Book Series Medieval Identities: Socio-Cultural Spaces, vol. 7

Roger II of Sicily

Family, Faith, and Empire in the Medieval Mediterranean World

Dawn Marie Hayes

  • Pages: 221 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:18 b/w, 4 tables b/w., 2 maps b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58140-8
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58141-5
  • E-book
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This volume enhances our understanding of the various strategies used by early Norman rulers of Sicily and Southern Italy – but above all Roger II of Sicily - to establish authority and cultivate identity in the Mediterranean world.


“In conclusione, ci troviamo di fronte ad un volume complesso ed articolato, ma al contempo agile ed estremamente intuitivo dal punto di vista della scrittura: se da un lato vengono affrontati temi di per sé poco noti o del tutto inediti nell’ambito della trattazione storica dell’Italia meridionale normanna, dall’altro la struttura schematica e la suddivisione in macro-aree tematiche che coinvolgono i singoli capitoli fanno di questa monografia un nuovo punto di riferimento per gli studi storici del Mezzogiorno medievale.” (Raffaele Iula, in Kaklas, 2, 2020, p. 226)

“The volume makes particularly valuable contributions to the study of the affiliations and political alliances Roger sought to form at the last several years of his reign and the ways in which those the artistic program of the kingdom communicated those affiliations.” (Joshua C. Birk, in The Medieval Review, 06/04/2021)  

“Taken overall, this is a fascinating study which has been scrupulously researched and does indeed enhance our understanding of: Roger II himself, the image he sought to project, and his wider network of alliances (…) The book itself is also filled with detailed sections of context which help round-out the significance of Roger’s actions and policies (…) For these reasons, Roger II of Sicily makes an illuminating contribution to discussion on this remarkable ruler, but just as importantly this study helps to deepen our understanding of Roger’s place at the centre of the Mediterranean’s cultural and political networks.” (Nicholas Morton, in Al-Masaq, 33/1, 2021, p. 97)

“(…) the author opens up interesting new approaches for the study of twelfth-century Sicilian kingship. This is therefore a stimulating book, and worthy of scholars’ attention, but not all the arguments carry conviction.” (G. A. Loud, in Speculum, 96/3, 2021, p. 833)

“(…) there is no doubt that Hayes sets forth detailed, carefully considered insights and intriguing (…) hypotheses about the motivations and self-image of Roger II of Sicily, one of the most alluring figures of the entire medieval era.” (Lindsay Diggelmann, in Parergon, 38/1, 2021, p. 227)

“Insgesamt stellt Dawn M. Hayes somit in einem sorgfältig aufgebauten und in der Thesenbildung klaren Buch die interessante Frage nach den Motiven Rogers II. Bei der Wahl seiner Ehefrauen, bei seiner Verehrung für den Heiligen Nikolaus von Bari und bei seiner Frankreich- und Byzanzpolitik, neigt aber in der Quellenauswertung zu eher postulierten als gesicherten Schlussfolgerungen und zu einer Fixierung auf den Herrscher und letztlich dessen Staatsräson, die forschungsgeschichtlich überholt erscheint. So werden die neuen Kapitel sicher Diskussionen anregen.” (Richard Engl, in der Historischen Zeitschrift Heft 316/1, 2023, p. 231)

“Dawn Marie Hayes has written a highly original and thought-provoking book about Roger II and his world (…) her book will be essential reading alongside the more traditional biographies – the old ones by Caspar and Curtis, or the new ones by Houben, Aubé and Cantarella.” (DAVID ABULAFIA, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 73, 2022, p. 141-142)





Roger II (c. 1095-1154), Sicily’s first king, was an anomaly for his time. An ambitious new ruler who lacked the distinguished lineage so prized by the nobility, and a leader of an extraordinarily diverse population on the fringes of Europe, he occupied a unique space in the continent’s charged political landscape. This interdisciplinary study examines the strategies that Roger used to legitimize his authority, including his relationships with contemporary rulers, the familial connections that he established through no less than three marriages, and his devotion to the Church and Saint Nicholas of Myra/Bari. Yet while Roger and his family made the most of their geographic and cultural contexts, it is convincingly argued here that they nonetheless retained a strong western focus, and that behind the diverse mélange of Norman Sicily were very occidental interests.

Drawing together sources of political, social, and religious history from locations as disparate as Spain and the Byzantine Empire, as well as evidence from the magnificent churches and elaborate mosaics constructed during his reign, this volume offers a fascinating portrait of a figure whose rule was characterized both by great potential and devastating tragedy. Indeed, had Roger been able to accomplish his ambitious agenda, the history of the medieval Mediterranean world would have unfolded very differently.


List of Illustrations



Part I. Social Strategies: The Marriage Ties of Roger II

Chapter 1. The Appeal of Alfonso VI of León-Castile’s Legacy

Chapter 2. Opportunities in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the Principality of Antioch

Part II. Spiritual Strategies: St Nicholas of Myra

Chapter 3. The Saint’s Cult in Norman Bari, c. 1071 – c. 1111

Chapter 4. The Devotion of Roger II

Part III. Cultural Strategies: The Royal Mosaic in Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio

Chapter 5. French Connections: The Significance of the Fleurs-de-Lis

Chapter 6. The Message of the Antiquated Loros


Brief Glossary