Monreale Cathedral
the Great Presbytery

The senses tell the Great Presbytery

The atmosphere of the presbytery

Looking back over the centuries, one naturally wonders about the atmosphere that permeated this place, introduced by the long rows of columns in the central aisle, which accompany the eye in an ever tighter succession of pointed arches, culminating in the central apse with the grandiose image of the Blessing Redeemer. In the Sanctuary area, burning incense is a way of raising the soul to God. Its smoke recalls the great divine mystery while its sweet and spicy smell heralds the presence of Christ, creating a mystical link between heaven and earth. The thurible swings three times, symbolising the Trinity, while the faithful pray and sanctify the Almighty.

Songs and music to lift hearts to God

To add to the mystical atmosphere that characterised the Cathedral in medieval times, derived from the chants sung by the Benedictines, the space was enriched from 1503 onwards with different types of organs. The liturgy was thus enlivened by music, which, as St. Augustine claimed, was a prayer that lifted hearts and minds to God.

The mosaic cycle of the aisles

The mosaics in the central aisle, with scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as the interplay of columns running through the interior of the cathedral, seem to accompany the faithful on a salvific journey through the presbytery, culminating in the Christocentric King of Kings, Christ Pantocrator, at the centre of the apse dome. The presbytery is divided into the left wing, known as the Campata di San Luigi, the choir and the right wing, known as the Campata dei Guglielmi. The latter is located in the southern section of the transept and houses the royal tombs. The remains of the temple’s founder are kept in a white marble sarcophagus, commissioned by 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. A red porphyry tomb houses the body of William I. The tomb, damaged by fire in 1811, was stripped of the six porphyry columns, three on each side, which supported a marble canopy.

Glittering gold

Touching the glittering gold mosaic tiles that make up the immense Monreale cycle can give you an idea of the consistency of the materials used for this imposing structure which expresses the political, cultural and spiritual agenda of William the Good.

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

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

The area of the Sanctuary

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The cemetery of kings

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Interior decorations

A new Cathedral

The decorated facade

The longest aisle

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The lost chapel

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

The cultural substrate through time

The beginning of the construction site

A remarkable ceiling

Under the crosses of the Bema

The balance between architecture and light

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The stone bible

The Virgin Hodegetria

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The mosaics of the apses

The side aisles

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The rediscovered chapel

Squaring the circle

Roger II’s strategic design

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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

The southern portico

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

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

A Northern population

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

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Ecclesia munita

A palimpsest of history

The king’s mark

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

The Chapel of the Kings

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The chapel of St. Benedict

Worship services

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

Transformations over the centuries

The mosaics of the presbytery

Palermo: the happiest city

A tree full of life

The Bible carved in stone

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

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

The senses tell Context 1

Mosaic decoration

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

A controversial interpretation

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

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

Beyond the harmony of proportions

A space between the visible and the invisible

The Great Restoration

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

The Kings’ Cathedrals

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The towers and the western facade

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

Survey of the royal tombs

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The original design

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety