Not too far from Palermo,
situated on a rocky spur overlooking the Valle dell’Oreto,
is where you’ll find Monreale, known throughout the
world for its magnificent Norman Cathedral, one of the greatest
works in the entire Medieval period.
Monreale developed around the Benedictine Abbey, which became
a powerful Episcopal seat in 1183. After Norman conquest of
Sicily by Ruggero I, it was Guglielmo II il Buono (William
II ‘the Good’) who in 1176, wanted to transfer
the monks to a pre-existing Arabic country house called Bulchar.
The same king, in 1174, gave permission for the construction
of the Duomo of S. Maria La Nuova, known throughout the world
as the Duomo of Monreale, a unique architectonic work due
to its various combined styles: Arabic, Norman, Byzantine
In the centre of Monreale, one can visit Piazza Vittorio Emanuele,
where other than the magnificent Duomo, one can admire the
Chiostro dell’Abbazia (Abbey Cloisters), also from the
Norman era, with its quadrangular form and square precinct
walls which contain a fountain in one of its angles.
Other religious buildings of interest worth visiting in Monreale
are: the Collegiata (Collegiate) del Crocifisso (Crucifix),
S.Antonio e S.Castrese ('500s).
One can visit the Belvedere public gardens, with its rare
panoramic views of Palermo, via Piazza Guglielmo II.
Lastly, a worthwhile visit, which is close by, is the Seminario
di Chierici (Clerics Seminary), an ancient Norman residence
which was readapted during the 16th and 18th Centuries.