Monreale is a small hill town just outside of Palermo. It is a major tourist destination because of the Norman Cathedral, built between 1174 and 1189.It is a blend of Byzantine, Norman, and Arab elements in a Romanesque building. This intermingling of styles reflects the intermingling cultures and religious tolerance of the period.But the main reason you visit this cathedral is the glass mosaics that cover nearly 70,000 square feet of surface. Since the mosaics are glass, the colors we see today are the same as when they were installed. The gold mosaics are made from gold leaf with molten glass poured on both sides. All corners are rounded so they can be covered with mosaics with no edges exposed.The king’s throne.The alter. The picture of Jesus is the same as we have seen at several churches here. It is in the typical style of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The right hand is raised in the gesture of Byzantine blessing and the left hand holds the gospel open to John 8:12. To give you an idea of scale, the right hand is over six feet tall!Pictures are used to tell biblical stories since most people couldn’t read at that time. This panel begins the story of Noah and the arc.Both sides of the Nave have panels on two levels.This is the story of Rebecca at the well. Think of how many pieces of glass had to be put into place, what the scaffolding would have been like at the time, and how they were attached that they have survived all these years.The columns along the sides of the Nave were recycled from Rome. Since the columns were not of uniform length, the mosaic covered “pillows” at the top of the columns are of varying thickness to accommodate the pillars of different length.The side doors to the church.
We also visited the home of an actor who lives in Monreale. From his patio, you had a commanding view of Palermo, the Mediterranean Sea, and the surrounding mountains.
We had lunch at an agriturismo, a farm with lodging and restaurant facilities. The farm made both olive oil and wine which we sampled for lunch. After lunch, we hiked the 2.5 mile narrow dirt road back to our bus (we had ridden a school bus owned by the farm to get to the farm). Along most of the hike we had beautiful views of Segesta, a Doric Greek temple built in 420 BCE on the top of a small hill. It was never finished.We were only looking across a valley to the temple, as we will be visiting the Valley of the Temples later in the trip. Tonight and for the next two days we are staying at another agriturismo.