During the Middle Ages a constant tension existed between the Church and State. It was no different here in Sicily. King Roger I was locked in a power struggle with the Archbishop of Palermo. Rather than take him on directly, he simply had a new Cathedral built in Monreale and had an ally appointed as the Archbishop. Checkmate!
I've seen enough cathedrals to last a lifetime and approached the structure with little enthusiasm. However, this Cathedral, which was built in only 15 years, is one of the most spectacular I've ever seen. The interior is entirely mosaic, primarily of gold leaf. Islamic symbols intermingle with Orthodox icons to create an unusual and very appealing style, particularly in a Catholic church. Perhaps there's a lesson here for us - cooperation vs. competition!
Our guide, Jacque is amazing. She was born in the LA area (yes, California) and immigrated to Sicily 30 years ago as a teenager. After a difficult assimilation (after all she was a teen ager), she fell in love with Sicily. She's become a local historian and has written several books. Her knowledge and passion brought her stories to life. Interested in her writings? Click this link: Jacqueline Alio.
We continued the morning with a Palermo city tour featuring the lovely squares of Quattro Canti, Piazza Pretoria, Palace of the Normans, La Martorana Church, the Cathedral and Piazza Bellini. The exotic mixture of Moorish, Norman and Spanish Baroque styles make this city special. Well, not at leisure for everyone as several of our group went to the Catacombs or otherwise explored the city.
But let us not think that Palermo is all ancient. It's a vibrant city. We are fortunate to be here during the Sherbert festival. Did I mention that ice cream (gelato) was invented here in Palermo? They know how to make it and how to celebrate their creation!
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