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.

A remarkable ceiling

The Bible carved in stone

The senses tell Context 1

Ecclesia munita

The area of the Sanctuary

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Roger II’s strategic design

The longest aisle

A controversial interpretation

Survey of the royal tombs

The chapel of St. Benedict

Palermo: the happiest city

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

A space between the visible and the invisible

The side aisles

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

A new Cathedral

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The king’s mark

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

Squaring the circle

The rediscovered chapel

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The mosaics of the apses

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

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The Virgin Hodegetria

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The cemetery of kings

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

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

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

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

The southern portico

Mosaic decoration

A Northern population

The cultural substrate through time

A tree full of life

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The Cathedral over the centuries

The mosaics of the presbytery

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

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

The towers and the western facade

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

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

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Under the crosses of the Bema

Worship services

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The beginning of the construction site

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

The Great Restoration

Interior decorations

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

The lost chapel

The original design

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The balance between architecture and light

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

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

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

The decorated facade

The Chapel of the Kings

The stone bible

A palimpsest of history

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The Kings’ Cathedrals

Transformations over the centuries