The Cathedral of Monreale is the main place of worship in the city of Monreale and the seat of the archbishop.
It was built in 1174 at the behest of King William II of Altavilla and is renowned worldwide for the beauty of its mosaics.
Precisely for this reason, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015 as part of the Arab-Norman Itinerary of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale.
The façade of the cathedral is imposing, with a portico and two large Norman towers on either side, one of which is now a bell tower.
The interior plan is in the shape of a Latin cross, with three naves each divided by 18 columns.
The decorations are typically Byzantine: mosaics all with a gold background, depicting biblical and New Testament episodes.
The mosaic decoration covers 6,340 square metres, making it the largest in Italy: teams of Byzantine mosaicists, probably created it between 1180 and 1190, flanked by workers from other schools, culminating in the central apse with the striking vision of Christ Pantokrator.
However, what is found inside dates not only from the time of King Wilhelm II, but has been enriched by further interventions over the centuries.
The Cathedral was also the tomb of illustrious guests such as Queen Margaret of Navarre, her two sons Roger and Henry, Kings William I and William II and temporarily even Louis IX, before he was transported to Paris by Philip III.
Unfortunately, during its long existence, the sacred place also suffered extensive damage, such as in 1811, when a fire burnt part of the wooden ceiling, the organ, the choir and even damaged some of the tombs (including, unfortunately, those of Kings William I and II).
The damage was later fortunately restored.
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