Friday, October 19, 2012

Two Churches

So, today, we piled in our tour bus for a ride out to Monreale (King's Mountain is the translation -- or, more precisely, Mountain Royal -- I figure that's probably the origin of Montreal, too, and wondered why I've never put that one together before).  Anyway, Monreal has itself a very spiffy Norman cathedral, which is what we were there to see.

Here's what you need to know -- or, rather, here's the one factoid which managed to get itself implanted in my still-sleepy brain:  Pretty much every culture parked itself in Sicily at one time or another.  You get a lot of those buildings which were churches or mosques, depending on who was in control at the time.  The cathedral in Monreale is not quite one of those -- it was never a mosque.  However, when constructed (as a church, in the late 12th century) many of the artists and artisans in Sicily at the time were Arabs, and those folks were hired to build the cathedral.  So we've got a cathedral in what wikipedia cheerfully calls the Arab-Norman style -- Western Europe with clear Eastern influences.

The interior looks something like this:
All of that art you see there is glass mosaic.  Biblical scenes (both Old and New Testament).  Here's one:
But we've also got the sort of stuff I saw in Turkey -- the straight up decorative stuff (rather than images of people).  Like this:

 Here's a detail of the mosaic work, which you can see is made of stone:

This also shows that what looks like good in here isn't really gold -- it's glass over something shiny, which (in the dim light of a church) sparkles like gold.

After lunch in Monreale, we went back to Palermo, and see the Palatine Chapel (that would be the Chapel in the Palace), which was, in all honesty, more of the same.  But the mosaics had brighter colors and the overall effect was more impressive (although in a much smaller space).  Photos here:

 We were then supposed to have a walking tour of Palermo, but we were all kind of wiped and it was pretty darned hot.  Really hot.  Hotter than we thought it had any right to be in October.  So our tour guide offered a bus tour instead -- which we gratefully accepted.  No photo breaks there, though, and I have to confess I may have dozed off a minute on the bus, so I don't have much to report -- except that Palermo appears to be a city with no zoning ordinances whatsoever, so there'll be a historical building next to a garden next to a church next to some businesses next to some condos next to some shops with some apartments above.  It's kind of wacky -- and when you combine it with the apparent fact that traffic signs here are simply suggestions -- it all seems a bit chaotic.  But fun!

Oh, wait, one more thing.  Back in Monreale, we went to the cloister right next to the cathedral.  It has many decorative columns around the central courtyard.  I took a shot of these columns here because I loved the idea of running the decoration at an angle.  I mean, I dig all the ancient Greek and Roman stuff, but I'm not sure it ever struck anyone during that time that you could run the decoration like this.  Nifty.


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