Monreale Things to Do

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  • Things to Do
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  • Things to Do
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Most Recent Things to Do in Monreale

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    Chiostro dei Benedittini. Galleries

    by Oleg_D. Written Oct 20, 2015

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    Galleries of Chiostro dei Benedittini or Cloister of Benedictines separated from yard by the colonnades consisting of Romanesque columns of XII century. Each column decorated either with strips of mosaic or with stone carving. Over each column is Romanesque capital with stone carved scenes from myths, Holy Bible or Gospels. This place is just wonderful.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo il Buono, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    Fountain

    by Oleg_D. Written Oct 20, 2015

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    the corner but must be there because cloister of any medieval monastery was the model of the paradise as monks and scholars imagined it. Chiostro dei Benedittini or Cloister of Benedictines is no exception and it has its own fountain in its South-West corner. This fountain was built in last quarter of XII century and allegedly it is a copy of Moorish fountain in Alhambra of Granada.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo il Buono, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    Romanesque capitals

    by Oleg_D. Written Oct 20, 2015

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    During your visit to Chiostro dei Benedittini or Cloister of Benedictines you are going to find a lot of wonderful Romanesque columns with capitals decorated with scenes from ancient myths, Holy Bible and Gospels. They were carved in second half of XII century by real masters. Some of them damaged but majority are in very good conditions. These capitals are something like medieval commixes telling particular story and educating visitors.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo il Buone, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    Armed men on the capitals

    by Oleg_D. Written Oct 20, 2015

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    Here in Chiostro dei Benedittini or Cloister of Benedictines you will find a lot of columns with Romanesque capitals decorated with figures of warrior. You are going to find Saracen, Greek and Norman men-at-arms and archers, mythical fighters fighting mythical animals. Don’t be in hurry, take you time, open your eyes and you will become familiarized with the world of XII century warfare, arms and armor.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo II, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    Saracen Warriors

    by Oleg_D. Updated Oct 20, 2015

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    Since about half of subjects in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily were Saracens of Arabic origin we can see the figures of Saracen warriors on several capitals in the cloister of Monreale Cathedral. Military contingents of Norman Kings of Sicily brought under strength with Saracens subjects were well disciplined and irreplaceable for suppression of baronial rebellions and their Christian supporters. Saracen contingents were absolutely indifferent to any Papal excommunications and interdicts. Here you can see Saracen light infantry and couple archers of second part of XII century.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo il Buono, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    Byzantine men-at-arms

    by Oleg_D. Updated Oct 20, 2015

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    Since there were a lot of Greek subjects and Greek masters in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily some capitals in the cloister of Monreale Cathedral were made by Greeks. Capital of column #24E shows the scene of Murder of Innocents. Soldiers of King Herod the Great are shown as Byzantine men-at-arms. They are wearing typical Greek lamellar coats of plates to protect their bodies. And at the capital of column #50 N we can see two sleepy guardians in the scene of Resurrection. One of them wears lamellar armor and second one wear shirt of chain mail. Both wear typical Byzantine conical helmets. One have kite shaped shield and second has round shield. This is another invaluable source of information on Byzantine arms and armor of second part of XII century.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo il Buono, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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    Norman men at arms

    by Oleg_D. Updated Oct 20, 2015

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    Several column capitals have bas-relieves with figures of Norman men-at-arm of second half of XII century. You can find them easily because each column in the cloister of Monreale Cathedral is marked with it individual letter and number. All those figures of Norman men-at-arms are protected with typical kite shaped shields. Some of them are wearing chain mail hauberks. These warriors wear conical helmets of Norman type. They are similar to men-at-arms shown at so-called Bayeux Tapestry but some distinctions and these distinctions allow us to understand what development passed Norman arms and armor for hundred years from 1066 to 1180-s. These capitals are really “must see” for anybody interested in Norman military history.
    Visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos and videos.
    Cloister of the Benedictine Abbey in Monreale admission fee is 6 Euros
    From April through October: 08:30 – 18:00 hrs. From November through March: 08:30 - 12:30 and 15:30 - 18:00 hrs.

    Address: Piazza Guglielmo iI Buono, Monreale

    Phone: +39 0916404413

    Website: http://www.duomomonreale.it/

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    Cathedral – Exterior

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    “The exterior of the apse is the apogee of Norman decoration.”
    ~ Eyewitness Travel: Sicily


    When we arrived in Monreale, the cathedral was closed for several hours after lunch. This gave us some time to walk around the outside of the cathedral and get a good look at the art on building’s exterior. On first glance, the outside of the cathedral is rather plain looking – and with no indication of the exquisite interior within this plain exterior.

