Monreale's mosaics...


04/24/17 - The mysterious island of Sicily, a place cursed by mob stories, houses the best preserved mosaics of the Middle Ages. They adorn Monreale Cathedral, a religious temple on a hill, near the city of Palermo.
Possibly done by Islamic artisans, this Byzantine decoration dates from the 12th century and was commissioned by King William II. Although the Cathedral is almost solely illuminated by natural light, the vibrations of the golden backgrounds increase it, allowing the enjoyment of every detail.  The figures narrate a series of pages in Christian history but with a more popular language. The huge area (800 sq-mts approximately) is rich in chromatic variations. The true dominating element is the colossal image of Christ Pantocrator, so appealing and fascinating that it attracts visitors towards the apse upon arrival.
Christ Pantocrator - Apse
Monreale Cathedral
As for the artist, there's only speculations: it is believed he was an westernized Byzantine artist, capable of understanding the wishes of the King who ordered the work. The interior of the Cathedral is a fusion of Byzantine and Sicilian elements and it was probably done by a troupe of artisans under one vigorous and united direction. We can say this because all the faces look similar, both in gestures, attitudes and the draperies of their clothing. Plus, although no matter how diverse the scenes, all landscapes are similar.
The mosaics were made in situ, using scaffoldings and a group of clergymen (the wisemen of that time) was given the task of producing the message that would "educate" the faithful.
Monreale Cathedral
Under the blessing Christ, we see a court of heavenly figures from the Old and New Testament. On the arcades, the images are specially dedicated to the faithful, to help them understand the Holy Scriptures.
Monreale Cathedral
The image of the blessing Christ is repeated several times throughout the Cathedral, but in smaller sizes and almost always surrounded by Angels.
Blessing Christ
Monreale Cathedral
What makes this Sicilian monument so interesting is that the artwork exceeds the architecture that contains it. The severity of other cathedrals built during those years can not be found at Monreale, where visitors are conquered by the color and beauty of the figures.

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Liliana Wrobel

Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani