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The Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Italy, is one of the greatest extant examples of
the Church, dedicated to The Assumption of The Virgin Mary, was, by a Bull of
Pope Lucius III, elevated to the Rank of a Metropolitan Cathedral.
Photo: December 2007.
Author: Jerzy Strzelecki.
Author: Giuseppe ME.
on the slope of Monte Caputo, overlooking the very fertile valley called "La Conca d'oro" (the Golden Shell), famed for its orange, olive and almond trees, the produce of which is exported in large quantities.
After the occupation of Palermo by the Arabs, the Bishop of Palermo was forced to move his Seat outside the Capital. The rôle of the new Cathedral was assigned to a modest little Church, Aghia Kiriaki, in the village, nearby, which was later called Monreale.
After the Norman Conquest, in 1072, Christians got back the Old City Cathedral. Probably, this rôle, as temporary Ecclesiastical Centre, played a part in King William II's decision to build his famous Cathedral, here.
The town was for long a mere village, and started its expansion when the Norman Kings of Sicily chose the area as their hunting resort, building a palace, here.
English: Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Italy. Mosaics of the North side of the nave.
Français: Cathédrale de Monreale, Sicile, Italie. Mosaïques du côté nord de la nef.
Photo: 9 October 2010.
English: Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Italy. Mosaics of the South side of the nave.
Français: Cathédrale de Monreale, Sicile, Italie. Mosaïques du côté sud de la nef.
Photo: 9 October 2010.
Under King William II, the large Benedictine Monastery, coming from Cava de' Tirreni, was founded and provided with a large asset. It is noteworthy that the new edifice had also an important defensive rôle. Monreale was the Seat of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Sicily, which. thenceforth. exerted a large influence over Sicily.
Photo: August 2005.
The Cloisters are well preserved, and are one of the finest Italian Cloisters, both for size and beauty of detail, now extant. It is about 2200 m², with pointed Arches, decorated with diaper work, supported on pairs of Columns in white marble, 216 in all, which were alternately plain and decorated by bands of patterns in gold and colours, made of glass tesserae, arranged either spirally or vertically from end to end of each Shaft.
The marble Capitals are each carved with foliage, biblical scenes and allegories, no two being alike. At one angle, a square pillared projection contains the marble fountain or Monks' Lavatorium, evidently the work of Muslim sculptors.
PART TWO FOLLOWS