Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Friday, 5 September 2014

Monreale Cathedral (Part One).

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

The Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Italy, is one of the greatest extant examples of
Norman architecture in the world. It was begun in 1174 by William II, and in 1182,
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.
Illustration: SHUTTERSTOCK

Monreale Cathedral,
Palermo, Sicily.
Photo: December 2007.
Author: Jerzy Strzelecki.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Christ Pantocrator.
Monreale Cathedral,
Palermo, Sicily.
Photo: 10-11-2007.
Author: Giuseppe ME.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Monreale (Sicilian: Murriali) is a town and Commune in the Province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy,
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.
Author: Tango7174.
(Wikimedia Commons)

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.
Author: Tango7174.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Although not so refined as mosaics in Cefalù and the Palazzo dei Normanni, the Cathedral's Interior nevertheless contains the largest Cycle of Byzantine mosaics extant in Italy.

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.

The Cloisters,
Monreale Cathedral.
Photo: August 2005.
Author: Urban.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily. The Archi-Episcopal Palace and Monastic buildings,on the South Side, were of great size and magnificence, and were surrounded by a massive Precinct Wall, crowned at intervals by twelve Towers. This has been mostly rebuilt, but little now remains, except ruins, of some of the Towers, a great part of the Monks' Dormitory and Frater, and the splendid Cloisters, completed about 1200.

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.


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