The Monreale Cloister

The cathedral Santa Maria la Nuova in Monreale witnessed the coronation and marriage of William II and served as the burial site for Sicily’s Norman rulers. Although it was a monumental project in terms of both architecture and decorations, subsequent donations and privileges swiftly made this monastic community one of the wealthiest in the Norman kingdom. The cloister constitutes a significant example of Romanesque artistic production in Italy and throughout the entire Mediterranean. It is one of the largest, most complex and, in terms of composition, one of the finest twelfth-century cloisters, and it distinguishes itself by the richness and variety of its details as well as by its comparatively excellent state of preservation. Between 1174 and 1189, at least five different highly-skilled workshops were assembled from different artistic traditions and distinct geographic regions in France and Italy. Of the former Benedictine monastery complex and the affiliated royal palace, only the cloister and the well-house at the southwest corner remains intact today, situated next to the cathedral and a few associated ruins. Of the 104 double capitals and 5 quadruple capitals, 15 are historiated and depict biblical subjects. The capitals were carved from white marble, but over time have acquired a thick, sandstone patina that covers them almost entirely. The stone is probably likely parian marble from Greece, which was readily available from numerous ancient.

Cathedral and cloister of Monreale, map of 1702

King William II with the model of the cathedral

Cloister with bell tower and south side of the cathedral

Cloister and wellhouse, seen from the roof of the cathedral

South side of the cloister

South side of the cloister and the well-house


Base of a twin column of the south side

Column of the southeast corner, detail with leopard

© KHI in Florence | 10.08.2020 10:30:03