The church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.
Historical Experience at Monreale Cathedral
1. The Inside and Outside
The interior of the church is about 100 meters long by 40 meters wide. In the form of a basilica, it is divided by 9 monolithic columns on each side into 3 naves leading to a wide presbyterium and 3 apses. The 18 columns have each a different Corinthian capital. The original ceiling in carved and painted wood was destroyed in a fire in 1811 and reconstructed trying to reproduce the original, while the precious mosaic floor in white Taormina marble, the work of Baldassare Massa of Palermo, is still in its original 16th century form. The walls are covered in the lower part by later marble slates, while in the upper part is the most amazing work of art in this church, the 12th century mosaics, still in their original form. Along the right nave are the 12th century sarcophagus of Guglielmo I, and the sepulchre of Guglielmo II, remade in the 16th century. Always in this nave, is the Chapel of St. Benedict, a Renaissance work decorated with marble tiles, with low-relief sculptures, a work made in 1776 by Giovanni Marino; a high-relief on the altar representing the Glory of St. Benedict, made by Ignazio Marabitti in 1776. The left nave opens into the 17th century Crocifisso Chapel, and to the Treasure of the Cathedral, which preserves Gothic relic containers, and sacred items from the 13th to the 17th century. For the outside, Along the left side there is a Renaissance porch (1547-1569) made by Giovanni Domenico and Fazio Gagini, descendants of a family of artists originary of Ticino, that had settled in Palermo in 1463. Under this porch it is possible to enter the leads the left nave through a portal whose doors contain 28 bronze panel made by Barisano da Trani in 1178 representing figures of Saints. The apse is decorated by arches and multi-coloured insertions in white and lava tiles. The terraces around the Cathedral offer an astounding, bird's eye view of the whole Conca D'Oro (= the Golden Valley). Behind the Cathedral is the Bishopric Palace, in front of which is a Roman sarcophagus. To the left, the Seminario dei Chierici, which was the ancient Norman mansion, transformed in a Seminary in the 1591. The interior and exterior of the building are not to be missed on your Monreale Cathedral tour.
2. The Mosaic Cycle
All the scenes of the mosaic are created against a background of yellow-gold tiles. There are a total of 130 individual mosaic scenes depicting biblical and other religious events. Made in the late 12th-early 13th centuries, the mosaics on the walls cover over 6 thousand square mt, and represent the Old and New Testaments, with inscriptions in Greek and Latin. Along the central nave is the Genesis cycle, in the central apse are Christ and the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne, surrounded by apostles, saints and angels. On the two sides, over the royal and the episcopal thrones, there are mosaic scenes representing William crowned by Christ and again William offering the cathedral to the Virgin. The Old Testament is portrayed upon the walls of the central nave, starting from the Creation and ending with Jacob's Fight with the Angel. The mosaics on the side aisles illustrate the major events of the life of Jesus, from His birth to the Crucifixion, and include a cycle which portrays His miracles. Most of the mosaics are accompanied by written inscriptions in Latin or Greek. The mosaic cycle is not to be missed on your Monreale Cathedral tour.
3. The Facade and the Cloister
Sided by two massive towers of different forms, and decorated in the upper part by arches, it has and 18th century porch in front, which leads to the Gothic-arched portal, whose bronze doors, a work by Bonanno Pisano of 1186, represent scenes from the Old and New Testaments accompanied by words in ancient Italian vernacular. The cathedral's two main doors are outstanding. The double doors are made of 42 bronze panels, signed and dated by their maker, Bonanno of Pisa who completed this masterpiece, distinctively Romanesque, in 1186. The entrance to the cloister is to the right of the facade. The cloister, made in the 12th century, is almost intact, and was included in a no more extant Benedictine abbey. It is a square courtyard with sides measuring 47 m each, surrounded by 228 twin columns joined by sexti-acute arches which create a covered walkway all around the garden; the columns are decorated with mosaic tiles and, with a great variety of motifs including arabesques, knights, saints and Bible scenes, gargoyles. In the southern corner a 3-sided enclosure includes a small fountain in the form of a palm-tree. To the northern side is the ancient wall of the cathedral, with a portal and windows, all decorated with white stone and lava tiles. An archway to the right leads. Get your Monreale Cathedral tickets to visit the cloister. The facade and cloister are not to be missed on your Monreale Cathedral tour. The facade and cloister are not to be missed on your Monreale Cathedral tour.
How to Get Tickets?
The Cathedral is open on Monday - Saturday with 2 sessions, which are at 8AM - 1PM and 2:30PM-6:30PM, Sunday at 8AM - 1PM, Cloister is open daily at 9AM - 7PM. The price for Monreale Cathedral tickets is free, 2€ north transept and treasury; 2€ roof; 8€ cloisters.
How To Get Around?
You can do Monreale Cathedral tour by walking. Enjoy the moment and take your time to explore the curch.
What Should I Wear?
Women should not wear anything revealing, shoulders should be covered. No shorts should be worn and men should wear shirts
Best Time to Visit
The busiest month for tourism in Palermo, Italy is April, followed by May and February. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you purchase well in advance. Tourists are unlikely to visit Palermo in November.
Will I Need a Guide?
You don't need a guide to do Monreale Cathedral tour, you can find everything you need on this site.
How To Get There?
Monreale is served by Palermo's urban bus service AMAT, and is covered by standard single or all-day tickets. Bus 389 runs from Piazza Indipendenza, by the Palazzo dei Normanni, in Palermo, heading up the long straight street Corso Calatafimi and finishing up right next to the cathedral in Monreale. buses generally run two to three times per hour Mon-Sat and once hourly on Sundays and public holidays. There is also a bus, approximately hourly, run by another company, AST, which departs from Piazza Giulio Cesare, by Palermo's Stazione Centrale.
There are a few places to stay in and around Monreale, for visitors who'd prefer to stay out of the hectic centre of Palermo. Some of these are not in the historic heart of Monreale, though, but in the surrounding area, so would be more convenient for travellers with cars. The four-star Baglio Conca d'Oro, around a mile from the centre of Monreale and suited to drivers, is in a converted paper mill and offers a free shuttle into to Palermo, while the B&B Hootel Duomo Monreale is in the heart of Monreale and actually has views of the cathedral.