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Title:The mosaics of Monreale: A study of their monastic and funerary context
Author(s):Duncan-Flowers, Maggie Janet
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Maguire, Henry
Department / Program:Art History
Discipline:Art History
History, Medieval
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Art History
History, Medieval
Abstract:The cathedral of Monreale in Sicily is one of the great monuments of the Middle Ages. Its upper walls and vaults are covered with an extensive and well-preserved program of mosaics, executed by Greek craftsmen in the late twelfth-century Byzantine style. King William II and his mother, Margaret of Navarre, had both political and spiritual objectives in mind when they established this great monastic complex in the early 1170's. The monks imported from the abbey of La Trinita at La Cava dei Tirreni on the Italian mainland to colonize Monreale played an important role in both aims. Most scholars in the twentieth century have focused their attention on the Byzantine and royal character of the mosaics. This study departs from previous analyses by addressing the monastic and western themes in the decoration.
The large ensemble of saints is one of the remarkable features of the mosaics. It is in this aspect of the decoration that monastic influence on the program is strongest and most direct. The monks, hermits, and stylites concentrated in the choir, apse, and side chapels stood as the paradigms of monastic spirituality, and the numerous representations of monastic bishops honored the metropolitan abbot of Monreale.
The cathedral was dedicated to the Assumpted Virgin, and thus embodied the idea of Mary's triumph over death. The Marian imagery aligned along the central axis of the church expressed a new spirituality taking root in western Europe during the second half of the twelfth century, one that emphasized a mystical devotion to the Virgin. As their model, guide, and protector, she was an integral part of the monks' spiritual life.
Monreale served as a royal mausoleum. Queen Margaret was the guiding force in establishing it as a burial church. In the funerary context, Mary, whose role in the redemptive process had been greatly expanded, represented the hope of both the royal patrons and monks that they too would overcome death and join her in Paradise. In the meantime, the monks of Monreale, molded in the Cluniac tradition, offered the queen and her family a place in their spiritual community. Their perpetual prayers for the departed founders insured the well being of their souls for Eternity.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Duncan-Flowers, Maggie Janet
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512350
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512350

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