The main place of worship of Monreale is the cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova. This is based in the province of Palermo. The construction of this place of worship began in the year 1174, the then King of Sicily, William II de Hauteville who ruled Sicily from 1166 to 1189 is instrumental in this construction.
As the legendary story say, the ruler of Sicily Norman King William II, called the Good is the creator of this place of worship. He had fallen asleep under a tree while hunting in the woods of Monreale. In his dream our Lady appeared and revealed him that there is great treasure hidden in the place where he was sleeping. Our Lady also instructed him to construct a temple at the place. The ruler then employed his men to dig around, and he got treasure of gold coins hidden there. These were used for the construction of the cathedral namely Cathedral of Monreale.
Image Credit@Andrea R Photography
The construction had begun in the year 1172 and the church was completed in the year 1267, initially this was conceived as the church of territorial abbey Benedictine, which was supposed to be independent and not under the chair of Palermo. Later it was built as archdiocese of Monreale and the abbey church got the status of a cathedral.
In the following centuries the cathedral underwent a number of changes, a porch was built along the left side of the church in the sixteenth century, so also much of the interior floor was done in the 16th century. The main façade was erected in the eighteenth century. In 1811 a fire mishap destroyed the ceiling and this was rebuilt in 1816 and then in 1837. The new choir stalls were also built in the Gothic Revival style in this period.
The organ company Padua Ruffatti built the organ of the cathedral between 1957 and 1967. This is the second largest after that of cathedral of Messina, and has 122 records. It is the only Italian to have an organ console with six keyboards of 61 notes each, and the instrument consists of around 8000 barrels divided in three parts.
The cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova is located in the center of Monreale, situated at the slopes of Mount Caputo. The front is facing a plaza square; there are two bell towers on either side. On the left side of the cathedral there is a porch built way back between 1547 and 1569, it is built in Renaissance style. At the central arch, topped by glazed terracotta having the design of Madonna and child, and in the other portal there are two oldest doors made of bronze which were made by Barasin Trani in 1185.
The interior of the cathedral is vast area made of golden mosaic which makes the cathedral shine due to its own emanating light. This was made between the 12th and 13th centuries by the local and Venetian workers. These mosaics depict stories of old and new Testaments; in the apse there is portrait of Christ Pantocrator. On the left side are tombs of wife and sons of William II.
The entrance fee is 3 Euros per head for all above 10 years. There is a discount for group of students. The flow of visitors is divided numerically so that at any given point there are not more than 350 visitors inside, the visit lasts for 30 minutes. Only decently dressed people are permitted to visit to maintain the compliance and silence of this holy place.