Monreale Cathedral
the cathedral's exterior

The towers and the western facade

The position of the towers on each side of the main façade of the Monreale Cathedral corresponds, in terms of width and depth, with the measurements of a portico, built at the same time as the church. Due to a collapse, it was replaced by the one we see today, which dates back to 1770.
The imposing appearance of the two buildings already differs from the lower order, which is higher than the one above and originally had no windows.
Moreover, while the latter is made of rusticated work , the upper one, in both towers, is visibly lower and is made of rows of square ashlars , highlighting a recessed structure framed, at the base, by a wide band decorated with inlaid rhombuses. Behind it, there is a pointed window , set in a string course frame which is also present on the other tower, like a mirror image.
Our eyes are drawn to the tallest tower, the one that faces south, distinguishable from its twin by the presence of two further orders that become more narrow in width. Each façade is lightened by the presence of a single lancet window in the first order, overlaid by a double lancet window in the upper order, enclosed by a triple lintel.
A stone spire, struck by lightning and destroyed in 1807, crowned the end of the southern tower.The northern tower appears less slender and lacks lightness in the elevations. Its walls, which house the bells, were added in the 16th century.At the time, the two structures had staircases located within the square-based building structure adjacent to the eastern façade. Using them to reach the upper floors, access was gained through narrow doors, which have now been bricked up, at the sides of the nave and the roofs of the side aisles. Turning our attention away from the massive structure of the two residual towers which, from the end of the 12th century, formed part of the high walls protecting the important buildings, we cannot help but notice the ogival arch decorations on the upper part of the façade above the portico, rebuilt in the 18th century.These ornaments, similar in their attention to detail to those found in the apses were interwoven with the wealth of embroidery, starting from the inner sides of the towers’ second order and extending up to and including the two round arches and the large pointed window in the centre.
The tympanum is more restrained and recent restoration work has brought to light a walled-up pointed window, adorned by a ring of square ashlars inserted between two round, blind windows, which feature the same ornamentation. The construction of the cathedrals was based on a medieval concept, reflected in the similar compositional richness of the exterior of the apses. It was also based on an overall design, with the altar room to the east and the main entrance, which reached a great height, to the west.


The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

A Northern population

Worship services

The mosaics of the presbytery

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

The cemetery of kings

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The lost chapel

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

The Great Restoration

The longest aisle

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

The area of the Sanctuary

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The original design

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

A space between the visible and the invisible

The towers and the western facade

A tree full of life

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

Palermo: the happiest city

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

The beginning of the construction site

A controversial interpretation

Transformations over the centuries

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

Beyond the harmony of proportions

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

A remarkable ceiling

The stone bible

The senses tell Context 1

Squaring the circle

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

The mosaics of the apses

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The balance between architecture and light

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Roger II’s strategic design

The chapel of St. Benedict

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

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

The decorated facade

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The Chapel of the Kings

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Survey of the royal tombs

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The Virgin Hodegetria

Under the crosses of the Bema

The rediscovered chapel

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

The southern portico

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

A new Cathedral

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

A palimpsest of history

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

The cultural substrate through time

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The king’s mark

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The side aisles

Interior decorations

The Cathedral over the centuries

The Bible carved in stone

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

Mosaic decoration

Ecclesia munita

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy