Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

The Cathedral of Monreal and Saint Eldrado are two churches from the same era, on opposite ends of the Italian peninsula, that share much in common and have some important differences.
Monreal, Sicily is located 15 km outside of Palermo and it’s cathedral is one of the most beautiful Christian churches in existence. Commissioned by William II (1154-89), the Norman ruler of Sicily, in 1174 the church is 102m long, 40m wide, 35m high. Its simple exterior hides the rich interior, covered with golden Byzantine mosaics illustrating bible stories. Over 2000 kilos of pure gold were used as the ground for these mosaics. Over looking the entire interior is the beautiful image of Christ Pantocrator (above).

Saint Eldrado is located in the Susa valley, one hour outside of Torino, a part of the Novalesa Abbey. Built on the ruins of an older church, Saint Eldrado was begun in the early 11th century and frescoed at the end of the century. As such, it's frescoes bear a resemblance to the images in Monreale, most notable the image of Christ Pantocrator(above). The fresco cycles themselves, which illustrate scenes from the lives of Saint Eldrado and Saint Nicola, are in beautiful condition. The Normans too, used this church, most likely before they sent out to cross the Appenines, as the abbey lies at the mouth of the passage. It is a tiny church no more than 4 meters wide by 20 long and continues to be used by the monks to this day.

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