Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Excerpt from Wharton's The Cruise of the Vanadis, to be published in November by Bloomsbury Press:
The Cathedral of Monreale, with Spalato and Athos, had been the chief object of my pilgrimage, and I must confess to a feeling of disappointment when I found myself face to face with it. The exterior I had not expected to like; for that exotic mingling of Saracenic and northern invention, which has produced such wonderful interiors, never, as far as I know, created a fa├žade that really satisfied the eye. The curious blending of the two styles is always interesting, and there are beautiful effects of detail in the flat wall arcades of Monreale, but the effect of the whole shows the lack of what the Germans call a Grundidee.

The interior is, of course, magnificent, but to eyes accustomed to St Mark's, it lacks depth and variety of colour; it seems to me that for this bright climate it is too much lighted. Of course I know that in saying this I am running counter to the opinion of the highest authorities; but this Journal is written not to record other people's opinions, but to note as exactly as possible the impression which I myself received. The clerestory windows of Monreale are very large and high, and pour down a flood of light upon the beautiful columns and the gorgeous mosaics; but I longed for a little shadow and mystery to break in upon the blaze of colour.

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