The Monreale Cathedral - " the most beautiful Temple of the world "
|The Cathedral stand aloof on the edge of the historical centre of Monreale, a small town overlooking the Oreto River valley and the famous “Conca d’Oro”. “The golden Temple”, a fairy-tale construction, the Christian apotheosis of a Norman king’s dream: one morning of 1174, William II, known as “the Good”, Roger II’s grandson and third Norman King of Sicily, awoke early at daybreak and told his ministers he had dreamt of the Virgin Mary asking him to build her a church with the treasure stolen from the State by his father, William I known as “the Bad”, and hidden in a secret place that she would have shown him.||
by the desire to emulate his grandfather Roger, the founder of the
superb Cefalù Cathedral and Palatine Chapel, the king made his dreams
came true by building a church that equalled, and maybe surpassed, the
great Roman and Byzantine Christian cathedral in artistic and
|Apart from William’s ambition to hand down to posterity his own name and that is Norman royal house by erecting the magnificent Christian church, the architectural project was thus meant as a testimony to the Christian faith of the young king who, like his predecessors, wanted to assume the Arab title of Caliph under the name of “al-Musta’izz bi-llah”, “He who searches exaltation in God”. Therefore, political and historical reasons of State inspired the king’s profound religious faith. The Latin basilican plan with the Byzantine type cross vault is not domed and covers a vast area (102 m long and 40 m wide). It is divided into a nave and twin aisles by 18 columns with capitals of exquisite workmanship, decorated with mosaic-covered pulvinoes (Byzantine transformation of the Greek abacus), clypei of pagan divinities, acanthus leaves and cornucopias overflowing with fruit. The columns bear Saracen-style pointed arches. The mosaic floor, with granite and porphyry geometric decorations, is the original one completed in the 16C. The walls of the nave, transept and apses are entirely decorated with mosaics on a gilded background, covering a total area of 6,340 sq m. The mosaic decorations are the work of Byzantine and Venetian craftsmen, executed between the end of the 12C and the beginning of the 13C and depicting a cycle of scenes from the Old and the New Testaments.||
|The central apse of the Cathedral, with the huge figure of Christ Pantocrator (from the Greek Pantocrator = Almighty).|
figure in the apse are arranged according to a logicohierarchical order,
with the figure of Christ in the apsidal vaultemphatically dominating
the mosaic representation of the Virgin and Child in the middle, flankes
byangels and apostles, and figure of saint underneath. The majestic
Christ (13,30 m wide and 7 m high) is blessing with his right hand,
while his left hand is holding the Gospel, open on the page which reads,
in Latin: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follow me will never
walk in darkness”.
his head is a nimbus with a cross, symbol of the Passion. The Virgin is
sitting on the throne and holding the blessing Child on her knees,
flanked by the Greek inscriptions “Mother of Christ”, the assertion
of her divine motherhood as defined by the Council of Ephesus, and
“All Pure”, to signify the “Immaculate Conception” a few
centuries before Pope Pius IX’s declaration. The apse with the figures
of Christ and the Virgin is the focal point and the mystical and
religious culmination of the poetic mosaic narration.
The Cloister of Monreale
splendid example of Sicilian Romanesque sculpture, almost intact in its
original architecture, was built by William II together with the
basilica and the Benedictine Monastery, of which it was part. The four
sides of the square cloister (each 47 m long) are entirely surrounded by
the portico, with an interrupted series of 228 small paired columns
bearing capitals and pointed arches. This is what a remarkable tourist
from the last century, the writer and novelist Guy de Maupassant, wrote
about his “Journey to Sicily”:
as beautiful as a human smile on the Propylaea’s profile”.
heavenly walk takes place amid high ancient walls with pointed arches,
the only remains of the monastery”.