Monreale Cathedral – Famous for Mosaics

Monreale Cathedrale in Sicily Photo by Margie Miklas

Saturday September 21, 2013
Last night after we did our laundry and relaxed for a bit, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Trattoria A’ Cuccagna, a cozy outdoor restaurant that Monica discovered on Via Principe di Granatelli. While the service was somewhat lacking, the food and outdoor ambience made up for it.

IMG_3498 (640x480)My gnocchi with caciocavallo cheese and insalata mista was amazing. I didn’t need to order dessert since I had bought a few small cannoli earlier at a pasticceria and had one as a satisfying after dinner snack. Mmmm. Sicily has the best cannoli.

IMG_1162 (640x481)This morning I am on my own to go to Monreale, the small town on top of a hill just eight kilometers outside Palermo. Monreale is the location of the famous twelfth-century Norman cathedral, Monreale di Duomo, known mostly for its interior golden mosaics.

I boarded the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to Monreale, but mistakenly only brought the bus ticket and not the receipt, which shows the time and date stamp. At first I thought the young female ticket-taker on the bus was going to force me to leave, but she was kind and let it go. Another example of the friendly Sicilian people. The ride took almost an hour since the bus stopped at multiple locations but eventually I arrived in Monreale, and took note of the area around the bus stop. The view from here was incredible. I was able to see all the way down to the sea, and much of Palermo and the surrounding countryside.

DSCN3193 (640x480)Just a couple of blocks away I found myself in the center of town in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and saw what I thought was probably the Duomo, yet the façade I was facing was not so impressive.

DSCN3120 (640x479)After asking for directions I realized that yes this is the Duomo, but the entrance is around the corner in Piazza Guglielmo II.

DSCN3126 (640x479)Once there I quickly realized that a wedding would soon be taking place as I saw the crowds of Italians dressed in their finest.

DSCN3131 (480x640)

IMG_3532 (481x640)DSCN3125 (640x479)

I was excited to be here to witness the wedding party, yet also knew that shortly I would not be able to enter the cathedral. Both visitors and wedding guests were entering, yet no one was preventing anyone from going inside. The huge bronze doors that are usually closed to visitors were open and I entered the church to see some of the most elaborate floral wedding decorations attached to the pews. They were gorgeous.

DSCN3135 (481x640)Immediately I was struck with the beauty of the mosaics everywhere inside, the ceiling, the altar, and the walls.

DSCN3143 (640x478)

The intricate designs were stunning and I felt a sense of urgency to capture this scene quickly with my camera since the time was 10:40 and Mass probably would begin at 11. So I made my way around this magnificent cathedral, marveling in amazement.

DSCN3144 (480x640)DSCN3145 (480x640)DSCN3134 (640x479)Although the ceiling is made of wood, it appears to have mosaics covering it too. The stunning mosaics inside this church cover more than sixty-eight thousand square feet and utilize almost five thousand pounds of gold. Over 130 individual mosaics adorn this building, which is an amazing work of art.

DSCN3136 (479x640)The central figure to which my eyes gravitated was the half-figure of Christ in gold mosaics at the central apse. Not only beautiful but also huge.

DSCN3136 (2)Christ mosaic 2 (640x480)Hard to appreciate its immensity, since the interior of this cathedral is so large itself, but the figure of Christ measures forty-two feet wide and thirty feet high. Awesome.

DSCN3133 (480x640)It was time to go, so I enjoyed seeing the beautiful bride at the church entrance waiting with her proud father, and I had tears in my eyes as I listened to the traditional “Wedding March” as they walked up the aisle. Beautiful.

DSCN3147 (640x481)I decided to visit the Benedictine Cloister next door afterward, and was treated to another beautiful work of art, clearly with an Arab influence. The building is shaped like a rectangle with an inner courtyard or quadrangle.

DSCN3172 (640x479)DSCN3159 (640x480)DSCN3180 (640x481)Two hundred sixteen twin columns surround this courtyard and what is particularly interesting about the carved columns is that no two are the same.

DSCN3166 (640x480)Frescoes on the walls were beautiful to see.

DSCN3171 (480x640)My self-guided tour here was well worth the entrance fee of six euros.

Before I left Monreale, I used the very clean public restrooms for a fee of fifty euro cents. Afterward, on the walk back toward the bus stop, I was surprised to find a trio of young teen boys singing. They seemed happy but wouldn’t agree for me to record them, saying that they were not very good. I thought they sounded great, and I will always remember their smiling faces.

A short stop at the Montereale Cafè was perfect for lunch – bruschetta pomodoro and gelato. Mmmm.

IMG_1174 (640x480)

11 Responses

  1. timelessitaly

    Margie, thank you for a really nice post on Monreale Cathedral. I remember going through the one in Cefalu and seeing Christ Pantocrator above me huge and looming….kinda overwhelming! Beautiful!! I love your writing style…felt like I was at your side.

    On Sat, Oct 26, 2013 at 7:44 PM, margieinitaly

    • margieinitaly

      I appreciate your kind words Susan, especially since I enjoy your blog so much…And you are right the Duomo in Cefalu` also has an amazing Christ inside

    • margieinitaly

      I got lucky there!!! I was there on a Saturday and apparently this church is quite popular for weddings, as one can imagine..So gorgeous

  2. jenny

    Another beautiful post. Wonderful photos of the mosaics. Once again I thank you for these travel discoveries. I’m going to add Monreale to my list for when we head south.

  3. imarancher

    I loved the flower girl and the ring bearer, They were just darling and the bride was beautiful of course. You can’t help but wonder what life will bring to them. Memories. . .

I'm always interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.