Palazzo della Cuba
Palermo, Italy
Commissioned by the Norman King, William II, the Cuba Palace dates to 1180 during the middle of his reign over Sicily. When built, the palace was surrounded by splendid parks complete with fountains, pavilions, and tree-lined promenades. A man-made pool immediately enclosed the palace and served as a natural air-cooling system for its residents and users. Inside the palace a central enclosure shelters a shadirwan or sabil, a fountain where water flowed from a spring in the back wall down a corrugated-like incline and into a canal. This fountain would have been connected to the outside pool through a subterranean passageway.

Constructed in limestone brick, the Cuba was organized according to a rectangular plan with projecting tower-like sections at the center of each façade. The palace's outer surface features repeated blind arches that rise to the height of the structure. Inside them were smaller blind arches and niches with double-arched windows beneath them, penetrating into the ground floor. The cornice is inscribed with bands of Arabic calligraphy. As its name suggests, a large dome ("qubba" in Arabic) surmounts the central area of the palace. While in its time La Cuba was located within the expanse of park and recreation land encompassing the city, today it is enclosed by urban development.


Ahmad, Aziz. 1975. A History of Islamic Sicily. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 100.

Caronia, Giuseppe and Noto, Vittorio. 1988. La Cuba di Palermo (Arabi E Normanni Nel XII Secolo). Palermo: Linee D'Arte Giada S.R.L.

Rabbat, Nasser. 1997. Shadirwan. In Encyclopaedia of Islam; New Edition. 9: 175-76.

"Palazzo della Cuba". Le Normands: Peuple d'Europe Website. [Accessed February 16, 2005]

Record updates:

  • October 3, 2018 (AKDC Staff): edited data (changed preferred name); added images.
Palermo, Italy
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La Cuba
Cuba Sottana
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