Just outside Palermo, in the charming little town of Monreale, lies possibly the most beautiful – and certainly the most exotic – cathedral in Europe.
Monreale Cathedral was built by King William II of Sicily in 1174. The architecture is Moorish Arabic, the interior is late Byzantine, and the layout is a fusion of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox convention. This style of architecture is known, in Sicily, as Norman.
I love this cathedral not only for its serenity and exceptional beauty, but for the uniquely Sicilian cultural fusion it represents. Sicily was invaded and occupied many times, and this multicultural island hosted immigrants of many faiths. Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews lived side by side peacefully. The Muslim rulers, in particular, taught genuine respect for all faiths and cultures.
The Muslims had ceased to rule Sicily over a hundred years ago, yet King William chose their style of architecture to built his great cathedral. Perhaps we have something to learn from those Sicilians of long ago?
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N.B. These photos were all taken by my talented sister Susanna.