The Cathedral of Monreale, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova, is an architectural jewel, an archiepiscopal office, a place of worship and a world heritage site.
It is located in the historic center of the homonymous municipality on the slopes of Mount Caputo and just a few kilometers from the capital city of Sicily.
How to reach the Duomo
Monreale is easily accessible from Palermo. From the central station take bus 109 from the Amat urban line to Piazza Indipendenza where the 389 line starts, leading to Piazza del Duomo.
By car you must instead take the A29 motorway towards Catania-Messina, continue along Viale Regione Sicilia and Corso Calatafimi until the SS186 crossroads; from that, continue along the right side, following the scenic road, or “stratuni vecchio”, to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
In the course of its centuries-old history, the Cathedral has undergone the influences of the various dominations on the island. It was founded in 1174 by the Norman king William II “the Good” who built the cathedral in the place indicated to him in a dream by the Madonna. In the following centuries it saw the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Bourbons alternate, enriching the complex with Renaissance and Baroque elements. In 1811 a lightning caused the collapse of the left tower which was completely destroyed without ever being rebuilt.
The Cathedral has a Latin cross layout with three naves, each of which ends with a semicircular apse. The floor is composed of granite and porphyry discs intertwined with marble lines.
The roof, which has undergone several renovations, recalls the hull of a ship with polychrome wooden trunks enriched with gilded friezes.
The Cathedral houses the sarcophagi of William II, of his family and of King Louis IX, amazing chapels, two thrones and an altar in the Baroque style of 1771.
The main attraction, however, are the 6400 square meters of Byzantine style mosaics with bottom in gold made between the 12th and 13th centuries with innovative stylistic and iconographic motifs, the most admirable example of which is the splendid Christ Pantotractor.
The Cathedral of Monreale contains magnificent treasures, most of which are preserved in the baroque treasure chapel.
Here it is possible to admire the wooden crucifix set between two columns of sacred tiles, sacred furnishings, an enamelled copper box dating back to the 11th century, the reliquary of the sacred thorn, a monstrance in silver filigree adorned with gems, sapphires, emeralds and rubies and beautiful glasses in coral.
The characteristic facade enclosed between two asymmetrical bell towers, with the left one left unfinished, is composed of three porticos in white marble dating back to the 1700s. The main entrance consists of a magnificent ogival portal that contains the bronze doors made by Bonanno of Pisa.
The upper part of the facade is characterized by a triangular tympanum decorated with architectural elements typical of the Norman culture.
The back part instead recalls arabesque atmospheres with the exteriors of the apses adorned with three levels of intertwined acute arches and decorated with limestone, red brick and black gray lava.