Monreale Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Monreale

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    Cathedral mosaics. The Life of Jesus.

    by hquittner Written May 11, 2005
    Nole me tangere

    The life begins in the crossing on W. wall with parts involving adjacent S. and N. segments. It has 2 levels and reads from left to right ( sort of S. to N,) The first episodes are 4 Annunciation episodes followed by a Nativity. In the lower band you can find the Flight into Eygpt etc. to his baptism. The second part is on the S. transept wall and adjacent W. transept wing, it also reads L>R, with 3 levels . It starts with Satan tempting Jesus and ends with Jesus before Pilate (bottom R). The final section is in the N. transept and adjacent W. transept wing. It begins with 2 Crucixion scenes and ends with the Pentecost (3 levels).

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    Cathedral mosaics. The Old Testament

    by hquittner Written May 11, 2005
    Upper:Expelled & Working Below: Isaac's blessing

    Th Old Testamnet Stories occupy the inside walls of the nave. It begins (Creation) at the East end of the South wall in the top of two bands. The scenes move sequentially to the West (between the clerestory windows). They progress to the West end and continue with 2 panels on the inside of the West end wall(around a window). They then procede on the top level from W. to E. along the North wall (concluding with Noah commanding the building of the Ark). We now return to the S. wall on the lower band and start with the building of the Ark. The story procedes as above to the W. end , continuing with the 2 outer scenes. (The middle scene below the window and the 2 scenes in the lower band are scenes relating to special Saints of this Church. Also in the lower band is a Madonna and child, (she the protectress of Wm. II). The storie continue in the lower band of the N. wall from W. to E. ending with the struggle between Jacob and the Angel. Our illustration is from the N. Wall.

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    Cathedral Interior 1. The Main Apse

    by hquittner Updated May 11, 2005
    Central Apse

    The East end of the church is Byzantine in form with a triple apse. The center is separated from the lateral sides by walls leading to the crossing pillars. This is called the solea. The back wall supports the semidome. An immense area of mosaic fills the wall with a half-view of Christ in a pointed recess.Below leading down toward the altar are two levels of full figures 1) The madonna and 2 archangels plus twelve apostles and 2)14 male and female saints (one is Thomas a Beckett, who is the 4th from the left facing us from a pillar, in black), The Coming of Christ is symbolized on the Arch.

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    Cathedral interior 7. The crossing.

    by hquittner Written May 11, 2005
    The stalactite ceiling

    Unlike most nave-transept churches this crossing does not have a dome. The central transept area is large and its walls are devoted to mosaics of the Life of Christ (see Tip). It is covered over by a wood ceilng restored in the 19C. It differs from the rest of the roof in that this is of stylized stalactites in the Moorish manner.

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    Cathedral interior 6. The ceilings

    by hquittner Written May 11, 2005
    The ceilings

    The ceilings are almost flat and made of wood. They were created in the 19C after a fire of 1811. They are said to follow the originals in form and decoration using the Moorish patterns available. They are of a beam type resting on brackets.

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    Cathedral interior 5. The lower walls

    by hquittner Written May 11, 2005
    The more modern lower walls

    When the original decorators reached the lower walls of the aisles they stopped. To continue with mosaics would dull the impact of what they had done, or more likely (it was now about 1250) the hereditary sequence of rich interested regal sponsors had expired. But there are decorations today! Tastefully done in the 19C : a tracery of oriental arcades and pillars are embedded in flat marble plates with appropriate vertical bands, frames and decorative freizes, all heavily saturated with golden tiles which do not appear gaudy and are a clever backdrop to the mosaic stories and recent church accretions. These we did not study ,nor did we visit the 3 chapels or Treasury. The day was not over, our eyes were tired!.

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    The Cathedral 8. The Interior Layout

    by hquittner Updated May 10, 2005
    The Cathedral

    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.

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    Cathedral interior 4. The Nave Columns

    by hquittner Written May 10, 2005
    Columns and Arches

    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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    Cathedral interior 3. South Apse

    by hquittner Written May 8, 2005

    The conch of the S. apse has a mosaic of St. Peter (the conch of the N. apse has one of St. Paul). Along the walls of the ceremonial area before its altar are mosaics from the life of Peter. In the space leading out into the transept are two tombs (there are other tombs on the left at the N. apse). The one nearest to the altar is of white marble with mosaic. It is a 1575 replacement of a porphyry one which was damaged. It is for Wm.II. The other of porphyry is that of Wm I.This is another part of the subplot. Wm. II intended (and achieved) his church to be the family mausoleum for eternity.

