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closer view of the altar
Photo Credit: lovetotravel

Monreale Cathedral

About an hour by car south of Palermo along SP49 and then SP42.
Daytime hours are best.
0039 091 640 4413 3 hours
June 2015 All year
€0-9 Monreale Italy
Website Historical Religious Sites
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Monreale Cathedral (Cattedrale di Monreale) This cathedral was built by the Norman King William II of Sicily purportedly in order to outdo the cathedral that was to be constructed in Palermo by the then Archbishop William of the Mill. The Monreale Cathedral was built on a hilltop just six miles south of Palermo in just 10 years and was completed in 1184.The town of Monreale then grew around the 12th century Benedictine Abbey. The architecture not surprisingly is Norman and although the exterior is not particularly impressive, this cannot be said for the interior. The interior is esteemed for its size and for its mosaics.

The vast array of mosaics and the plentiful use of over 400 pounds of gold create a sense of solemnity and grandeur. Forty-two different episodes of Old Testament stories are shown along and above the central nave while New Testament stories are seen along and above the side aisles. All told, there are said to be 130 individual scenes not only of biblical events but of such scenes as that of William II being crowned by Christ and his dedication of the church to Mary. High above the apse is the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator .below which is a mosaic of Theotokos (Mother of God) and Jesus enthroned surrounded by angels and apostles and the mosaics of several saints including Saint Sylvester and Saint Thomas Becket who was the Archbishop of Canterbury) during the reign of Henry II of England who was the father-in-law of the builder of this cathedral.

The interior of the cathedral can be better viewed with a pair of binoculars and as wonderful as viewing this is, save some time to visit the cloister with its Romanesque arches and 228 slender columns every other one of which is decorated with mosaic patterns. Scenes of Norman Sicilian history are carved in the column-topped capitals. One of the capitals reveals William II's offering the cathedral to Mary.
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