MONREALE CATHEDRAL, INTERIOR CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CRUCIFIX

Audio File length: 2.51
English / USA Language: English / USA

The incredible Chapel of the Holy Crucifix, built in 1686 on the orders of the powerful Spanish archbishop Giovanni Roano as his place of burial, is one of the finest masterpieces of Sicilian Baroque. This extraordinary work, begun by the Capuchin friar Giovanni da Monreale, was completed by the great Sicilian architect Angelo Italia.

The whole chapel is spectacular, starting from the exquisitely decorated portal topped with the dedication of the archbishop: Al suo amore crocifisso (To his crucified love). Once you enter the chapel, you’ll be awestruck by the elaborate beauty of the decoration. The centerpiece of the chapel is the fifteenth-century Statue of Christ, placed within an elegant composition of colored marble representing the Tree of Jesse, the legendary family tree of Jesus, on the left of which you can see the statue of the archbishop kneeling in prayer.

Even the colors have symbolic value: red, the color of human passions and the blood of Christ, prevails within the chapel, enhanced by the magnificent columns, while the dominant shade in the tabernacle is lapis lazuli blue, the color of the sky and divine revelation.

Take a careful look at the endless variety of shapes and the spectacularly glistening marble. Observe how the artist’s boundless creative talent has been able to transform the materials, symbolic figures, historical and sacred characters and even the inscriptions into a fantastic, absolutely singular vision. 

Every image and every figure depicted in the chapel are symbols celebrating Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Even the floor, which has unfortunately been damaged, has a story to tell, with marble inlay work depicting Jonah swallowed by the whale. The Bible explains that Jonah had to dive into the sea to save the ship he was traveling aboard, which was struck by a storm created by the Lord because he was angry with the prophet. In the sea, Jonah was swallowed by a whale, who brought him back up again unharmed three days later. The tale is interpreted as a prefiguration of the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

An interesting fact: on your way out of the church, above the main entrance, you can see a mosaic image of the Virgin Hodegetria, the guide of pilgrims. The Latin words below addressed to the Virgin remind her to: pray for everyone, but above all to work for the king! I suspect they might have been dictated by William II: what do you think?

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