Italy is full of wonderful places to explore where the architecture and culture beautifully fuse together the many foreign influences which made Italy what it is today. The Monreale Cathedral in Sicily is one such place.
Monreale is a small village south of Palermo in “La Conca d’oro”, Golden Shell, famed for its orange groves, olives and almond trees. This beautiful and bountiful setting attracted the foreign medieval conquerors of Sicily and inspired them to create a magnificent monument that characterize the town to this day.
The Monreale Cathedral was begun in 1174 by William II the Norman King of Sicily. The construction on the outside is quite plain, typically Norman, but on closer inspection, the mix of styles and influences traces the history of Sicily herself.
There are curious mixes of Norman-French, Byzantine and Arab artistic styles from the compound, the plan and the decoration. The Cathedral looks like a classic Catholic church put together endways with a traditional Orthodox structure. This mix of two styles is not more evident than in the internal décor and the mosaics.
Monreale boasts the largest concentration of Byzantine mosaics in Italy, a total of 6,500 metres square. The entirety of the interior of the church is decorated with minute glass mosaic pictures in bright colours in a gold background. The half dome in the centre is dominated by a colossal figure of Christ seated with the Virgin Mary and Child below. Saint Paul and Saint Peter also dominate the dome, but equally spectacular ate the subjects that appear along the nave. Christ and the second covenant are represented through the figures who prophesized his coming starting with the Book of Genesis all the way to the New Testament. Scores of prophets and saints cover the walls of the Monreale Cathedral, making it a truly breath taking site to behold.