Monreale Cathedral

20 Mar

Today is Palm Sunday, a Christian feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter and commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Worship services on Palm Sunday include a procession of the faithful carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowds scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.  The difficulty of procuring palms in some climates led to their substitution with branches of native trees, including olive, as they also carried here in Monreale at the great Cathedral.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

The Monreale Cathedral is one of the greatest examples of Norman architecture in the world, although, among other cathedrals, not hugely impressive on the outside.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

It was begun in 1174 by William II and in 1182, it was elevated to a metropolitan cathedral. The Cathedral is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

The Cathedral has two sets of Romanesque bronze doors, sculpted in 1185, of which there are only a handful remaining in Europe. They depict 42 reliefs of biblical scenes set within frames.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

The true highlight of the Monreale Cathedral, however, is its mosaiced interior.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, the golden mosaics almost completely cover the walls, aisles, transept and apse – amounting to over 68,000 square feet of coverage.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Today’s Palm Sunday mass ran for nearly two hours, and began with a blessing of the palms and a large procession including girl and boy scouts and various religious dignitaries.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Even though the service was long, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing familiar verses in Italian as well as recognizable responses. Most of all, however, I enjoyed the opportunity to gaze in awe at the mosaics and the stories they tell.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

In the apse, there is a magnificent portrait of Christ Pantocrator (“Ruler of All”) gesturing in a blessing. Saints and apostles, as well old testament stories, fill the rest of the apse.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

The aisles and transept depict scenes from the life of Christ, and cover practically all the surfaces of the cathedral’s walls above ground level.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

The original roof was severely damaged by fire in 1811. The current roof, made of wood, is a faithfully restored reproduction, carved and painted in great detail very similar to the original roof.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

All of the cathedral’s mosaic figures are set with a background of gold mosaic “tesserae” or tiles. There are 130 individual scenes depicting biblical and other religious events and many of the mosaics even include inscriptions in Latin or Greek.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

I have been fortunate to visit many churches, basilicas, cathedrals, etc., in Italy, but I must say, this one is simply astonishing.

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

11 Responses to “Monreale Cathedral”

  1. vince March 20, 2016 at 11:15 AM #

    By the end of this trip, I think you will have hit your Sunday church service obligation for the next decade.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jane Gately March 20, 2016 at 7:21 PM #

    What a stunning cathedral!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. FR Chuck Faso OFM March 21, 2016 at 4:47 AM #

    Che beddu chistu duomu! (Sicilian for: What a beautiful Cathedral! Grazie for the photos and your comments. The last scene in the 1970’s wonderful film about St Francis of Assisi,
    “Brother Sun, Sister Moon!” directed by Zefferelli, was filmed in the Monreale Cathedral. Francis Actually visited by Innocent III in Rome at St John Lateran Cathedral, but how magnificent to film the scene of Francis coming to the Pope to ask to live the Gospel in a new way than to come to Monreale. Buon Viaggio! May God’s blessings bring your home safely! (Oh! You are at home – in Italy!) Buon Pasqua!
    Padre Carlo Faso OFM – Fr Chuck

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bobbie Morgan March 21, 2016 at 12:23 PM #

    So thrilled you are obviously loving Monreale.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jean March 21, 2016 at 3:58 PM #

    Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. karenincalabria March 22, 2016 at 9:42 PM #

    I LOVE the mosaics in this cathedral – just breathtaking. Interesting about the olive branches. It’s similar in Calabria and there’s even a mountain town (Bova) that has a tradition of making female figurines out of olive leaves, processing them in the streets and into the church on Palm Sunday. They’re actually images of Persephone, harkening back to pagan times. Here’s a link to an article in Italian, but you can see pictures: http://www.famedisud.it/lancestrale-rito-delle-persephoni-a-bova-un-frammento-di-antichita-magno-greca-nella-domenica-delle-palme/

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Larsen, L R March 23, 2016 at 2:37 PM #

    The pictures were as I remembered
    Well worth the memory
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Florence Connelly March 24, 2016 at 8:40 AM #

    amazing cathedral and great photos!

    Like

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