The Palermo School of Translation
Palermo was the capital and the royal base for Muslims, Normans and Germans. According to Al ldrisi, there was an old Islamic section in the centre of Palermo called Al Khalsa which was the headquarters of the Sultan and hts soldiers during Islamic rule. Muslims called it Al Madina and Christians called it Palermo.
It was visited and described by Muslim travellers and geographers like Ibn Hawkal Al Baghdadi (d. 380 A.H.), Al Sharif Al Idrisi Al-Sabti (d. about 548 A.H.) and Ibn Jubair Al Balansi Al-Andalusi (d. 614 A.H.).
A school for translation was founded in Palermo in the thirteenth century similar to the school at Toledo in Spain. The two schools established close relations and exchanged books, translations and scientists.
The Scottish scientist Michael Scott, one of the students at Toledo school who translated the works of Aristotle and Ibn Rushdi's commentaries, frequently visited the Palermo school. It is likely that he met Frederick II during whose reign Palermo school flourished.
It is known that the Glorious Quran was translated into Latin in the first half of the twelfth century (6th Hijri). The story of the Prophet's Ascension was also translated at the orders of the Spanish King Alfonso the Wise into Castilian, French and Latin and became widely available in Spain and Italy from the thirteenth century A.D. (7th c. Hijri). These translations quickly reached the universities of Paris, Naples and Bologna.
The translation work at Palermo was mainly concerned, as in Toledo, with works in mathematics, philosophy and the natural sciences. Some of the most important translated works were: the works of Avicenna (d. 1037 A.D.) like 'Al-Qanun Fi-Al- Tib' and 'Al-Shifa'a in Philosophy'; and the books of Razis (d. 932 A.D.) such as 'Al Hawi Fi Al Tib'.
Some of the most prominent translators were Eugenius of Palermo and Leonardo Pisano. One of the results of this scientific activity is the thousands of Arabic manuscripts still held in the Vatican Library in Rome.
To conclude, Sicily was the second cultural bridge in the middle ages for the transmission of the Islamic civilization to European culture. It should be emphasised that Muslim scientists and scholars were not merely copiers or translators alone; they modified the classical legacy, assimilated it and created a new culture with an Islamic stamp. This was transmitted to the European mind, and many Europeans came to Spain and Sicily to receive it.