Monreale Cathedral
the cathedral's exterior

The senses tell the exterior of the cathedral

The buildings of the monumental complex

Originally, the Monreale Cathedral was connected to all the surrounding buildings, from the cloister, adjacent to the right side of the church to the south, to the monastery, whose northern wing touched it. The rich external decoration of the Cathedral’s three east-facing semicircular apses was linked to the eastern façade of the Royal Palace, echoing its majestic compositional rhythm. The decision to emphasise the ornamental composition of the east-facing architecture was prompted by the desire to enhance the noblest part of the building, located in the sanctuary area.

Musical and architectural harmonies

The orderly ensemble of the many mouldings that make up the outer walls of the apses is formed by ogival arches, lower in height, which intersect each other on the same axes with a sinuous rhythm, almost as if to compose a silent melody. The contrast of colours seems to form the musical accompaniment, animated by the notes of the brown limestone, the grey-black lava tuff from Vesuvius, and the red bricks used in the thin horizontal bands. Softening this varied concert of colours is the warm golden-brown hue of the background.

The Bonanno Pisano door

The front elevation of the Cathedral is distinguished by the sense of grandeur of its portico. From its very foundation, it was intended to take the faithful by the hand on a journey, steeped in mysticism and wonder, into the imposing building of Monreale, dedicated to Santa Maria la Nuova. As early as the external square, you are invited to enter the Temple through the Gate of Paradise, built by Bonanno Pisano, whose ogival arch stands at the centre of the façade between the two towers. The monumental bronze door, commissioned by William II of Altavilla, consists of a wall of relief images, closed by architectural frames decorated with motifs that differ in form and materials used.

The Cathedral over the centuries

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The mosaics of the apses

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

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The lost chapel

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The Bible carved in stone

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The rediscovered chapel

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

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

The senses tell Context 1

Roger II’s strategic design

A new Cathedral

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

The king’s mark

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The beginning of the construction site

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

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The southern portico

Palermo: the happiest city

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

A controversial interpretation

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

Transformations over the centuries

The balance between architecture and light

The Virgin Hodegetria

Ecclesia munita

The cultural substrate through time

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

Survey of the royal tombs

Mosaic decoration

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

Worship services

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The decorated facade

A space between the visible and the invisible

Interior decorations

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

A tree full of life

The original design

The area of the Sanctuary

A remarkable ceiling

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

The side aisles

The Great Restoration

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

A Northern population

The stone bible

The Chapel of the Kings

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The chapel of St. Benedict

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

A palimpsest of history

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

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

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

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The Kings’ Cathedrals

Squaring the circle

The mosaics of the presbytery

The longest aisle

The cemetery of kings

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The towers and the western facade

Under the crosses of the Bema

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

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

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