Monreale is situated a few kilometres south of Palermo, in north-western Sicily. The town is in a pretty setting of orchards of olives and oranges.
It is Monreale cathedral that attracts the visitors - and rightly so, because it is one of the most impressive cathedrals to be found in Sicily, and is a very fine 12th century Norman monument founded by the Norman King William II, although the exterior, rather plain to look at except for a few decorated sections, gives little clue to the treasures to be discovered inside. The cathedral successfully brings together Norman, Arab and Byzantine art and architecture.
There are several individual highlights that you should see during your visit to the cathedral, including:
- The elaborate 12th century bronze door, covered with reliefs depicting stories from the Bible, on the west side between two towers and behind a more recent (18th century) porch
- The extensive 12th century mosaics throughout large parts of the interior that again depict Biblical stories in all their detailed and colourful glory. Perhaps the most important is the mosaic of Christ in the dome at the head of the church.
- The cathedral cloisters surround a garden area and are highly ornate, based around arches supported by double stone columns - many of the columns themselves are also decorated in gilded and ornate patterns, and there are numerous intricate carvings to admire in the 'capitals' (the part between the columns and the arches)
Note: Monreale cathedral is also a listed monument in Italy.
Although it is mostly the cathedral that will detain you, be sure to spend a little time exploring Monreale itself. it is a pleasant workaday Italian town with a selection of interesting artisan / gift type shops.