Monreale - 2108
The cathedral at Monreale, outside Palermo, Sicily: The story of how this splendid cathedral came into being starts when the Arabs took control of Palermo in 831. They transformed the cathedral into a mosque and banished the Bishop of Palermo from town. Some 240 year later, in 1072, the Normans drove the Arabs from Sicily, establishing Palermo as their capital and re-consecrating the cathedral.In 1174, in an act of piety, thanksgiving and commemoration of the exiled Bishop, King William II ordered the construction of a new church in Monreale, dedicated to the Virgin Mary (one of the mosaics depicts King William II presenting the church to the Madonna). Every other pair of columns is decorated with unique mosaic patterns (no two are the same) and each is topped by a floral capital. The overall effect is one of not quite perfect symmetry, but absolute perfection!