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EMMA VITALE

"II –Il monastero benedettino", in Bonacasa Carra RM, Schirò G, Vitale E, Manenti M, "Il Monastero benedettino di Monreale. Dati storico-archeologici per una rilettura del complesso guglielmino"

Abstract

In the Norman hunting park dominating the Conca d'Oro, in the second half of the XII century the monumental complex of Monreale began as a rational unitary body, consisting of the royal palace, the Duomo and the Benedictine convent which, from 1176, housed hundred Cluniac monks of Cava de 'Tirreni, called here by King William II; a wall, originally equipped with twelve towers, protected the religious community from possible external attacks. The goal of the founder was the creation of a strong instrument for the Christianization of western Sicily - still predominantly Muslim -, and at the same time of a prestigious dynastic mausoleum, in the explicit intent to rival all previous sacred imperial foundations from Late Antiquity onwards ( San Giovanni in Laterano, St. Sophia of Constantinople, the Cathedral of Cefalù, the Palatine Chapel in Palermo) in the majestic basilica, which is configured simultaneously as a Benedictine convent church, an episcopal church and a royal church. In the artistic and architectural language of the various components, the fusion of the three elements that characterize the Norman artistic production in Sicily is evident: the Latin, the Byzantine and the Islamic cultures. The convent occupies the entire southern front of the complex; the archaeological excavations conducted here in 2002 provided the opportunity for a re-reading of the various phases of structural transformations of the monastery, starting from the time of the first Norman project till the restructuring interventions after the fire of 1811. The articulated architectural organism is configured as a mature example of western monastic building, able to respond to the organizational and productive needs of the cenobitic communities of Benedictine and Cistercian inspiration.