The History of Sicily

Norman Sicily—Robert “Guiscard”

In 1061, Robert Guiscard and his younger brother Roger (1030-1101) invaded Arab Sicily. By 1072, they had captured Palermo, but it took nearly 20 more years to subjugate the rest of the island. As they proceeded across Sicily, Roger was left in charge, with Robert returning to the mainland to rule over Calabria and Apulia. Now Count Roger, the younger brother continued to bring Arab lands under his dominion, but he did so not only through warfare but also by convincing many Muslim leaders that their people could assimilate easily into this new Sicily.

The last Arab city to be conquered was Enna in 1086; it was taken without bloodshed. After the conquest, Arabic became an official language along with Greek, Latin, and Norman French. Many Muslim houses of worship were kept open, with full religious freedom being granted to the Arab population.

Count Roger extended the same tolerance to members of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Great Schism between the western and eastern churches having occurred in 1054. He also provided financial support to rebuild Greek churches that had been destroyed or converted into mosques. All of this was just the beginning of the Count’s creation of a multi-lingual, multi-cultural society, the members of which were to live in harmony and prosperity for decades.

Count Roger is said to have as many as 17 children, but when he died in 1101, only two male heirs were available to inherit the title. When the older of these sons died, the choice fell on six-year old Roger, who assumed the title under the regency of his mother, Adelaide of Savona.


Cathedral of Cefalu, Built by King Roger II