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The Legend: Monreale vs Palermo

Palermo cathedralLegend has it that King William, who commissioned the Cathedral of Monreale, and the Bishop of Palermo who commissioned the cathedral of Palermo, were competing to see who could build the most impressive cathedral. When the cathedrals were almost finished, William went in secret to see his competitor’s work, and was so horrified by the majesty and beauty of the place that he could not bring himself to enter the building. He was so depressed by what he was certain was his imminent defeat that he committed suicide the following day.

What he had not realised however, was that the Cathedral in Palermo was as stark and Spartan inside as his own at Monreale, filled with mosaics and works of art, was sumptuous and colourful. In reality he had won the challenge, but he had not been aware of it.

In truth, the two cathedrals began construction at different times and under different civilisations altogether. The Cathedral of Palermo was originally a small Christian church which was extended and turned into a mosque by the Saracens. The Arabic influence explains the Spartan interior of the building. The bishop in the story did later get involved, but commissioned alterations and extensions only, making the cathedral far grander.

Monreale CathedralThe cathedral of Monreale on the other hand was constructed while the alterations to the Cathedral in Palermo were taking place. It was dedicated to the assumption of the Virgin Mary and despite its plain exterior it is today considered one of the most beautiful places of worship in the world and an exceptional example of Norman architecture due to the stunning beauty of its gold and blue mosaic interior.

Both of these buildings are worth seeing, as is a great deal of the architecture in Sicily. If this is something you are passionate about, then why not consider organising your wedding, honeymoon or holiday in one of Sicily’s fabulous locations?

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