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The Royal Citadel

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With the unmistakable clarity of graphics, you can admire the wisdom of the design of William II, who wanted to create a fortified and charming “Citadel” in close proximity to the great Palermo.

The central point of the royal Citadel consists of the great Church, which was immediately raised up to the dignity of a Cathedral, the seat of the archbishop. In the centuries that followed, it was also destined to hold a primary role within the framework of ecclesiastic management. Here we are referring to the choice of the Episcopal dignity of “metropolitan”, which was recognised from the end of the 12th century by the Pastor of the Dioceses of Monreale.

Alongside the sacred and liturgical space, on the right, looking eastwards towards Palermo, we find the King’s Palace. If we compare it with the Monastery, it occupies less architectural space. This can be traced back to its proximity to the central palaces of the nearby political-religious capital. The king and part of his court could in fact reach the Citadel of Monreale, a safe and splendid site, in a short time.
A third basic element in the design is to be found in the construction of the great Monastery, on the other side of the Cathedral. The copiousness of monastic architecture was obviously necessary due to continuous maintenance and the accommodation functions that the numerous monks from Cava de’ Tirreni were called upon to guarantee throughout the whole year.

In the three large porticoed squares or aggregation areas, the three components of the Citadel of Monreale would meet, before accessing the area in which the sacred liturgical action was to be celebrated. We are talking about the people, the King and his Court, the Bishop Abbot and his monastic community.
In every design element we find an emphasis on the contributions of the geniality of the Normans and the Benedictines from Cava de’ Tirreni.

In relation to the latter, we should rightly emphasise the Nordic Norman and Eastern Byzantine inspiration. We are referring to the Cluniac architectural model of monastic settlement (church, headquarters of the abbot and the community, cloister, workshops and gardens) and the evident Byzantine inspiration, which were predominant in the creation of the internal areas of the cathedral Church, which are splendidly decorated in mosaic.  
Before concluding, we should also mention the construction of an initial nucleus of popular dwelling places, areas that were necessary for the maintenance of groups of artisans and workers, who were very busy with the construction of this masterpiece Norman royal household in a very short space of time.