Cathedral of Monreale

Monreale, Italy

The Cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest existent examples of Norman architecture. The construction of Monreale, started in 1172, was approved by Pope Alexander III with a bull on 30 December 1174. Works, including an annexed abbey, were completed only in 1267 and the church consecrated at the presence of Pope Clement IV. In 1178 Pope Lucius III established the archdiocese of Monreale and the abbey church was elevated to the rank of cathedral. The archbishops obtained by the kings of Sicily a wide array of privileges and lands in the whole Italian peninsula. In 1270 Louis IX, King of France, brother of King Charles I of Naples, was buried here.

In 1547-1569 a portico was added to the northern side, designed by Giovanni Domenico Gagini and Fazio Gagini, in Renaissance style, covered by a cross vault and featuring eleven round arches supported by Corinthian columns. In 1559 most of the internal pavement was added.

The church's plan is a mixture of Eastern Rite and Roman Catholic arrangement. The nave is like an Italian basilica, while the large triple-apsed choir is similar to one of the early three-apsed churches, of which so many examples still exist in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. It is like two quite different churches put together endwise.

The main internal features are the vast (6,500 m2) glass mosaics, executed in Byzantine style between the late 12th and the mid-13th centuries by both local and Venetians masters.

Since 2015 it is part of the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale UNESCO Heritage site. The church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.




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Founded: 1172-1267
Category: Religious sites in Italy


4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

R (2 months ago)
One of the most impressive cathedrals in Sicily, and certainly a cool one to visit and experience for yourself with plenty to offer in terms of art, history, culture and views. Access to the Cathedral itself is free. You can pay for the ticket that gives you access to the terraces and the crypts. Other ticket options available. Make sure to arrive an hour before they close if you’re looking to see the view from above at sunset. Payments accepted with cash or card. Steep stairs make it nearly impossible for wheelchair access to the top. Watch your head if you’re a tall person! Not handicap friendly besides the main cathedral area and displays. Souvenir shop available on site but a bit overpriced. Many street vendors in the area. Surrounded by restaurants and cafes. Parking is tricky unless you don’t mind walking a bit from the paid parking areas nearby.
Cori Harper (3 months ago)
Beautiful church over 1000 years old. Church is free to tour. Beautiful mosaic, lots of gold and full of windows. Make sure to go outside and see the west entrance doors. They are beautiful. Learned about the church before we arrived, so we were able to see items we were interested in. Plan on spending 30 minutes in the church to see all the details. You do not need to pay for tours, and each area you are interested in, you can pay for just that part. We paid 7 euros to go into the garden. It was beautiful and all the details in the carving. Each side tells a story. We did not go to the balconies, but they were 4 euro.
Kamila Dombrowska (3 months ago)
Place definitely worth to see when visiting Palermo. I went there on sunday, taking a 389 direct bus from Palermo. It was completely full and there was no schedule so be prepared for waiting for a long time and going in a crowd. Travel was not too long tho. Ticket for whole day is 3.50 €. The cathedral is placed on a high hill with a beautiful view on the city, mountains and sea. It might be windy. You can visit cathedral for free (only inside - then you do not have to stand in line which could be very long), or for 6€ with the roof walk with the view on garden and also with the museum. Apart of the cathedral there is also nice architecture, panoramic views, few bars and restaurants.
Knud Hermansen (5 months ago)
35 min bus ride. Easy to buy tickets at the bus stop (avoid the expensive tourist bus). Considered best Norman architecture in Sicily and it is amazing. I loved the mosaics in the main cathedral. They are so much bigger and easier to connect to the Biblical stories than stained glass. The views from the room over Palermo and the valley are also amazing. Well worth the side trip.
David Zaki (6 months ago)
I think it is the oldest cathedral in Palermo. It is located at a higher level , so you can see an amazing view of the city. It is easily accessible by the bus. You need to get a ticket to visit the church from inside and also extra fee to to to the top of cathedral. There is a small museum for memorial clothes, crosses and other things. It is worth visiting it and enjoying the amazing cathedral
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