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Monreale, Province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Situated in a magnificent position on a terraced hill dominating the COnca d'Oro Valley, Monreale is the main tourist center in the surroundings of Palermo, the Sicilian capital, and world-famous for its Cathedral, a masterpiece of Norman art.

Info

Altitude: 310 m a.s.l -- Population: about 31,000 inhabitants -- Zip/postal code: 90046 -- Phone Area Code: 091 -- Patron Saint: San Castrenze celebrated on 2 February -- Frazioni & Località: Aquino, Borgo Schirò, Cicio di Monreale, Giacalone, Grisì, Monte Caputo, Pietra, Pioppo, Poggio San Francesco, San Martino delle Scale, Sirignano, Sparacia, Tagliavia, Villaciambra -- Official Website: N/A

History

The town is located in a site of great strategic importance, to dominate the valley and to control the only route to the sea and the inner island and Valle del Belice. The Norman kings elected it later as a hunting place, and built a palace - possibly the current Town Hall - hence the name of Mons Regalis. Monreale, from "Mons Regalis" (Royal Mountain), rose in the 13th century around the famous cathedral of Santa Maria La Nuova and the adjoining monastery, built in 1174 by King William II of Sicily.

Legend has it that the church was built by the king to fulfil a vow to Our Lady for a narrow escape, however the monastery was a military garrison and the monks were also warriors. The birth of the abbey is definitely tied to political events of the time and although fierce struggle between the Norman king and archbishop of Palermo Gualtiero Offamilio (Walter of the Mill, of British origin), who headed the party of the feudal locals resenting foreign domination.

The abbey, which later became the Archbishop's residence, was endowed by the king, and gradually enriched by his successors, of an immense wealth of property and land (the territory of Monreale is still one of the largest of Sicily), and in later times the archbishop of the city always had a tremendous power in Sicily.

Events

  • the Festa del Santissimo Crocifisso, 1-3 May.
  • the Settimana di Musica Sacra, durisn the first half of November


Province of Palermo

What to see

  • the Parish church, with the miraculous Crocifisso con il Patruzzu amurusu, that saved the population from the plague.
  • the Palazzo di Città, housing important paintings among which one by Antonio Pietro Novelli.
  • the ancient district of Carmine, which still preserves the original architecture.
  • the Castellaccio, a 12th-century fortress erected by the Normans 5 kilometers north of Monreale on the steep Via San Martino, perched atop Mount Caputo, 764 meters a.s.l.
  • the Benedictine abbey of San Martino delle Scale, probably founded by Pope Gregory the Great about 600 AD; was burnt down by Arabs in 829, it was rebuilt over the ruins in 1346, and houses splendid art treasures
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