Social Programs

Half day visit to Monreale

Minimum 25 pax
Date: July 10th
Time: 14:30pm - 19:00pm
€ 30 pp

Monreale


With a splendid position high above the Conca d'Oro, the Monte Reale in Norman times was a royal hunting lodge and residence. It was not until William II decided to build the famous cathedral with a royal palace and monastery attached, that a town developed in its own right in the area. The city's heart and soul is still represented by the area radiating from the cathedral. On the north side lies Piazza Vittorio Emanuele with its fine Fontana del Tritone. The main front, however, overlooks the smaller Piazza Guglielmo, that gives access both to the cloister and a small public garden (last doorway on the right facing the cloister entrance). Beyond a large courtyard is a fine garden with a magnificent view over the Conca d'Oro. The warren of streets around are all lined with charming cafès, restaurants and souvenir shops.

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The Duomo The Duomo is part of a magnificent complex that also comprises a Benedictine abbey and the royal palace, the latter converted into the Archbishop's Seminary in the late-1500s. The construction was initiated by William II, Roger II's grandson, around 1172. According to legend, the Virgin appeared to him in a dream to suggest that he build a church with money concealed by his father in a hiding place that she would reveal. The building had to be so grandiose as to rival the greatest cathedrals of most important cities in Europe and even outshine the beauty of the Palatin Chapel in Palermo built by Roger. The most high-skilled craftsmen came to be employed to work on the project, with no expense spared. To the north, the church was flanked by the royal palace and, to the south, by the Benedictine convent whose magnificent cloister can still be admired today.
The church contains the tombs of William I and William II, and enclosed within an altar, the heart of Louis IX, King of France who died in Tunis in 1270, when his brother Charles I ruled Sicily. The Cappella del Crocifisso features an elaborated marble baroque decoration, with a profusion of inlay work, shallow and high-relief carving, statues, and volutes. The wooden Crucifix is from the 15th century. The treasury, set to one side, houses various reliquaries and cult objects. Below the arch across the far side of the transept, sit two thrones with mosaic scenes above; the right one above the archbishop’s throne shows William II's symbolic tribute to the church (the king offers a model of the cathedral up to the Madonna); on the left, the royal throne stands as confirmation of the Divine Protection conferred upon the king (Christ Himself crowns William). This latter panel depicts two lions facing each other (Eastern in derivation) in the tympanum; these symbols of Norman power also feature on the armrest of the royal throne.

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Mosaics - Against a gold background, the characters of the Bible re-enact their stories. The colours are not as bright as those of the contemporary mosaics in the Palatine Chapel, but the figures seem more expressive. They were completed between the late-1100s and early-1200s century by craftsmen from Venice and Sicily. The composition and their features, and the symbols used are often the same as those used in the Palatine Chapel. Their arrangement follow a precise programme in accordance with recommendations laid down under the papacy of Adrian I during the Seventh General Council at the second Council on Nicaea, that was convened so as to end the Iconoclastic Controversy (787). This specified that art should be an instrument of religion and serve to educate the faithful in the teachings of the Christian Church. The mosaic tell the story of Divine Redemption, beginning with the Creation of the Earth and Man, who by committing the act of Original Sin was forced thenceforth to toil and expiation, until God intervened by choosing the people that He will prepare for salvation (nave). The sending of Christ His own Son, represents the realisation of redemption through the sacrifice of His life (transept) and works (aisles). Christ's mission is then continued with the Foundation of the Church and the example given by those men that followed in His example (smaller apses).