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The Cathedral of Monreale


Link to Monreale Cathedral Cloisters


The Normans and the Hohenstaufen Kings of Sicily and Southern Italy 1000 - 1266


Back to Paradoxplace Palermo Photo and History Pages


The Cathedral of Monreale, on a hill on the lower slopes of the mountain overlooking Palermo, was the last and most beautiful of the Norman churches built in Sicily, and one of the architectural wonders of the medieval world.  A project of the Norman King William II (1153 - 1166 - 1189 (36)), the huge Cathedral took only 8 years to build (between 1174 and 1182).  William is shown below - on the left presenting his duomo to the Virgin Mary, and on the right being crowned by Christ (his actual coronation was in 1166).


Some idea of the richness of the interior mosaics, which cover the entire Cathedral, can be gleaned from the fact that they contain around 2,200 kilos of pure gold!  The cloisters would merit a visit in their own right.


Somewhere amongst the mosaics of Old and New Testament stories and Saints and Kings is a portrait of Thomas Becket - one of the earliest of the wave of Becket images which spread across Europe after his murder in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170.


King William II presents his church to Mary



King William II is crowned


Tomb of King William I

Tomb of King William II (builder of Monreale Duomo)


The outside appearance of Monreale Duomo is interesting, but gives no hint of the riches inside.  The interlaced blind arcading on the upper facade, repeated more elaborately on the apse walls (right) was a feature of Norman church architecture (see for example Wenlock Priory) which migrated here (in a more Islamic looking form plus Italian intarsia) and can also be seen on the facade of the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo.




The photo on the right comes from "Great Cathedrals"  by Bernhard Schütz, which has seriously good photographic coverage of the main medieval cathedrals of England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy (ex Puglia, which you have to come to this site for), and a lot of it.


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Meantime the omnipresently immaculate Carabiniere and car look on



West door - Photo from Cathedral Guide



North door - Photo from Cathedral Guide



Detail from West Door - source not recorded





The West Door of Monreale (above left) - another Door of Paradise and another masterpiece - was made in 1189 by a Tuscan - Bonanno da Pisa.  Bonanno had earlier done doors for the Pisa duomo, but sadly only one pair survived a major fire in the fading years of the 1500s.  The Monreale panels follow the narrative of the Christian story from Adam and Eve (bottom right of door), through Cain and Abel (left) to the Ascension.


The less elaborate North Door (above) was made by the Trani master, Barisano da Trani, who was also responsible for the bronze door of Trani Cattedrale itself (now displayed inside, it includes a rare artist self portrait), Ravello, and Astrano (?) all of which which he made in Italy in the 1180s.  Barisano used a technique of low relief casting finished by chiselling.  The Monreale door has 28 panels, most of which portray Christian motifs.



Link to Medieval Bronze Doors in Italian Churches



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