A strange name? It’s a strange church.
Would you believe this is a 12th-century Norman church? We’re talking about close on a thousand years here.
There was a monastery on this site in the 6th century until, with the Arab Rulers, it became a mosque. Finally Roger II removed the mosque in 1130 and had an abbey built for the Benedictines.
Whoever the architect was, he retained the Arabic flavour with these bulbous ochre domes.
If not for the bell tower, you could still be looking at a mosque.
But there’s something else about St John of the Hermits. The cloister.
Cloisters have traditionally been attached to monastic foundations, serving as an area of quiet meditation or as a study garden. Quiet is the word.
Palermo is a noisy place. After the soft tranquility of Siracusa I found the clamour startling. More cars, more people, and overall a general background noise, the hubbub of a living city.
Sicilians have no shyness about talking at the top of their voices. You get twenty or so people waiting at a bus stop and you would be forgiven if you thought you’d walked into a pub with the television playing the last quarter of a Grand Final.
So the cloister is a little haven of peace.
If you come to Palermo, make sure you have a couple of hours to sit in the cloister of the Abbey Church of St. John of the Hermits.