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 chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

A palimpsest of history

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

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The southern portico

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Under the crosses of the Bema

The mosaics of the presbytery

Survey of the royal tombs

The Great Restoration

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The side aisles

The original design

A controversial interpretation

The rediscovered chapel

Worship services

The Virgin Hodegetria

The longest aisle

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

A tree full of life

The chapel of St. Benedict

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The Chapel of the Kings

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

The senses tell Context 1

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

Squaring the circle

The stone bible

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

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

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The area of the Sanctuary

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

The cemetery of kings

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

The mosaics of the apses

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

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

A remarkable ceiling

The king’s mark

The lost chapel

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The beginning of the construction site

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

The balance between architecture and light

The Cathedral over the centuries

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

A Northern population

The Kings’ Cathedrals

A new Cathedral

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

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

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Transformations over the centuries

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Mosaic decoration

Ecclesia munita

The Bible carved in stone

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

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

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The cultural substrate through time

Palermo: the happiest city

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

Roger II’s strategic design

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The towers and the western facade

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

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

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The decorated facade

A space between the visible and the invisible

Interior decorations