We’ve already established that I suck at history, and while we’re on the topic of embarrassing self-disclosures, I confess I didn’t realize until recently that Normans were French. Here’s what I do know about Normans (other than that they all seem to have been named William): they built some gorgeous Romanesque buildings. In Sicily, once a Norman kingdom, Norman architects synthesized the best of a melting pot of cultures. The Cathedral of Monreale brings together a delicious mix of Arabic and Byzantine with influences from the Lombardy region in Northern Italy, a mix that is somehow more than the sum of it’s parts.
The Cathedral of Monreale is overwhelmingly lavish. Since it was completed after only ten year’s work (around 1180) it has a cohesive quality and is admirably well preserved. As impressive as I found the interior mosaics, the cloister of the cathedral, which I wrote about here, stole the show. Trust me, you’re going to want a full day to take in what this cathedral has to offer.
The West front has two square towers.
The quite Islamic-looking East end with it’s arches made of tufa and marble.
Christ Pantocrator with Enthroned Madonna below. You can glimpse a bit of the gilded wood ceiling.
Apse facing East.
Eight pointed arches in the nave arcades. There’s a pointed window over each of the arches.
God relaxes on a earth-ball while creating Eve out of Adam’s rib. (Dude, she just came out of a rib–why does she have a belly button?)
The serpent sticks his tongue out at Eve, saying “Nah na na na nah, you’re belly is shaped like a heart!”
Get the heck out of the Garden of Eden with your bad selves and your unfashionable hair tunics.
Now they have to work for minimum wage.
Lot’s wife just can help it–she turns back to see Sodom and Gomorrah burn and turns to salt. Lot and his daughters are so out of there.
When you’re Rebecca, you get to ride sideways on a hilarious camel led by a guy with testicular-sack hung over a stick.
Noah shoves animals out of the ark.
Those ears though…
Jesus chases moneylenders out of the temple.
Oh you know, just pulling a demon out some poor sucker’s mouth, then preaching on some spaghetti water–all in a day’s work.
It’s a little known fact that St. Peter was a heavy metal fan.
How we got to Monreale: bus from Palermo.
Where we slept: Ariston Hotel b&b. Price: €55 for a double. Recommended: yes.