Rocca di Monreale
Santicelli 10/5, Monreale, 90046, Italy
More about Monreale
vaulted and arched ceiling
view across the piazza
view over Palermo
Travel Tips for Monreale
Explore the back streets
Of course the big attractions in Monreale are the cathedral and the adjacent cloisters, but it’s worth taking the time to explore the back streets too, for a look at everyday life in Sicily. Head uphill away from the cathedral and you’ll find yourself wandering between houses in varying states of repair (some newly renovated, some apparently uninhabited), with stone balconies and old wooden doors. There are little churches, shrines with faded images and fresh flowers, patches of greenery and a few level places between the steep steps where children play football and adults stop to gossip.
Between the buildings you’ll get glimpses of the amazing views of Palermo below and the blue bay beyond. Nearer the centre where there are more tourists you’ll find some interesting shops and galleries, a few trattoria and some friendly local bars.
In the piazza in front of the cathedral we found this local artist at work. I confess I didn’t feel tempted to buy any of his paintings, but I enjoyed watching him engrossed in his work, and he seemed happy for me to take as many photos as I wanted.
The Cathedral 8. The Interior Layout
First A TIP! Be sure to have one extra euro dollar with you to illuminate the Apse. (For more advice see my Dangers Tip). In order to appreciate this site and get its full impact immediately proced to the center-back of the nave and face east(toward the altar). If the apse has been illuminated by others, you are in luck. If not move in until the wall of the conch is clear and the triumphal arch details fit in. Christ Pantokrator ("the Almighty") is greeting you! And since we are poorly informed, the Story is laid out all around us in brilliant color (with Latin subtitles) from Creation to Jacob plus The Life. (Although the 10 Commandments is cut C.B. de Mille did it later).You can follow the script on your own. This is Aesthetics time.This is a blend of Moorish, Byzantine and Norman Romanesque, like nowhere else. Moorish designs(arab-esques!) , pointed arch arcades; a Roman basilican nave,with 2 aisles and columns; Byz. mosaics, even the cushions on the columns above the reworked capitals have mosaics.There is a flat wood roof, a flattened crossing, marble floors and 3 apses. We shall look at each of these elements in turn in other tips. Near the back of the nave is an entrance to the roof(with 180 steps!). It gives a good view of the Conca d'Oro and other sights, We were too old to climb up. The church pavement (marble- Cosmatic style) is 16-17C.
Cathedral interior 2. Apse solea
The worship area before the altar is raised and along its walls, both left and right are reconstructed thrones. Above the episcopal throne on the right William offers the Cathedral to its didicatee the Virgin, while Angels censure(bless) him (in mosaic; picture) on the left over the royal throne Wm II receives the crown from Christ. This is the subplot of the picture show. It is part of Wm's power plays with both the Church and his followers.
Cathedral interior 4. The Nave Columns
There are 18 columns in the nave arcades. 4 are attached to the supportive piers an the ends. 14 stand free with pointed arches and flat nave walls and clerestory windows above them. The walls bear 2 levels of Old Testament mosaic stories and above these a level of Saints in medallions. On the aisle side the wall is lower because of the aisle roof and so there are only Saint-medallions in the pendentives of the arcades. Under the curve of the arches are more mosaics: Saints in medallions(all named) and elaborate freizes of vines, arabesques,etc. 13 of the free columns are of granite and one of cipolin marble (but I could not find it).All of the column and capitals are antique and the capitals have been reworked and often are figurated. (How did Wm. get them? Were they plundered or was there a Roman column junk-yard?) Resting on the capitals are trapezoidal pillows (pulvins) uniformly mosaic decorated, from which the varied mosaic covered arches spring.
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