Monreale

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This small Sicilian hill town southwest of Palermo commands unsurpassed views of the Conca d'Oro Valley and the capital shimmering in the distant bay.

The main attraction here is the Duomo — and what’s inside it. Despite a rather severe exterior, Monreale’s cathedral houses a rich collection of antique Sicilian sculpture – and the most impressive and extensive collection of Christian medieval mosaic work in the world.

The cathedral itself is an unusual mix of Orthodox and Roman Catholic influences, with Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles framed by traditional Romanesque architecture. It is a perfect blend of the best that the 12th century Christian and Muslim worlds had to offer.

This cathedral was built quickly, as cathedrals go, a result of a rivalry between an archbishop and the Englishman who endowed a new monastery. Lucky for us – this haste accounts for the unusual and wonderful uniformity of the cathedral's mosaics with their golden backgrounds.

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