Monreale Cathedral
the Context 1

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

For over two centuries, the Arab domination in Sicily gave the island a cultural climate and a level of civilisation still unknown in other regions of Italy. At the same time, in Europe, after the decline of the the Carolingian renaissance , European kingdoms began to fragment around the year 1000. The knowledge, embedded into Arab culture, starting with the development of science, mathematics and extending into the intangible world of philosophy and alchemy, also involved the reorganisation of the layout of the Palermo area. The region thus became an area where studies on water channelling systems, including underground systems, known as the quanāt , gave impetus to the construction of parks and suburban gardens, enriched by the presence of surface pipelines, known as saie, and water collection tanks.New fruit trees such as cedars, lemons and oranges were introduced into these endless expanses as part of a diverse cultivation system. In addition to the pleasant view enhanced by a rich palette of colours, there was no shortage of the spicy scents of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and jasmine, which permeated the air with a mixture of Middle Eastern aromas.
Architecture of undoubted geometric purity stood out in the regular proportions of the paradise gardens, echoing those of Persia and Samarkand. An example is the castle, probably of Islamic origin, which can be traced back to the Kalbite Emir Ja’farn in the district of Maredolce , at a time when Muslim power on the island was already in decline.

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

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

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The southern portico

Roger II’s strategic design

The king’s mark

A tree full of life

The rediscovered chapel

The lost chapel

The cultural substrate through time

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

Squaring the circle

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The Great Restoration

Mosaic decoration

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

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The decorated facade

The Chapel of the Kings

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

The stone bible

The cemetery of kings

The balance between architecture and light

A controversial interpretation

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

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

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The Cathedral over the centuries

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The Virgin Hodegetria

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The original design

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

Survey of the royal tombs

Ecclesia munita

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

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

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

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The chapel of St. Benedict

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The towers and the western facade

Palermo: the happiest city

A remarkable ceiling

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The longest aisle

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

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

A space between the visible and the invisible

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The senses tell Context 1

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

A palimpsest of history

The side aisles

The beginning of the construction site

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

Worship services

A new Cathedral

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The mosaics of the apses

The mosaics of the presbytery

Under the crosses of the Bema

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

A Northern population

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The area of the Sanctuary

Interior decorations

Transformations over the centuries

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

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The Bible carved in stone

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