Entrance to Monreale’s mind-shattering Cathedral was free, so when the ticket lady at the neighboring Benedictine Cloister asked us for €6 apiece, we were expecting to be blown away. Unfortunately, we weren’t.
If you have extra time on your hands and have surplus money to throw around, the cloister might be worth a look. 216 twin columns ring the perfectly square courtyard, and no two sets are alike. Some depict men engaged in tasks like whipping each other or fishing, while others are intricate floral scenes. Every other pair of columns is decorated with colorful tiles, and the effect is decidedly Arabic.
In one corner of the otherwise uniform courtyard, there’s a beautifully carved fountain, in the shape of a palm tree, with human figures and beasts. We couldn’t get too close to it, as it was under restoration. In fact, fully half of the courtyard was blocked off, though didn’t mean that the entry fee was reduced.
For those interested in the Arabic influence in Romanesque architecture, or people who get really excited about columns (I know you’re out there), the Chiostro dei Benedettini is a must see. Anyone else might want to take a pass.
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