Suggestively located on a terrace overlooking the Conca d’Oro, this town is worldwide famous for its magnificent Cathedral, situated in its beautiful old town. Construction of this masterpiece of Norman art in Sicily kicked off under William II in 1174 and was finished a few years later; this is why the Cathedral has a stylistic coherence which is seldom found in other ancient buildings. On the outside, you can admire the beautiful doors, the elegant XVI century portico by Gagini and the richly decorated apse, covered in intertwined arches and polychrome lava and limestone inlays. On the inside, you will see its amazing set of mosaics on a golden background. The mosaics, climaxing in the large Christ Pantokrator image, were created between the XII and XIII century and represent stories from the Old and New Testament. It is the largest complete cycle of the Byzantine tradition.
William I and II’s porphyry tombs, the XVI century chapel of San Benedetto and the XVII century chapel of the Crucifix, through which you can access the rich Cathedral treasury, are very interesting too.
The XI Benedictine cloister is absolutely amazing; inside, you can’t miss the oriental fountain, surrounded by a four-sided colonnade.
While in Monreale, we also suggest visiting the remains of the Norman Royal Palace, the Seminar, the Chiesa del Monte, decorated with stuccos by Serpotta, the church of the Collegio di Maria, the XVII church of the Collegiata, the XVII and XVIII century private buildings and the breath-taking Lookout, overlooking the Conca d’Oro.
Leaving Monreale and going towards Pioppo, you can reach one of the most interesting wooded areas of the province, Casaboli, where many services are offered and where it is possible to visit a fauna reserve inhabited by wild boars, bucks and Tibetan goats.
Don’t miss the Holy Music Week in September, one of the most relevant festivals dedicated to this musical genre, and the feast of the Holy Crucifix in May.
Websites: http://www.comune.monreale.pa.it; http://www.archiviomonreale.sicilia.it; http://www.monreale.net