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.

A controversial interpretation

A palimpsest of history

The area of the Sanctuary

The towers and the western facade

The decorated facade

Ecclesia munita

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The beginning of the construction site

The Virgin Hodegetria

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The Bible carved in stone

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The balance between architecture and light

The chapel of St. Benedict

A Northern population

Transformations over the centuries

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

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

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The cultural substrate through time

The lost chapel

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

The Great Restoration

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

A new Cathedral

The side aisles

The rediscovered chapel

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

A remarkable ceiling

The king’s mark

Mosaic decoration

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

Roger II’s strategic design

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The stone bible

A space between the visible and the invisible

The senses tell Context 1

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

Worship services

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

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

Palermo: the happiest city

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

Interior decorations

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

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

The southern portico

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The mosaics of the apses

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Under the crosses of the Bema

The mosaics of the presbytery

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The Chapel of the Kings

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Squaring the circle

Survey of the royal tombs

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The longest aisle

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

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

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

A tree full of life

The original design

The cemetery of kings

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon