Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Archdiocese of Monreale

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Archdiocese of Monreale

by Umberto Benigni


Monreale, in the province of Palermo, Sicily, on the skirts of Mount Caputo. The city is built in a commanding situation over the port of Palermo. It was a pleasure resort of the Norman kings, to whom it owes its foundation. In 1167 William II built there the church of Santa Maria Nuova, with its adjoining monastery for the Benedictines of Cava dei Tirreni- most superb monastic building of the Benedictine Order in Europe, famous for its cloister and its graceful Moresque colonnade. At the present time only the lower portion of the convent is in the possession of the monks. The church (now the cathedral) is the noblest in Sicily, though the portico of its façade has been restored in a Style not in harmony with the remainder of the building. Its bronze doors, the work of Bonanno of Pisa (1186), are notable, as are also the arabesques of the portals. The interior has three naves, and the columns of Egyptian marble have foiled and figured capitals, each different from the others, The apse and the lateral walls are covered with beautiful mosaics, representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The high altar is covered with worked sheets of silver (seventeenth century) and in a chapel to its right, are the tombs of William I the Wicked and of William II. The chapel of Saint Benedict contains sculptures by Marabitti (eighteenth century). In 1811 a fire destroyed the roof, which was restored in a way to leave the rafters exposed to view. On the mountain beyond the city is the monastery of San Martino of the Cassinese Benedictines, whose church is rich in works of art; farther on is the castle of San Benedetto, built by the Saracens. In 1174 the abbey of Monreale was declared a "prælatura nullius"; two years later its abbot was vested with the title and jurisdiction of a bishop, and in 1182 he became the metropolitan of Catania and of Syracuse. At first the archbishops were elected by the monks, but were not always Benedictines; since 1275, however, the election has been reserved to itself by the Holy See. In time Girgenti and Caltagirone also became suffragan to Monreale; but Syracuse, in 1844, and Catania, in 1860, became archiepiscopal sees. The former having become the Metropolitan of Caltagirone, Monreale received the new Diocese of Caltanisetta (1860), which see and Girgenti are now its only suffragans. Among the archbishops of this see have been Cardinal Giovanni Proccamazza (1278); Cardinal Aussio Despuig de Podio (1458); Cardinal Pompeo Colonna (1531); Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici (1532); Alessandro Farnese (1536); Ludovico de Torres (1584), founder of the seminary; Cardinal Vitaliano Visconti (1670); Cardinal Traian d'Acquaviva d'Aragona (1739). From 1775 to 1802 Monreale and Palermo were united. The archdiocese has 30 parishes with 228,600 inhabitants; 352 secular and 66 regular priests; 26 convents of men and one of women; three educational institutes for male students and three for girls.

CAPPELLETTI, Chiese d'Italia, XXI (Venice, 1857); LELLO, Historia della chiesa di Monreale (Rome, 1596).

U. BENIGNI.