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 chystro: a place between earth and sky

The Gualtiero Cathedral

A tree full of life

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

The cemetery of kings

Transformations over the centuries

Interior decorations

A controversial interpretation

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

Roger II’s strategic design

Mosaic decoration

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The rediscovered chapel

The mosaics of the apses

Survey of the royal tombs

Beyond the harmony of proportions

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

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

A palimpsest of history

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

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

The southern portico

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

A space between the visible and the invisible

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The cultural substrate through time

Ecclesia munita

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Worship services

The Bible carved in stone

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The towers and the western facade

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The king’s mark

A Northern population

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

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

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The chapel of St. Benedict

The stone bible

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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

A new Cathedral

The Virgin Hodegetria

Palermo: the happiest city

The Great Restoration

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

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

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

The senses tell Context 1

The original design

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

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

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The mosaics of the presbytery

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The area of the Sanctuary

Squaring the circle

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

The balance between architecture and light

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The Cathedral over the centuries

The side aisles

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

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

The decorated facade

The Chapel of the Kings

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

A remarkable ceiling

The beginning of the construction site

The lost chapel

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The longest aisle

Under the crosses of the Bema