Monreale Cathedral
the chystro

The senses tell the Chystro

smell
Fragrances from the garden

The garden does not contain flowers, which are instead carved into the stone of the capitals, but, divided into four parts, it is an oasis for four “biblical” plants: the fig, the pomegranate, the olive and the palm. The first two plants, the fig and the pomegranate, refer to the Old Testament, as they are considered to be historical. The fig tree is located in the south-east and symbolises the Garden of Eden and therefore the place of creation. The pomegranate tree is located in the north-east, in the garden of the Song of Songs, where the groom meets the bride. For the New Testament, the presence of symbolic plants is notable. The Olive tree, an allegory of Gethsemane and the future Easter, is located to the north-west, while the Palm tree, in the garden of the Apocalypse, is located to the south-west.

hearing
Water as a sign of salvation and purity

Water is a fundamental element of the cloistered space, symbolic of salvation and purification. It flows from the lion and human mouths of the unique fountain, located at the corner between the western and southern aisles, a palimpsest of different stylistic features, into the round basin. The fountain, named after the king, gives the cloister the image of an enclosed garden, an allegory of Paradise.

touch
Symbols, myths and allegories

The aisles, the sides of which form a perfect square, are rhythmically marked by twenty-six ogival arches, supported by 228 smooth, inlaid, coupled columns. The columns’ bases bear motifs of stylised leaves, rosettes, lion’s paws, beasts, men and animals in groups, frogs and lizards. Capitals rest on the columns, decorated and historiated with biblical episodes, followed by scenes from the New Testament and genre scenes, as well as those inspired by medieval symbolism and bestiaries. The sculptural work also alternates figurative decorations with mythological, botanical, symbolic and allegorical themes and floral elements.

sight
King William offers the Dome to the Virgin Mary

Among the scenes sculpted in the capitals, the “dedication” is of great symbolic significance. Mirroring what is already depicted in the mosaic cycle in the apse area of the Cathedral, King William is depicted kneeling while offering and giving the model of the Cathedral as a gift to the Child, seated in the arms of the Virgin Mary.

Palermo: the happiest city

A palimpsest of history

Under the crosses of the Bema

The southern portico

Interior decorations

The beginning of the construction site

Ecclesia munita

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The Kings’ Cathedrals

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The towers and the western facade

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

A tree full of life

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The rediscovered chapel

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A controversial interpretation

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

A new Cathedral

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The chapel of St. Benedict

The stone bible

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

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The side aisles

Roger II’s strategic design

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The Chapel of the Kings

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Mosaic decoration

The area of the Sanctuary

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

A space between the visible and the invisible

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

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

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

The mosaics of the apses

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The cultural substrate through time

The original design

The balance between architecture and light

Survey of the royal tombs

The cemetery of kings

The lost chapel

The longest aisle

The Great Restoration

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The mosaics of the presbytery

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

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

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

Squaring the circle

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The king’s mark

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The decorated facade

The Virgin Hodegetria

A remarkable ceiling

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The Bible carved in stone

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

The senses tell Context 1

Transformations over the centuries

Worship services

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

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

A Northern population

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