Saturday, March 31, 2012

la bella sicilia (part six)

arab fountain--kind of a cloister within the cloister of monreale's cathedral

this is it: the final segment of my trip to the beautiful, but conflicted, sicily, of which i have beautiful memories and conflicted feelings. this is monreale, a town about 15 minutes outside of palermo that was built in the 12th century. monreale is frequently cited as one of the greatest medieval marvels in the world, but i'm not convinced (i personally prefer ravenna, the apse mosaic at san clemente, all of cappella palatina and a few other sites). it is outstanding, to be sure, but it is both not enough and too much--too much gold, too many stories, too dark, too difficult to read...

it didn't help that i paid a fortune to a taxi driver to get there, found everything closed for lunch, and ended up spending a few hours and more than a few euros bouncing from bar to bar to try and stay warm (it was 34 degrees and raining). still, i'm glad i went if only to see the cloister--that was undoubtedly the highlight for me.

the cloister of the cathedral of monreale

stag in cloister capital--every one of the capitals are heavily carved and decorated with animal motifs and classical elements, like these acanthus leaves

pheasants? i keep thinking love birds because of the hearts, but they're too long for that. maybe peacocks?

owls and owl people. i'm not sure what this represents.

ancient people with buchrania...and a PEGASUS! squee!

okay, the capital iconography here is confusing...dragons? chimaeras? griffins? i have no idea, but i know i love it!

every single one of these capitals are carved differently, and every other pair of them are mosaiced, also in differing patterns.

some of the plain (non-mosaic) columns are carved as well--i'm wondering if at one time they all were?--and this has to be a dodo bird.

stag, nicely done in a primitive form

owl grabbing dog + raven eating grapes

close up of the raven and the grapes


razorback! this looks recently conserved and cleaned--there was some scaffolding nearby, but i'm not sure what exactly they're working on.

i'd say this footing is a recent addition...

can you even imagine how outstanding this site would be if the mosaics on the columns were reconstructed? it would be tremendous--most of the layout for the design is still extant, it would be a matter of getting the colors right. and, of course, the funding.

exterior, cathedral of monreale

interior, cathedral of monreale, with christ pantokrator

side aisle, cathedral of monreale. i believe the lower section was covered in mosaics at one time but destroyed by the turks in the 15th century.

looking straight up from stage left of the altar

apse and altar mosaics, with christ pantokrator, some angels, the evangelists and lots o' saints (and mary)

beautiful cosmatesque floor

noah's ark story on a side aisle curtain

ciao sicilia!

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