    While the entrance to the cathedral is on the northern side, the west façade contains a fantastic portal with bronze doors by Bonnano of Pisa, built in the late 1100s. They are protected from the elements by a 18th century porch. The façade is flanked by two towers, one complete and the other never finished and much lower.

    We had parked near the east side of the cathedral and we drawn to the Arab decorations on the three apses, which are a combination of lava and tufa (limestone) in arches with various geometric motifs. It is well worth taking the time to walk around the corner shops to get to the exterior of the apse to see this. Other than the Palermo cathedral, I had not seen this type of exterior design before.

    A walk in Belevedere park, accessible through the corner archway in the piazza on the west side of the cathedral can give you a view of the cloister exterior and the partial remains of the original monastery. A climb up the tower from within the cathedral will also give you an up close view of some of the geometric patterns and artistic details of the exterior.

    Having seen the outside of this Norman-Arab cathedral, it was time for the doors to open and for us to explore the interior.

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    Cathedral – Interior

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    “An amalgamation of Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles framed by traditional Romanesque architecture, representing the best of twelfth-century culture”


    As you enter the cathedral, the first things you will see are the exquisite mosaics, so take a moment to catch your breath. Then have a look around at the actual structure before focusing on the mosaics that dominate the scenery.

    The cathedral is simply designed and a combination of a traditionally Christian church with its nave and transept, but contains the Cluniac abbey influence with the three apses in the east. The nave is supported by 18 granite columns with Corinthian capitals – all the same except for the one cipollino marble column at the west end of the nave; this column represents the archbishop.

    As you look up, you can’t help but be impressed by the highly decorated wooden ceiling. This is a second reconstruction of the original ceiling with the first one destroyed in an 1811 fire and the second occurred more recently in the 1980s when termites were discovered in the timbers.

    In the southern transept are the two sarcophagi of both the founder of the cathedral, William II, in the white marble and his father, William I, in the brown porphyry sarcophagus. Margaret of Navarre, wife of William I and mother to William II, is entombed in the cathedral along with her other sons. And surprisingly, the heart of King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) is enshrined in the northern transept.

    Having seen what there is to see structurally, now let’s look at the real reason we came to Monreale…the mosaics.

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    Cathedral - Mosaics

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    The colorful mosaics with golden tesserae background cover an astounding 6400 meters square (68,889 square feet). It would appear that no parts of the walls were left untouched by the artisans who completed this project in 1182, a remarkable feat given the building of the cathedral began just eight years prior. It is unclear whether the artists were Greek or locals that were trained by Byzantine artists, but what is clear is that their handiwork is superb. There are more than 130 individual scenes portrayed in the mosaic cycle featuring tales from both the Old and New Testaments.

    Beginning with the central apse, one cannot miss the massive Christ Pantocrator (“Ruler of All”) at the top. This mosaic portrait alone is a huge 13 x 7 meters (42 x 22 feet). Below Christ are two tiers of mosaics with an enthroned Mary with Child directly below Christ flanked by angels, saints, and apostles. Both male and female saints are depicted in the iconic mosaics. Interesting to note is the picture of St. Thomas Becket, who had only recently been named a saint after William II’s father-in-law, England’s Henry II, took responsibility for his murder only ten years prior to the mosaic. St. Thomas can be seen in the central apse bottom row, second saint to the right of the east window.

    Around the nave are double-tiered scenes from Biblical stories, including Noah and the ark (shown in one of my photos). The aisles have mosaics depicting the ministry of Christ. In the other two apses are mosaics of saints Peter and Paul. There are also scenes of William II receiving the crown from Christ and his offering the new cathedral to Mary.

    The floor is equally beautiful with mosaic tiles; the nave dates to 1559 but the floor in the transepts is original from the 12th century.

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    William II’s English Plantagenet connection

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    William II is buried in Monreale cathedral in a white marble sarcophagus that sits beside his father’s (William I) brown porphyry sarcophagus in one of the corners of the transept.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know very much Sicilian history before researching our trip. However, I am very interested in British history and tend to focus on the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties. So naturally I was pleased to learn of the connection between these two island nations.

    William II, Sicily’s third king following his father and Roger II, had some rather famous in-laws. His wife, Joan, was the daughter of England’s King Henry II (of Thomas Becket fame) and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Among William’s brother-in-laws through Joan were Richard the Lionheart and King John (of Robin Hood fame). While he didn’t really have much to do with his royal in-laws, after his death, both Richard and Eleanor headed to Sicily to collect Joan, who was being held captive by the new ruler of Sicily, Tancred. (Side note: An interesting historical novel about this time period when Richard and Eleanor come to Sicily is Sharon Kay Penman’s Lionheart, published in 2011 as part of her Plantagenet series.)

