Monreale Cathedral
the Great Presbytery

The cemetery of kings

The sublime feeling that greets those who enter the Monreale Cathedral takes the form of a dialogue between different cultures, starting from the feeling of infinity symbolically profused in the message of faith inherent in the Western Latin tradition and then manifesting itself in the ethereal luminosity of Eastern Byzantine art and Islamic components embedded in the architecture.
William II ‘s programmatic adherence to the reformist direction of the Western Church facilitated the introduction of differently inspired elements into the Cathedral to form a new unity.
The sovereign’s far-sighted political plan, which linked the cathedral, the monastery connected to the seat of an archbishop and the royal palace , stemmed from the desire to make Monreale the ‘great church’ of the Sicilian-Norman state at the same time, with the aim of becoming not only a royal foundation, but also a dynastic burial place and monastery.
In the southern arm of the transept , the historical grandeur of William II’s project is reflected in the area reserved for the royal tombs. The remains of the Temple’s founder are kept in a white marble sarcophagus, commissioned by the archbishop Ludovico I Torres , in 1575. It is supported by brackets with a zoomorphic base, finely decorated with friezes carved with foliage and classical winged putti. On one of its larger sides, it bears a long laudatory epitaph , composed by Antonio Veneziano, a poet from Monreale, and engraved on a cartouche plaque. The ends, bordered by plant spirals, contain the Torres coat of arms on one side and that of the sovereign on the other. A clear reference to the porphyry tombs, preserved in Palermo Cathedral, can be seen in the red porphyry tomb , which houses the still intact body of William I .
The body was carefully embalmed by his son. The tomb, damaged by the 1811 fire , was stripped of its six porphyry columns, three on each side, which supported a marble canopy.Unlike the decorative richness of the coffin belonging to the founder of Monreale Cathedral, the one reserved for his predecessor contains no inscription. Raised on three steps and supported by high corbels with wave-like lines, it is characterised by its austere composure, interrupted only by the presence of a sculpted diadem, ring and poplar branches, the symbol of sovereignty.

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

The rediscovered chapel

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Transformations over the centuries

Squaring the circle

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The chapel of St. Benedict

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

A controversial interpretation

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

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

The cemetery of kings

The Bible carved in stone

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The mosaics of the apses

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The area of the Sanctuary

The southern portico

The original design

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

The Chapel of the Kings

The Kings’ Cathedrals

Roger II’s strategic design

Palermo: the happiest city

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The mosaics of the presbytery

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

A tree full of life

Under the crosses of the Bema

The balance between architecture and light

A space between the visible and the invisible

The Virgin Hodegetria

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

The beginning of the construction site

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

The cultural substrate through time

Worship services

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

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 cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Ecclesia munita

Interior decorations

A new Cathedral

A remarkable ceiling

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

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

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The lost chapel

The Great Restoration

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The towers and the western facade

Mosaic decoration

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

A Northern population

A palimpsest of history

The side aisles

Survey of the royal tombs

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The decorated facade

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

The king’s mark

The stone bible

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The senses tell Context 1

The longest aisle

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex