Mosaics in Monreale, 4.3.12

Tuesday morning got off to a bumpy start:  We got stuck in an elevator.

I have never been stuck in an elevator before.  I did not suspect that I would have this experience in a car park in Monreale, a hilltop town 15 minutes outside of Palermo.  I mean, the elevator only had two levels.  But when we got to the top, the door wouldn’t open.  We went back down.  The door still didn’t open.  I got a thrill out of pressing the alarm button.  The elevator was glass, so we watched the car park employees scurrying around trying to figure out how to liberate us.  We didn’t know if we would be stuck for a few minutes or hours, but in the end they pried open the doors after about five minutes.

They still charged us full price for parking our car.

We climbed up the hill on foot and visited Monreale Cathedral, one of the most important landmarks in Sicily.

Did I mention that the Norman kings had big egos?  In 1174 King William II decided that he wanted to outdo his grandfather Roger’s chapel and advertise the political and religious power of Norman Sicily, so he built the Monreale Cathedral.  (Although according to William, the Virgin Mary came to him in a dream and told him to build a church.)

Like the Palatine Chapel, nearly every surface is covered in golden mosaics depicting stories from both the Old and New Testaments.  It is a breathtaking place, but the lighting made it difficult for me to take many good pictures.

King William II and Christ

King William II's Tomb

This man was meticulously restoring part of the floor:

He seemed like he should be well past the age of retirement, but there he was, hunched on the ground, tools spread around him.  I believe that his cap indicates that he is Muslim.  I would have liked to know his story.  I’m guessing that he comes from a family of skilled tile workers.  He had a younger assistant working with him, possibly a son or grandson whom he was training.

Although I thought I’d learned my lesson about climbing stairs in churches, we accidentally bought a ticket to see the cathedral “terrace” instead of the cloister.  This involved many steps, but at least we got to see the cloister from above.

Before we walked back downhill, I bought gelato from a friendly old man.  His presentation was very artistic: he added a dab of green pistachio ice cream on top of my cup of hazlenut and pressed a cookie into the frozen treat.  I love how most Sicilians really want you to be satisfied with their product and to enjoy your time on their island.

Next Post: After marveling at a medieval church, we headed to the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro to admire Sicily’s natural beauty.

Hungary Update: For some pictures of the Mangalica (Curly-haired Pig) Festival I went to last Friday in Debrecen, please visit my friend Dianna’s blog.

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2 Comments

Filed under architecture, churches, Italy, Sicily, Travel

2 responses to “Mosaics in Monreale, 4.3.12

  1. Melody

    Where’s a gelato picture? =D That church looks absolutely lovely!

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