    Other than building absolutely stunning cathedrals, William is not really that well known. He liked to stay close to Palermo and was of sound character, leaving others to give him the moniker, William the Good.

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    Cathedral - climbing the tower

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    We came to Monreale knowing that we would be climbing the tower – it is what we do (Hubby just has a thing about climbing things and I typically join in the ‘fun’). So after we had seen the interior of the cathedral, we headed towards the back of the nave where we paid the man at the table €3 each to make the climb.

    We’ve climbed many church towers and steeples; by comparison, this climb was not difficult and there were not too many steps. But the hallways and staircases did get very narrow and dark – so this is not for the claustrophobic ones. The narrowness didn’t pose a problem since it was a slow day tourist wise; however, at busier times, I cannot imagine how it works with people coming and going in those narrow passages.

    After the initial climb, you are brought out to an open walkway that gives you a really good view of the cloisters. Since the cloisters were closed the day we were there, this would be our only opportunity to view them, so we took our time. My zoom lens gave me a chance to see some of the capitals, columns and carvings in more detail.

    We continued on our climb where we were treated to close ups of the apse exterior decorations – a real treat to see this artwork so close. At the end of the climb, we found ourselves at the top of the tower with a high fence. There was just one final climb – a couple steps to the very top of the cupola for a photo-op of Hubby.

    After having our fill of the spectacular view from the top, it was time to head down the steps and narrow passages. Thankfully, we didn’t run into people until we were back at the cloisters, which was a much wider area.

    As I mentioned, the climb isn’t too bad and it wouldn’t be difficult for children to do. It has enough twists and turns and variations to keep them entertained and enough fencing and walls to keep Mom and Dad feeling secure.

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    Cathedral - Cloisters

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    We were unable to get into the cloisters on the day we visited since it was a Monday afternoon and they were only open in the mornings on Mondays. It was a disappointment, but I was able to at least look at them from a distance while on the tower climb. From this vantage point, I could see the majority of the 228 double columns with Arab arches that are all different in their carvings, decorations of reliefs and mosaics, and elaborate Romanesque capitals. This artwork dates back to the original building of the monastery and cathedral in the 12th century. It is believed to be the work of just five master craftsmen, most likely assisted by apprentices.

    Also of note in the cloister is the fountain in the design of a palm tree located in a small covered enclosure. It was here that the monks would wash their hands prior to entering the refectory for meals.

    While I was not able to go into the cloisters for a close-up, I highly recommend VTer toonsarah’s cloister tip from her trip to Monreale. Her photos and wonderful descriptions will give you an idea of what a visit to the cloisters is like.

    The cloister is open Tuesday – Saturday, 0900-1830 and Mondays/Sundays from 0900-1300. There is an admission fee to enter the cloister (separate from the tower climb fee).

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    Belvedere: the park behind cathedral

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    While waiting for the cathedral to reopen, we were exploring the outside of the cathedral grounds and happened upon this park that gave us some wonderful views of Palermo and the urban sprawl between the city and Monreale. It was a peaceful place, full of interesting trees and we had the park almost all to ourselves, except for two guys doing some sort of fun photo shoot and the couple that apparently wanted to be alone on the bench behind the bush. The walls of the park are made up of the remains of the original monastery and the Town Hall, which was part of the former Norman royal palace.

    The park can be found by walking through the open archway in the corner of the piazza on the west side of the cathedral. As you enter this area, there is a wide open space surrounded by buildings (including WCs/bathrooms/toilets). Continue straight ahead through the second archway and you will find yourself in the Belvedere. It is a good place to relax, have a picnic, or let those little ones get out some energy.

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    Triton Fountain

    by brendareed Written Oct 21, 2014

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    In the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele located beside the entrance to the cathedral is an interesting Triton fountain. The fountain was made by Mario Rutelli. I found it made an interesting contrast to the old cathedral behind it and didn’t quite fit into the scheme of the area. I might not have noticed it otherwise, but we were waiting for the cathedral to open and took a seat on one of the benches that surrounds the fountain. The fountain was made by Mario Rutelli, a well known Palermo sculptor who has made a number of works on display around Italy (and sadly, many of his works no long exist).

    Directions: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele located beside the entrance to the cathedral

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