Monreale Cathedral
the context 2

The cultural substrate through time

Following the difficult thirty years of the conquest, Norman rule favourably influenced a balanced synthesis between Western Latin, Eastern Byzantine and Arab Islamic cultures , although Christianity was at the heart of the restoration, thanks to the unifying power of the Church.
With William II , Monreale became the Kingdom’s most important ecclesiastical lordship, thanks to the creation of a Bishopric Abbey even before the settlement appeared.
Mons Regalis, at the foot of Mount Caputo, was located within the vast park of the Norman kings, the flourishing and luxuriant Genoard , the last to be created on top of earlier Islamic gardens.During the reign of William II, it stretched from the city of Palermo to the east, in the valley of the Oreto River, until it reached the Alto Fonte Park to the south, where there is still a  chapel and a palace from Roger's era .
The Monreale area was known for two particular places: the village of Bahalara   and the Chapel of Santa Domenica Ciriaca which, in Islamic times, preserved the Greek episcopal tradition in Palermo. The sacred space was the last Christian stronghold during the Muslim domination, and is of historical importance as it was home to the Bishop of Palermo, Nicodemus, who returned to the city when the Normans arrived to convert the large mosque into a church for Christian worship.
In the early years, the Monreale Cathedral’s foundation was often linked to the Latin phrase “super sanctam Kiriacam”, which also appeared in William II’s donation deed, published in 1176.
The fact that the Cathedral is located next to the small church of St. Cyriaca, whose liturgical name refers to the Lord’s Day, Sunday, justified the sovereign’s decision to build it in the interest of greater political power, given its proximity to the archbishopric of Palermo. Significant traces of this are evident in the hamlet of a municipality near Monreale. Its name, Santa Dominica, traces back to the Latin translation of the original Greek name for the now abandoned primitive place of prayer.

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

A Northern population

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The Bible carved in stone

Survey of the royal tombs

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

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

Palermo: the happiest city

A palimpsest of history

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

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

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

Mosaic decoration

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The cultural substrate through time

The cemetery of kings

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

The rediscovered chapel

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The chapel of St. Benedict

The Chapel of the Kings

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

The area of the Sanctuary

Ecclesia munita

A new Cathedral

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

The senses tell Context 1

The balance between architecture and light

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Worship services

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

A tree full of life

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The king’s mark

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The Virgin Hodegetria

The original design

A remarkable ceiling

The mosaics of the presbytery

Interior decorations

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

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The longest aisle

The decorated facade

The towers and the western facade

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

Roger II’s strategic design

The Cathedral over the centuries

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

Under the crosses of the Bema

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The beginning of the construction site

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

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

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

The mosaics of the apses

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

A controversial interpretation

Transformations over the centuries

The lost chapel

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The Gualtiero Cathedral

A space between the visible and the invisible

The side aisles

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

The Great Restoration

The stone bible

Squaring the circle

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The southern portico