Monreale Cathedral

Monreale Cathedral

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 Piazza Guglielmo II - Monreale (PA)

Cathedral of Monreale, world famous for its marvelous mosaics and symbol of the city together with the adjacent monastery, is part of the World Heritage Sites .
Il Duomo, dedicated to Santa Maria Nuova, stands on the steep sides of Mount Caputo and dominates the entire Conca D'Oro. There are two legends that surround the origins of this cathedral: the legend of William the Good and the legend of the two brothers , but certain news , coming from historical sources, tell us that the works for the construction of the Cathedral of Monreale began in 1174, by the will of the King of Sicily William II. Over the centuries there were then extensions and renovations.
The exterior has a main facade inserted inside two asymmetrical towers of different height and shape. The bell tower is lower than the other because it was partially knocked down by lightning in 1807. On the bell tower stands a large clock with the words "tuam nescis", "You don't know yours". Between the two towers stands the 18th century portico in white marble, decorated with pointed arches intertwined with polychrome inlays: it was erected to replace the original one which had collapsed. Inside this portico there is a bronze door from 1185 made up of forty-six panels with biblical episodes. Along Piazza Vittorio Emanuele you can admire the sixteenth-century portico Di Giandomenico E Fazio Gagini. The rear part of the sacred building presents the convexity of the three apses with three levels of intertwined arches enriched with polychrome decorations, and is a wonderful example of Arab art.
The interior of the cathedral is vast and solemn: 102 meters long, it has a Latin cross basilica plan, with three naves that culminate in as many apses. The magnificent central nave is three times the size of the aisles and is separated from them by two rows of nine columns. The symbolism linked to the columns is curious. This solemn environment is embellished by the largest mosaic decoration in Italy: 0.75 hectares of stone tiles and more than of 100 million in glass form a total area of ​​6240 square meters, second in the world by extension only to the church of Santa Sofia in Instabul. The mosaics of the Cathedral of Monreale are a theological and theophanic work, because they speak and show God. The mosaic decoration has didactic purposes: the mosaic, as well as the painting and sculpture, constituted the "Biblia pauperum", that is the bible of the poor , of citizens who were mostly illiterate. The mosaics depict episodes from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the lives of the saints, and tell the story of man's salvation, from creation to the last judgment. The culmination of the representation, as well as the mosaic of greatest expressive power, is the Christ Pantocrator in the central apse, which symbolically represents the center to which every man must strive. The mosaics The mosaics, commissioned by William II and made by Venetian workers in the Byzantine style, have a very thin layer of gold and are intended to represent the wealth and power that the Kingdom of Sicily reached during the Norman domination. Very interesting is the representation of the English bishop Tommaso Beckett, opponent of King Henry II, never represented in any other Italian church.
Of great value are also: the ceilings in polychrome wood; the royal throne, richly decorated, and the archbishop's throne, more modest; the royal sarcophagi of William I and William II.
A suggestive view of the Conca d’oro can be enjoyed from the roofs of the Cathedral of Monreale and also from the roofs it is possible to appreciate the architecture with which the entire monumental complex was built, the skylights and the nearby cloister.

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