The Cathedral of Monreale (near Palermo, Sicily) is one of the greatest monuments of Norman Romanesque architecture. Construction began in 1174, initiated by the Norman King William II (1155-1189). It was elevated to the rank of metropolitan cathedral in 1182 by Pope Lucius III. Construction was not completed until 1267.
The entire interior of the cathedral is decorated in stunning Byzantine mosaics on gold ground from 1179-1182. They cover 6,340 square meters (68,243 sq ft) and represent the most extensive mosaic decor in Italy. King William II, the grandson of Roger II who had built the Cefalù Cathedral and Cappella Palatina in Palermo, assembled the best Byzantine artists here to create this unique interior.
The apse is dominated by the representation of Christ Pantocrator in its half-dome, the almighty and omnipotent Christ central in Byzantine and Orthodox iconography. Christ Pantocrator holds Scripture with his left hand, and his right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing. Below Christ Pantocrator (Christ the Almighty) is the mosaic of the Theotokos (Mary, the mother of Jesus) enthroned with the Christ child on her lap. Mary and Jesus are flanked by the angels and various saints and apostles. Both the placement of the Pantocrator in the only vault of this church and the Theotokos are good examples for the adaptation of Byzantine iconography to the Latin basilical church architecture.