Monreale Cathedral
the chystro

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Monreale, together with Cefalù, represents an example of Church-Cathedrals with an annexed convent cloister , rare in Europe.In the Middle Ages, it became the beating heart of monastic life by combining spiritual and functional aspects, while at the same time fulfilling a liturgical function for the processional ceremonies held in the adjacent Cathedral. Inside the aisles, the east side housed the chapter house, in contrast to the refectory located to the west. The south side housed the dormitory, while the body of the church still forms the northern front.
In this space, the sculptural Romanesque decoration becomes the interpreter of the courtly language which, in the East , was represented by the magnificence of the mosaic ornamentation.
The  multicultural expansion of the Norman kingdom introduced not only Byzantine East and Islamic languages to Sicily, but also Provençal artistic forms.
Unlike the Cefalù cloister, whose position on the north side of the cathedral is a result of the land’s orography, the Monreale cloister is located, according to canonical rule, against the cathedral’s southern front. However, some similarities can be found in the architectural composition of the lanes, in which twin columns are used in both cases.

CLOISTER GARDEN
The central courtyard of the cloister is canonically defined as a garden, in which no flower essences are planted because they are deciduous; instead, the flowers are sculpted in the capitals, in the eternal nature of the stone. The garden, according to tradition, is divided into four parts where four symbolic trees are planted, the fig, the pomegranate, the olive and the palm. The first two plants, the fig and the pomegranate, refer to the Old Testament, as they are considered to be historical. The fig tree is located in the south-east and symbolises the Garden of Eden. The pomegranate tree is located in the north-east the garden of the Song of Songs. For the New Testament, the presence of symbolic plants is notable. The Olive tree, an allegory of Gethsemane and the future Easter, is located to the north-east, while the Palm tree, in the garden of the Apocalypse, is located to the south-west.

A fundamental and highly symbolic role in the cloister, a green space imbued with peace, silence and spirituality, is played by the plants in the garden and the water. The garden does not contain flowers, which are instead carved into the stone of the capitals, but, divided into four parts, it is an oasis for four “biblical” plants: the fig, the pomegranate, the olive and the palm.
The first two plants, the fig and the pomegranate, refer to the Old Testament, as they are considered to be historical. The fig tree is located in the south-east and symbolises the Garden of Eden and therefore the place of creation.
The pomegranate tree is located in the north-east, in the garden of the Song of Songs, where the groom meets the bride. For the New Testament, the presence of symbolic plants is notable. The Olive tree, an allegory of Gethsemane and the future Easter, is located to the north-west, while the Palm tree, in the garden of the Apocalypse, is located to the south-west.
Water, a fundamental element of the cloistered space, a sign of salvation and purification, spouts from the lion and human mouths of the singular fountain , located at the corner between the western and southern aisles, a palimpsest of different stylistic characters. The fountain, named after the king, gives the cloister the image of an enclosed garden, an allegory of Paradise.

Squaring the circle

The southern portico

Ecclesia munita

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A palimpsest of history

Biblical themes enlivened by the dazzling light of the stained – glass windows overlooking the naves

The cultural substrate through time

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The architectural modifications ti the cathedral building after the death of Roger II and the transformations of the cloister

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The links between the hauteville family and the monastic orders in Sicily

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The Great Restoration

The Virgin Hodegetria

The rediscovered chapel

Interior decorations

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The paradisiacal “Conca d’oro” that embraces Palermo: a name with countless faces through time

The lost chapel

The Cefalù cathedral: a construction yard undergoing a change between a surge of faith and control over the territory

Roger II’s strategic design

The Cathedral over the centuries

The beginning of the construction site

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The chapel of the crucifix: an artistic casket based on a previous model

The Chapel of the Kings

The cemetery of kings

The side aisles

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The chapel of St. Benedict

Transformations over the centuries

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Survey of the royal tombs

The senses tell Context 1

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

A controversial interpretation

The columns of the nave: the meticulous study of the overall order

Tempus fugit: a strategic project implemented in a short period of time

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

A Northern population

The Kings’ Cathedrals

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The Bible carved in stone

A compositional design that combines nordic examples with new artistic languages, over the centuries

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The area of the Sanctuary

The balance between architecture and light

The longest aisle

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Thirteenth-century iconography decorates the nave’s wooden ceiling, designed with new solutions

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The original design

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

A space between the visible and the invisible

Mosaic decoration

The decorated facade

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The marble portal: an intimate dialogue between complex ornamental aspects and formal structure

The towers and the western facade

Worship services

The mosaics of the apses

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The plasticism of the main portico and Bonanno Pisano’s Monumental Bronze Door

From the main gate to the aisles: an invitation to a journey of faith

Palermo: the happiest city

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The king’s mark

A new Cathedral

The side Portico: a combination of elegance and lightness of form

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

A remarkable ceiling

Under the crosses of the Bema

A tree full of life

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The stone bible

The mosaics of the presbytery