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    Cathedral interior 2. Apse solea

    by hquittner Written May 8, 2005
    Wm presents the Church

    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.

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    The Cathedral.1.The Facade

    by hquittner Updated May 7, 2005
    West front; the Cathedral

    Santa Maria Assunta (La Nuova) has a W. front like most Norman churches, two towers (N&S) and a decorated nave face. The N tower was never finished. The facade has simple Saracenic interlacing pointed arch traceries, a preview of the apsidial designs, and an echo of Cordoba and such places. This part of the facade (seen from the Piazza Guglielmo which it faces) is jn part hidden by a porch installed in the 18C which "protects " the beautiful portal and bronze doors. In fact they are so protected you can only see them through a massive iron fence and gates! To enter the Cloister find the gate at the right (S end). The Cathedral is part of a family story of "rags to riches from Viking free-booter with a warrior wife at his side to the richest man in the world(arguably). and his legacy problems. It is not equalled again until the Rockefellers,the Sam Walton family of Arkansas or Bill Gates of Seattle.. Thankfully they are not into church building. What will they leave us as their legacies?

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    The Cathedral 7. The Apse (Abside)

    by hquittner Written May 7, 2005
    The Apse

    You may have come for the picture show,but first you should see the promotional billboard! From the S. end of the Piazza V. Emanuele by the church related buildings, find the via Arcovescovado, and follow it (signs:abside?) downhill behind the E side of the church. From across the street (watch the cars!), as far back as you can go among the medieval houses,examine the triple apse. Realize that originally all these buildings were not here, only the Monastery cloister, church under construction and a vast number of tents and temporary shacks for construction workers and artisans, no town! The apse rose above the cliff looking down (A little further on you may find a belvedere) on the Conca d'Oro and Palermo in the morning sunlight. After admiring the fortress-like triple apse with graduated heights, you realize that it does not cascade down like many Romanesque pilgrimage churches which cover ambulatories and chapels.. Not needed here. Now you become aware of the interlacing pointed arch tracery comprising blind arches, columns of varying heights, band inlays , numerous colored patterns, rosettes, varied types of stone, etc. But above all the intersecting arches. Is this Cordoba? William is subtly reminding his peaceful co-existing Saracens, whom his forbears conquered, that his House of God welcomes them too("Come and se the picture show, you do not have to read unintelligle Koranic script on our walls"). Study the apse as long as you can allow and procede to the picture show.

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    The Cathedral 6. The North Bronze Door

    by hquittner Updated May 7, 2005
    Descent from the Cross

    As the first- class producer of his great picture show Willam took no chances. He commissioned 2 sets of doors. It is thought that he ordered this one first. It is quite different as compared to the W. door (shall we say indifferent?}Carefully designed by a master craftsman(Barisano da Trani who did doors on the Cathedrals of Trani(which I have seen) and Rapallo(which Ihave missed)). neatly framed and decorated, with panels containing stock figures of Saints, warriors, a few Bible stories as illustrated, etc in stock styles. There are no labels and no identifying data exist.The anitiquarian value is great. How many great bronze doors have you seen?It is worth studying even though the artistic value is small. After all why did you come so far? Was this set a backup order in case the Pisan ship sank enroute? Things happen and Wm was a production expert. A good producer can change artists in midstream if he gets word of a much better one, can't he? So call this an "out-take". It is still a great door.

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    The Cathedral 5. The N. Portico.

    by hquittner Written May 6, 2005
    N. Side. The way into the Church.

    This portico was built 1547-69 by the two sons of Antonello Gagini--Gian Domenico and Fazio. Like their father and grandfather they were accomplished sculptors. They also carved the bench along the church wall here. The portico covers the ancient bronze N. door and provides cover for those entering the church. This keeps the north entrance free of use and wear as well. In this large protected area are 2 statues carved of brown stone. One is of Wm. presenting his church and the other is of a buxom Virgin .There are no laebls and I can find no data. How do I know this maiden's status? She is the spitting image of two others I have met by Antonello, whom the boys must have watched as he created them. Which or both (Dad was deceased) created them? The way out is "School of G".
    ,

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    The Cathedral 4. The Piazza V. Emanuele

    by hquittner Written May 6, 2005
    Piazza and Fountain (Monreale)

    Going around the N tower, headed S. one enters this pretty Piazza fitted with palm trees and having at its center a Triton fountain (by M.Rutelli;20C). The N . side of the church stands before us on our right, an arcaded structure, the north portico. It encloses the regular entrance to the church. On the S side of the square are further church buildings and a street that will take us to the apse.

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