormina Palazzo Corvaja. The mullioned windows of the 14th century hall is Gothic. This type of window in Gothic architecture is divided by a small column so as to create two entrances for the light. The 15th century hall, where the Sicilian Parliament meetings were held, is all in Norman style.