Monreale Tourist Attractions
LocationMonreale is a little town situated above the Conca d'Oro and is the seat of a bishop. The magnificent cathedral, flanked by two massive towers, is the most significant memorial to Norman art on the island of Sicily.
The whole concept of the Norman kingdom as the highest secular and religious authority is represented here in incomparable fashion. With its cycle of mosaics on a gold ground and its cloister the cathedral can lay claim to a position of the highest rank in the history of European art.HistoryMonreale's history is closely tied up with the combination of forces which enabled the Norman king William II to come to power.William, born in 1154, became king after the death of his father William I in 1166 and after the declaration of his majority ruled on his own from 1172 until his early death in 1189, a period of 17 years. There were tensions between the crown and the papacy, similar to those which occurred throughout medieval history. The papal position was championed uncompromisingly by the English archbishop of the royal seat of Palermo, Walter of the Mill/Gualterius Offamilius: on his orders King Roger II was not buried in the cathedral at Cefalù, as he had instructed, but in the cathedral in Palermo which was under the archbishop's control. By so doing he emphasized the point that the office of king derived from the Pope and that it was he, Walter, who had the power to confirm this office. Thus it became necessary to assert the authority of the king, as William's grandfather Roger II had done - following the example of the Emperors of Byzantium, who dominated their patriarchs and clergy unchallenged.William II reacted unambiguously and with the means available to him at that time. He emphasized the theocratic character of his government by initiating a vast complex of buildings, including a Benedictine monastery and a royal residence, on an eminence overlooking Palermo, surrounded by a large royal park - hence the name Monreale, originally Mons Regalis = royal mountain. The abbot became bishop and as early as 1183 was raised to archbishop. The King invested his foundation with privileges and an extensive landholding, so that Monreale was richer than the archbishopric of Palermo. In addition he stipulated that Monreale should become the burial place for his dynasty.William II's pretensions became absolutely clear when in 1172, two years after Archbishop Walter had begun rebuilding the cathedral in Palermo, he ordered the Basilica of Monreale to be constructed, as a challenge to the archbishop. Furthermore he had the satisfaction of seeing his brainchild to a large extent completed by 1185.
The large Monreale Cathedral is flanked by two towers, one of which is unfinished. The interior is a glimmering gold, which provides the brilliant background for biblical scenes.
In the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna Giuseppe Sciortino, situated underneath the belvedere, two rooms have works by contemporary artist on display.
On the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele in Monreale, to the left of the cathedral, stands the town hall, which is actually situated in part of the former royal palace. Inside there is a sculpture ascribed to Antonello Gagini (1526) and a painting of "The Birth of Christ" by Matthias Stomer (17th century)
Chiesa del Monte
The Via Umberto I leads in a northerly direction to this mountain church which is embellished with stucco decorations associated with Giacomo Serpotta.
The collegiate church in Monreale was built in 1565 and altered in the 17th century. Its interior is richly fitted out: the wooden crucifix on the main altar is 16th century, another, on a majolica panel, dates from the 17th century; the stucco decorations are the work of Giacomo Serpotta; the paintings are by Marco Benefial (1722, in the main aisle) and by Matthias Stomer (in the presbytery).
Collegio di Maria
From the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele we cross the Via Roma in a southerly direction past the Church of Sant'Antonio and reach the Collegio di Maria, which was built in 1880 to a design by G. B. Filippo Basile. Next to this is the Chiesa della Santissima Trinità (1736).
Chiesa della Odigitria
A little way south of the Collegio di Maria stands the Church of Saint Odigitria, which dates from the end of the 16th century and inside contains a beautiful roof fresco by Pietro Novelli.
On the Piazza Santa Castrense in Monreale stands the church of the same name, which was erected in 1624 on the site of an earlier building which dated back to the end of the sixth century. The stucco decorations in the interior are from the studio of Giacomo Serpotta; the "Madonna del Popolo" on the high altar is the work of Antonio Novelli (1602).
San Martino delle Scale
A long winding road 9.5km/6mi long leads from Monreale up to the beautifully situated village of San Martino delle Scale (507m/1,663ft, 350 inhabitants), which gets its name from its large Benedictine abbey. According to tradition this was founded by Pope Gregory the Great (509-604). The buildings were renewed in 1590 and then later by G. Venanzio Marvuglia in 1770-86; they were thus just finished when Goethe visited them in 1787. The church, in front of which stands a fountain by Ignazio Marabitti (18th century), is furnished with a font dating from 1396, choir-stalls from 1591 and sculptures and paintings from the 16th-18th century by Filippo Paladino, Giuseppe Ribera, Pietro Novelli and Paolo de Matteis.
Letum lies 22km/14mi southwest of Monreale. We leave Monreale on the SS 186, going as far as Damiani (10km/6mi), then on a country road, which first winds in a southeasterly and then southwesterly direction around Monte Signora (1,131m/3,711ft), arriving at San Giuseppe Iato and San Cipirello (about 12km/7mi). Here recent excavations have uncovered the ancient town mentioned by Diodor, which in Greek is called Iaitia, in Latin Ietum. It was probably founded in the fifth century B.C. and remained in existence, latterly under the name Iato, until Frederick II destroyed it in the 13th century. Remains of the town wall, agora, temple to Aphrodite and Greek theater have been found, as well as dwelling-places.
The finds on display in the Museo Civico in San Cipirello include a lion and several huge statues.
Map of Monreale Attractions