6 days in Sicily-09/24 - 09/29/2017

Day 3- Monreale -09/26/2017

Monreale Cathedral

Lunch @Ciambra Monreale Cathedral
The name Monreale (pronounced Mohn ree ah’ lay) derives from Latin Mons regalis that means “mountain worthy of the king”.
Famed for its glorious golden mosaics, Monreale Cathedral is perhaps the finest Norman building in Sicily.  The term "Normans" (“men from the North”) applied first to the people of Scandinavia.
The Cathedral was built in the 12th century as part of a grand royal complex a few miles outside of Palermo. Considered the most important masterpiece of Sicily’s Norman period, the Monreale Cathedral is a magical place to visit, well known all over the world for its stunning mosaics and charming architecture.

 Commissioned by the Norman ruler of Sicily William II, the church was built between 1174 and 1185 with the intent of emphasizing the splendor of his kingdom. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, today, it displays an incredible fusion of eastern and western influences thanks to the Arabic and Byzantine craftsmen involved in building the cathedral.

In 2015, Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù (you will get to see afterward) were granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cathedral has two entrances: the north and west side.

This is the North entrance, you will see the west entrance toward the end of the page.

The north entrance façade relatively plain, the main entrance (around the corner) on the west is also not particularly striking neither but wait until you see the interior.


Triton fountain at the center of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, sculpted in 1881 by Mario Rutelli is right in front of the entrance of the cathedral.

  Triton is a mythological Greek god, the messenger of the sea. He is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, god and goddess of the sea respectively, and is herald for his father. He is usually represented as a merman which has the upper body of a human and the tail, soft dorsal fin, spiny dorsal fin, anal fin, pelvic fins and caudal fin of a fish, and his shoulders barnacled with sea-shells.


On the north entrance there are two stunning Romanesque bronze doors sculpted by Bonanno da Pisa who adorned them with 42 reliefs of biblical scenes framed by lots of decorative elements.



Adam and Eve: Detail of Bonanno da Pisa's bronze door.


As soon as you walk in you can definitely tell that the best asset of the Cathedral is its astonishing interior completely covered in golden mosaics, dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.


In the center nave a huge mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful".


The 6,500m² mosaics display scenes of saints, kings and angels, framed by golden decorative motifs.


While standing there, your eyes are drawn immediately to the apse, with a magnificent portrait of Jesus. Old Testament stories are depicted in the nave, while scenes from the life of Christ adorn the aisles and transepthe figure in the apse are arranged according to a logic hierarchical order, with the figure of Chris dominating the mosaics.

Close look of the Christ Pantocrator mosaic.

The majestic Christ (13,30 m wide and 7 m high) is blessing with his right hand, while his left hand is holding the Gospel, open on the page which reads, in Latin: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follow me will never walk in darkness”.  Beneath the stupendous portrait of Jesus is a mosaic of the Theotokos (Mother of God) enthroned with the Christ child on her lap.

The mosaics were made with 2200 kg of pure gold, experts have estimated. Craftsmen from Constantinople were employed to expedite the work. The Byzantine mosaics are among the most magnificent in the world.


The altar in the central apse.

Beautiful wooden ceilings above the nave.


The cathedral has a wide central nave between two smaller aisles. Nine monolithic columns of gray granite support the eight pointed arches on each side of the central aisle, for a total of eighteen columns, each bearing a Corinthian style capital.

Each individual capital is sculpted with a different motif featuring religious figures and symbols. Only one of the eighteen columns is not made of gray granite, the first column on the right of the front entrance, which is made of "cipollina" marble


Decorated arches with golden mosaics. Take a look at examine the capitals on top of the supporting columns. They feature carvings of Sicily’s Norman history as well as figures of monsters and animals.  

Detail of a splendid Corinthian capital in the main nave.  Each capital is uniquely carved with a theme.

The mosaic decorations are the work of Byzantine and Venetian craftsmen, executed between the end of the 12C and the beginning of the 13C and depicting a cycle of scenes from the Old and the New Testaments.

Mosaics on the south wall: Cycle of the Old Testament. Noah is greeting the dove returning with an olive leaf (top right).

 GENESIS chapter 8, King James: and he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. 8 Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9 But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. 10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluck off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.


 Original Granite and porphyry floor with geometric decorations from the 16th century.


On the right side of the cathedral is the Cappella di San Benedetto, characterized by a Baroque style, holds the marble tomb of William II (on the left)  and priceless treasures such as sacred vestments, silverware. Originally, the building was designed to become the Royal Pantheon.


William's father, King William I "the Bad" lies in the deep-red porphyry tomb which dates from the twelfth century and is, presumably, his original. William II's mother, Margaret of Navarre, is also interred at Monreale. Curiously, so is the heart of King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis). The royal cortege stopped here for a funeral en route to France following Louis' death during the Tunisian Crusade (in 1270) when his less-saintly younger brother, Charles of Anjou, was king of Naples and Sicily.

Decorated in the 16th century, contains the porphyry sarcophagus of William I (d. 1166)


The Marble Tomb of King William II  (1190) of Sicily in the Monreale Cathedral.

William II lived just long enough to see his masterpiece completed. He died in 1189 at the age of just 36. The burial tombs of both William II and his father William I are contained within the cathedral.


The chapel with the virgin Mary statue


Confession booth

A holy water container made of marble at the entrance/exit of the cathedral


The front facade faces (west), looking onto Piazza Guglielmo with two massive square bell towers flank the main church entrance. The porticos are not original components of the structure.

 The marble balustrade sticks out from the upper section of the façade.


The bell tower


Statue of the painter Pietro Novelli (1603–1647) in front of the bell tower of the cathedral. Pietro Novelli was a painter of the Baroque period, active mainly in Palermo. Novelli was born in Monreale, and is known as il Monrealese or Pietro "Malta" Novelli to distinguish him from his father, Pietro Antonio Novelli.


As we walked out of the main courtyard we saw photographers and then we realized that a wedding is in progress..


Nice car arriving with the bride.

The father of the bride fixing her dress while photographers are taking her pictures.


The bride and her father...Nice picture!


Exterior view of the cathedral from Via Del Arcivescovado.

The backside of the cathedral and its monastic building, on a little side street, are richly embellished!

Pointed arches are magnificently enriched with carving and colored inlay, a unique combination of three styles - Norman-French, Byzantine and Arab.


Walking back to the parking lot-Beautiful view of the town below.


We are back at the parking lot, picking up our car to drive to our next destination Cefalu.

Note how nice to view is.





Our house


Photo Gallery

 Mon  petit coin