Monreale Cathedral
the internal areas

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

Entering the sacred building from the main west-facing portal, which William II of Hauteville dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an invitation to participate in the most impenetrable expression of the infinite, through a pathway steeped in art that calls at the same time for profound veneration. The rooms that rest on a Latin cross plan seem to overlap, with a dynamic progression of forms and colours, in a continuous crescendo.
The basilica develops in a longitudinal direction, starting from the three naves which divide the central body with nine rows of columns, rhythmically arranged on each side of the main nave.
From this, it is possible to distinguish the eastern part of the church, which is a separate unit and functional to the neighbouring buildings, the monastery , the Abbot's Tower to the south and the Royal Palace to the north.
The need for a connection between the various architectural elements is already evident in the layout of the cathedral, which from the beginning had the archiepiscopal throne and the royal throne leaning against the two large eastern pillars of the transept , facing each other, which can be traced back to the adjacent reference architecture.
The final part of the nave, just before passing through the triumphal arch , is already within the space occupied by the presbytery . The extension of the area of the naves is immediately apparent in the balance that linked decoration and architecture from the beginning, creating an indistinct sense of wonder for those who enter, unlike the Palatine Chapel and the Cefalù Cathedral , Norman constructions in which the extraordinary sparkle of the decorated walls prevails for one, and the building’s imposing structure prevails for the other.
The orderly sequence of the nave’s previously more homogenous eighteen columns , featuring capitals irregularly distributed according to the dimensions of the shaft, delimits the dimensions of the lower area of the side walls, devoid of images but not of decorations.
The absence of any form of mosaic narration was intended to keep the attention of the faithful on the sacred liturgical representation. In this area, the pulvinos above the capitals mark the beginning of the mosaic ornamentation, following a design that the architect had otherwise studied using profiles and mouldings, even for the other rooms in the Cathedral.
The entire interior mosaic mantle, created by Byzantine craftsmen and local artists over a rather long period of time, between 1177 and 1183, develops according to a precise theological-dogmatic logic. It starts with the mosaics of the main nave, depicting scenes from the Creation to the Jacob cycle , from the Old Testament, to the episodes from the Life of Christ , visible in the aisles and described in the New Testament. In this initial path, in which visitors are filled with an arcane and inexpressible feeling, one’s attention naturally focuses on the grandiose image of Christ Pantocrator in the apse, in eloquent harmony with the architecture as a whole.

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

A space between the visible and the invisible

Worship services

The rediscovered chapel

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

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

Roger II’s strategic design

The cultural substrate through time

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

Mosaic decoration

The southern portico

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The Bible carved in stone

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

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

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

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The Great Restoration

The original design

Ecclesia munita

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

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

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

A new Cathedral

The Chapel of the Kings

A controversial interpretation

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Squaring the circle

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

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

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

The Gualtiero Cathedral

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

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The stone bible

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

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

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

Survey of the royal tombs

The side aisles

A remarkable ceiling

A Northern population

The mosaics of the presbytery

The chapel of St. Benedict

A palimpsest of history

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

The lost chapel

A tree full of life

Transformations over the centuries

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Under the crosses of the Bema

Interior decorations

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

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The area of the Sanctuary

The balance between architecture and light

The cemetery of kings

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The beginning of the construction site

Palermo: the happiest city

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The senses tell Context 1

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The decorated facade

The towers and the western facade

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The longest aisle

The mosaics of the apses

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

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The Virgin Hodegetria

The king’s mark