Cloister of San Benedetto in Monreale
The wonderful Cloister of San Benedetto in Monreale, adjacent to the Cathedral, is one of the most impressive and prestigious cloisters of the 12th century and the most complete monument of Romanesque sculpture in Sicily. < br> Built in the late 1100s, the cloister was part of the ancient Benedictine convent built at the end of the 12th century at the behest of King William II.
The cloister of the monastery, which opens onto the garden of the convent, has a square plan in Romanesque style characterized by splendid coupled columns and a portico with pointed arches broken in the south-west corner by a further small square cloister: the "cloister". At the center of the cloister is the King's Fountain , so called because it is said that William II used to do his personal cleaning in this fountain every morning. The fountain has a round basin from which rises a richly carved column in the shape of a palm stem from whose stylized leaves with human and lion mouths water gushes out. The shaft is adorned with figures dedicated to the arts of music and dance. The capitals of the four corner columns of the King's Fountain feature figures intent on agro-pastoral work, which symbolize the months of the year. A Latin engraving at the top of each figure indicates the month represented. In the south there are the winter months, in the east spring, in the summer north wind and in the autumn in the west.
The splendid paired columns that support the portico have alternating decorations: smooth, with mosaic inlays, carved and arabesques. At the base of the columns different motifs are represented: heads of beasts, stylized leaves, lion's paws, groups of animals and men. The historiated capitals, on the other hand, present various scenes including some biblical ones, such as "Original sin", "The expulsion of the progenitors from the earthly Paradise" and "The resurrection of Christ". Of particular value, for its graceful lines, is the representation of the Annunciation and the capital of the Dedication where the king is depicted in the act of offering the Cathedral to the Virgin. Very interesting are also the capital of the Acrobat , whose position recalls the figure of the Trinacria, the symbol of Sicily, and the one in which a man intent on killing a bull is represented, a scene alluding to Eastern cult of Mirtha.
On the north side an ancient wall rises from a wing of the ancient Benedictine convent. The interior, without roofing, has three naves with a portal and mullioned windows with encrustations of limestone and lava.
From the Cloister, through the Benedictine Dormitory, you reach the Villa del Belvedere.