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Cathedral of Monreale Sicily

Frank Gerace

10+ Posts
I got to this after a while. I'm glad I did. I relived the trip.

The Cathedral of Monreale

Just a few miles outside of Palermo, Sicily, The Cathedral of Monreale is spectacular.

You can get there easily by taking the 389 bus from Palermo’s Piazza Independenza. You go through the Porta Nuova. The name tells us something about the depth of history in Sicily. The “New Door” was put up in 1536.

The bus leaves you off a short distance from the cathedral. As you walk up the hill, take the opportunity to see Palermo and the sea below you.

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The cathedral was built after three hundred years of Saracen rule. The resulting architecture and art has the solidity of the Norman (who let us not forget were Germanic) and the intricacy and detail of the Islamic inspired mosaics.


Before we go in, look at the statue of the patron of the cathedral, the Norman King William II who is portrayed dedicating his work to Mary.


Everything about the Cathedral of Monreale is special. Start with the massive bronze doors. They were done in 1179. It is worth searching for "doors monreale cathedral" to get the history and close-ups of the biblical scenes in each of the panels.

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The simple renderings might look like caricatures to our photography spoiled eyes but just think that were done in bronze not pencil and paper. Check them out one by to see the detail much better than with my photo.

Here is one by courtesy of the Educational Technology Clearinghouse University of South Florida. The “Arca Noe”. Noah’s Ark.


Inside, take our time to admire the mosaics. The interior has over 68,000 square feet of mosaics. Remember that the amazing detail comes from thousands of pieces of colored glass. We can barely finish a jigsaw puzzle but these artists created with the small pieces. A thousand years later, we admire the Pointillists who had is easy just dabbing with a brush. The mosaic artist of Monreale had to make the glass, break it into “tesserae” the pieces and fix them in cement,



The whole interior is covered in mosaics but the central focus of the artist and the devout congregants was and is the altar. It glows in stunning gold tones with the Byzantine image of Christ the Pantocrator.

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Besides the obvious focus on Christ for these devout Christians, the walls in the church are covered with mosaics of apostles, saints, and stories from the Old and New Testament.

The wooden beams of the ceiling are not original. They were replaced in 1811 after a fire. It was done masterfully and adds to the grandeur of the overall impression.


The view from the Cathedral is a treat and worth the trip up to the windows.

The cloister, a beautiful perfectly square courtyard, is a paradise of images and artistry. With the added benefit of being outside in a bright sunny garden.

The visitor is amazed by the columns filled with mosaics and the intricately carved capitols. The mosaics of all the columns are different.



Before heading back to Palermo, visit the small town with its food vendors right in the piazza in front of the Cathedral.


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I visited the Cathedral 18 months ago and it was the highlight of my trip to Sicily. The inside is wonderful.
Thank you for this post. It motivated us to spend a morning in Monreale. Lovely town and the cathedral is truly stunning.

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