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.
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 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.