|Comune di Monreale|
Interior of Monreale Cathedral.
|Metropolitan city||Palermo (PA)|
|Frazioni||Aquino, Borgo Fraccia, Borgo Schirò, Cicio di Monreale, Giacalone, Grisì, Monte Caputo, Pietra, Pioppo, Poggio San Francesco, San Martino delle Scale, Sirignano, Sparacia, Tagliavia, Villaciambra|
|o Mayor||Pietro Capizzi|
|o Total||530.18 km2 (204.70 sq mi)|
|Elevation||310 m (1,020 ft)|
|o Density||74/km2 (190/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Patron saint||St. Castrensis|
|Saint day||2 February|
Monreale (Sicilian: Murriali) is a town and comune in the Metropolitan City of Palermo, in Sicily, southern Italy. It is located on the slope of Monte Caputo, overlooking the very fertile valley called "La Conca d'oro" (the Golden Shell), a production area of orange, olive and almond trees, the produce of which is exported in large quantities. The town, which has a population of approximately 39,000, is about 7 kilometres (4 miles) inland (south) of Palermo, the regional capital.
Monreale forms its own archdiocese and is home to a historical Norman-Byzantine cathedral. This has been designated as one of several buildings named in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a group of nine inscribed as Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale.
After the occupation of Palermo by the Arabs (the Emirate of Sicily), the Bishop of Palermo was forced to move his seat outside the capital. The role of cathedral was assigned to a modest little church, Aghia Kiriaki, in a nearby village later known as Monreale. After the Norman conquest in 1072, Christians took back the former Palermo cathedral. Probably the village's role as temporary ecclesiastical centre played a part in King William II's decision to build a cathedral here.
Monreale was a small village for a long time. When the Norman Kings of Sicily chose the area as their hunting resort, more people and commerce came to the area after the royalty built a palace (probably identifiable with the modern town hall).
Under King William II, a large monastery of Benedictines coming from Cava de' Tirreni, with its church, was founded and provided with large assets. The new construction also had an important defensive function. Monreale was the seat of the metropolitan archbishop of Sicily, which from then on exerted a significant influence over Sicily.
In the 19th century, underage marriages, or those performed without the blessing of the bride's parents, were known as "the marriages of Monreale", according to Eliza Lynn Linton. These referred to marriages performed in remote places, where the law was less observed. (see Gretna Green).
The cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest extant examples of Norman architecture. It was begun in 1174 by William II and completed four years later. In 1182 the church, dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, was, by a bull of Pope Lucius III, elevated to the rank of a metropolitan cathedral.
The church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily. Its size is 102 meters long and 40 meters wide. The façade is characterized by two large towers (one partially destroyed by a lightning in 1807) and a portal with Romanesque bronze doors decorated by Bonanno Pisano. The interior is on the Latin cross plan, divided by ogival arcades, and features fresco cycles executed during the reigns of William II and Tancred of Sicily (c. 1194). The cloister has 228 small columns, each with different decorations influenced by Provençal, Burgundian, Arab and Salerno medieval art.
Monreale is twinned with:
The church did not sanction marriage younger than these several ages [20 for men, 18 for women], save in exceptional cases; and any one who assisted at the marriage of a girl below the age of 18, without the consent of her parents or guardians, was imprisoned for life and forfeited all he had. This law, however, was frequently broken in remote places, and especially about Palermo, where "the marriages of Monreale" have passed into a proverb. When a young girl, say of sixteen, marries and has a good childbirth, they say "She has been to Monreale".