The New Cathedral

The Seu Vella (Old Cathedral) was abandoned in 1707 and turned into a military barracks, so its functions had to be taken at the Church of San Lorenzo. During the reigns of Felipe V and Fernando VI, Lleida had no cathedral. It was Carlos III who became aware of this anomaly and decided to finance the construction of a new cathedral. Work on the New Cathedral was started by the military engineer Pedro Martin Zermeño in 1761 and finished in 1781, consecrated in that year by Bishop Juan Antonio Sanchez Ferragudo. The church was built in the Baroque style and the main entrance is topped with the coat of arms of the Borbon Dynasty. Bishop Sanchez Ferragudo financed many artistic works by famous international artists to adorn the church. 

The year of the inauguration, the New Cathedral had a fire and the main altarpiece created by Joan Adam was lost.  In 1808 during the War of Independence, the church was burned by the French army and the important liturgical objects made of silver and gold were stolen. The bishop ordered liturgical objects from the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona de les Monges to be transferred to the New Cathedral. However there was more bad luck during the Spanish Civil War with another fire that destroyed all the adornment in the church and its Baroque choir. In 1936 the cathedral again went to the Church of San Lorenzo. The church was again restored and reopened in 1955.

Today one finds that the main nave and two side naves are lined with slim Corinthian columns that support rounded arches. There is a staircase that goes to three arched doorways that have iron gates and the doorways are flanked on each side by towers. There is a sculpture of Our Lady of Montserrat (the patron saint of Catalonia) created by the artist Josep Obiols. Pilgrims visit this image on April 27 every year.

There is an interesting statue of the Virgin in the church, and this statue is called la Verge del Blau. The legend is that the sculptor working on the uncompleted statue went on a trip and one of his disciples finished the sculpture without any problems, with a better quality than the original sculptor. This sculptor got so mad that he threw a hammer and hit the statue on the forehead and bruised it. Blau means a bruise. 

The New Cathedral has the Chapter Archive, which is the richest ecclesiastical archive of Catalonia, with a collection of 13,000 books, 16,000 parchmments, and a great number of codices and manuscripts. The jewel of the collection is the Lleida Bible, an illustrated codex, the largest of the old Spanish bibles in existence.