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

Nicholas Christopher Hood (16 months ago)
Well, easily one of the most visually stunning churches I’ve ever seen and I’ve been all over the world! What can one even say? It’s something you must see if you are in Palermo! We didn’t take an official tour and we had a car to drive the 20 minutes or so from Palermo old town. The church is in a small town of its own that is charming as well and could be a great place for a good meal and extended tour. There is no church like this as far as I know or have ever seen anywhere else in Italy.
Ilse Vrbecky (17 months ago)
One of the most beautiful churches on earth. I was there already a long time ago but I had to revisit, because it is simply petfection in its beauty. I very much hope that many generations yet to come will see it still.
Rachael (17 months ago)
The cathedral itself is gorgeous and totally worth visiting, but definitely consider paying extra to get onto the roof! The little stairways through the walls are really neat and offer great raised views of Monreale & the cathedral itself. The diocesan museum is small but nice, and a quiet break from the crowds.
Dave Mariani (18 months ago)
One of the nicest/most beautiful churches we have ever been too. Make sure to get the full experience, besides the church itself walking up to the top was great and you are rewarded with a spectacular view. Parking was tough but in the end we just parked our car anywhere there was a small spot, like a Sicilian would. Well worth the trip.
Timotej Sajko (2 years ago)
Just visited the church, not the monastery etc. The mosaics are unique and great. You can admire them from 20min to 1hour. Definitely worth the side trip.
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