Friday, June 16, 2017

6/15 -- Monreale, Segeste, Arrive in Mazara del Vallo

We started out heading inland to Monreale, the site of a cathedral erected by the last Norman King of Sicily, William the Good (he also married the 11 yr old daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine). The cathedral is notable for both the speed of its construction and the beauty of its mosaics. It was completed in less than 15 years and is a combination of Norman and Moorish styles. It is thought that the primary artists were Arabs and that influence is obvious. The interior tells the typical bible stories in mosaics, rather than paintings, and they have maintained their brilliance since they were first created in the late 1100s.  One reason is that the artists encased the pure gold leaf in glass and then used special hammers to break it into the small pieces needed for the mosaics.
Even in the front, you can see the combination of Norman
and Moorish architechtural styles
Most of the mosaics are above the pillars.
The altar area
The pillars here were recycled from other locations and are
not all the same height or width. To compensate, they made
'trays' for each pillar, like these. If our guide hadn't pointed
it out, we might not have noticed.
The story of Adam and Eve. Here, God is creating Eve from Adam.

And here, He is introducing her to Adams. He holds her by the
wrist, like you might pull a child along.

The image on the right, Thomas Beckett,
was  murdered by knights of William's
father-in-law, Henry II.

This was William's throne. The two large panels
are porphyry, the most expensive construction
stone of the time.

The back of the cathedral has a much  more Moorish look than the front, and is decorated with Mt. Etna lava. On our way back to the bus, we sampled a mixed fruit drink and succumbed to the siren call of a reasonably priced Magnum bar.
The back of the cathedral looks quite Moorish, and the black
insets are Mt. Etna lava.
A view of the Palermo and the Tyrrhenian Sea from a Monreale
Our next stop was a pit stop, where Isabella bought us each a 'casa bella', a half-circle shaped pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate -- a truly decadent treat that we enjoyed at a picturesque overlook on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Then it was off to  lunch at an agritourismo restaurant near Segesta. The road was too narrow for our bus, so we transferred to a 20 passenger van and drove past an abandoned 5th century BCE temple that is in great condition except for the roof.  We had lunch with wine, honey, and all food that was locally grown, some at this  place and some from other local farms. It was all good and we bought a bottle of wine and jar of honey.

After lunch, it was time to head down the hill to the bus.Several folks opted for the van, but most of us chose to walk the two miles. Although it was billed as a downhill walk, my tracker recorded recorded over 900 feet of elevation gain. It was lovely in many ways, but hot (93 degrees), Fortunately there were several shady areas and we are getting better at tolerating the heat.

Some of the vinew were trellised like in Napa, but others
looked like the overhead plan we saw in Spain.
Above and below: 2500 year old temple. Due to the damage
done by Goths and Vandals, nobody knows who it was
dedicated to.
Back at the bus, Isabella gave us a list of Italian phrases as we drove to Mazara and also taught us useful gestures. We are staying at Visir Hotel, a lovely modern hotel with Moorish influences. We are looking forward to trying out the pool.

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