Edited by Enrica Giacobino With texts by Maria Concetta Di Natale, Lisa Sciortino
At the origin of the complex of Monreale there lies a legend in which – as always – real facts are blended with exaggerated elements. The legend has it that, whilst out hunting, the young Norman king, William II, became very tired and fell asleep in the shade of a tree. When he was asleep, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a dream and revealed to him the place where a great treasure was hidden; following this revelation, the sovereign decided to have a temple dedicated to the Virgin erected there, which is to this day still consecrated to Santa Maria Nuova. The history of the complex of Santa Maria Nuova and its cloister is closely associated with the origins of this Sicilian municipality, situated in a raised location within the Palermo metropolitan area. The cathedral and the cloister constitute an illustrious example of Norman Sicilian art and demonstrate the exceptional ability, both of those who commissioned the works and of the artisans who carried them out, to harmonise the various local influences (specifically, those from Arabia and Byzantium) with the main stylistic achievements of northern Europe.