When traveling throughout Sicily, most advise to pay a visit to Palermo. Near Palermo, the town of Monreale perches itself up at a high standing, figuratively and literally. What makes Monreale far from the real is the town’s Cathedral. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. Go ahead and judge this book by its cover. You will be wrong once you pass through its doors.
Founded in 1174, the Monreale Cathedral bears Norman, Arab, and Byzantine art and architecture, making this place of worship unlike any other. The Monreale Cathedral left me with three enveloping experiences that reminded me this visit was different from most European church stops that tend to run together in the mind.
Wandering around the area nearby, I stumble upon an overlook of the Conca d’ Oro, in other words, the Golden Valley. Next to this view, a massive tree almost blinds my ability to notice anything else. With a trunk that looks more like a ball gown flowing to the ground, I knew this was not a piece of nature I could see just any other day. This big guy warrants a little tree hugging.
After seeing a glimpse of the Golden Valley, I had to get closer and higher to appreciate its view as birds and planes always do. However, before I could experience this aspect, I entered the Monreale Church. Clouded with mosaics, it remains one of the world’s largest displays of art. The focal point of all is the Christ mosaic in the center of the Church. Biblical scenes stare back at you from the walls that you really do feel as though these enclosures have eyes and ears. I must embrace these mosaics just as I did the tree outside, for their beauty is so rare and well preserved. I’m lucky to be watched by such art today. A pristine Cloister makes up the finally equation to the Monreale Cathedral. The Monreale Cloister lines with columns so intricate you almost have to touch noses with them to appreciate all the detail.
Roof access of the Cathedral is allowed for a small price. I toss a few Euros down and make the climb up for my view. From this vantage point, I can appreciate the greenery of the cloister gardens, the order of the framing columns below, and the tall tower on the Cathedral. Most importantly, my appreciation for the view of the surrounding valley trumps all the others. Palermo is just up ahead, but I don’t want to leave. Yes, I think this view also merits a little embracing. Hugging is not just for trees.