Surveying Palermo and the Conca D’Oro from its panoramic hill-top position, Monreale would be a fairly non-descript town were it not for the presence of one of the world’s most stunning architectural treasures: the Duomo.
The story of how this splendid cathedral came into being starts when the Arabs took control of Palermo in 831. They transformed the cathedral into a mosque and banished the Bishop of Palermo from town. Not wishing to venture too far from his beloved cathedral, the Bishop settled in a small village in the hills overlooking Palermo, the site of modern-day Monreale. There, he built a modest church to keep the flame of local Christian worship alive.
In 2015, Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù were granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cattedrale di Monreale
Inspired by a vision of the Virgin and determined to outdo his grandfather Roger II, who was responsible for the cathedral in Cefalù and the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, William II set about building the Cattedrale di Monreale, 8km southwest of Palermo. Incorporating Norman, Arab, Byzantine and classical elements, the cathedral is considered the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily. It's also one of the most impressive architectural legacies of the Italian Middle Ages.