The Best Cathedrals in Spain

A cathedral is the principal church of a bishop's diocese or seat. This list is limited to cathedrals and does not include other churches, basilicas, chapels or monasteries. Spain was a very Catholic country for centuries and many great and impressive Cathedrals were erected.

 

1. Almeria Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Incarnation was designed by the famous architect Diego de Siloe and it was built between 1524 and 1562. The church was fortified, so there are no windows on the sides of the church. This fortification was to repel frequent attacks of the Berber pirates during those times in the past. This fortified church is the only one in Andalusia and it hides many treasures inside. There are four hexagonal towers that are Baroque in design, each at one corner of the church. The style of the church is Gothic. The church was built over the ruins of a mosque, that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1522.

The main altar is beautifully done in jasper stone and was designed by Ventura Rodriguez. The altar rises to the ceiling of the church and the predominant colors one sees are white and gold. There are three large Gothic naves in the church. There is a choir with seats that was designed by the artist Juan Orea, from 1558. There are several side chapels that are very beautiful. One of them at the back of the church is done in several colors of marble, and other semiprecious stones, and this was constructed by Ventura Rodriguez. There are cloisters that are Renaissance in design and were built in the 18th century. The cloisters occupy a space which used to be the old parade ground of the fortress.

This Cathedral is similar to the Cathedral of Malaga because Diego de Siloe also designed the Cathedral of Malaga, as well as designing the Cathedral of Granada and the Sacra Capilla del Salvador in Ubeda. He was the foremost Spanish architect of his time.

 

2. Astorga Cathedral

The Astorga Cathedral was started in 1471 and completion took three centuries. It was designed as a Gothic structure, but in 1540 the architect Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon gave it a Renaissance design. The church suffered damages from the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and repair took a long time. The principal entrance to the church is impressive, with many reliefs on the walls showing miracles of Christ. The main altarpiece was created by Gaspar Becerra in 1558 and is very impressive. The church has two historic sculptures, the Cristo de las Aguas and the Virgen de la Majestad (12th century). There is also a sculpture of La Purisima by Gregorio Fernandez, dating to 1626. There is a very big museum in the church that contains many works of art and it contains the Arqueta de San Genario, a box done in silver, which was donated by Alfonso III at the start of the 10th century. The Arcon de Carriza de la Ribera is a box decorated with Romanesque paintings done in the 13th century.

 

3. Avila Cathedral

The Avila Cathedral is the first Gothic cathedral in Spain. Its construction started in 1172 and continued into the 14th century. The facade looks like a fortress because at that time there was continuous warfare with the Moors and the church had to provide refuge in case of invasion. The church started as a Romanesque church but became Gothic because it took so long to complete it. The main entrance was finished in the 18th century and features a mixture of styles. There is a pediment over the portal with a statue of the Archangel Michael over it, that was made in 1779. The turret on the left is 42 meters high and has battlements and loopholes for defense. On the north side is the Apostles Door, with sculptures of the twelve Apostles. There is the image of Christ in the middle of the tympanum and the Coronation of the Virgin in its apex.

The interior of the church follows the Latin cross ground plan. There is one nave and two aisles. The nave is 28 meters high and is separated from the aisles by Gothic pillars. The main altarpiece was worked on by Pedro Berruguete, the Maestro of Santa Cruz, and Juan de Borgoña. There are 24 panels that show the life of Jesus, the Evangelists, and the Apostles. In the center of the nave is the choir with choir stalls carved in walnut by Cornelis de Holanda, in the Renaissance style and completed in 1546. Behind the choir is the retrochoir (trascoro), with intricate reliefs that show the Presentation in the Temple, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Killing of the First Born. These were carved by Juan Rodriguez and Lucas Giraldo in 1536.

Behind the altar is the tomb of Bishop Alonso de Madrigal. The sculptor Vasco de Zarza carved it from alabaster in 1518. It shows the bishop writing and the birth of Christ. The Chapel of San Segundo has a beautiful Baroque altar and a silver urn that contains the remains of the saint. The Chapel of San Nicolas contains the Gothic tomb of Bishop Fray Hernando. The Chapel of San Andres contains the tomb of Esteban Domingo. All over the church one can see beautiful examples of funerary art.

The sacristy is called the Chapel of San Bernabe and this contains a 16th century altarpiece that is very impressive. The cloister has the Gothic design and was constructed in the 14th century and has Renaissance crenelations and 28 windows. The sculptor Vasco de Zarza worked on the cloisters. There are several tombs in this part of the church. There is also a Cathedral Museum. One of its most important pieces is the Monstrance of Juan de Arfe, which weighs 100 kilos. There are gold and silver crosses, reliquaries, and chalices. The church also has beautiful stained glass windows, with some from the 15th century.

 

4. Badajoz Cathedral

The Badajoz San Juan Bautista Cathedral is located at the Plaza de España and it is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista). The outside of the Cathedral resembles a fortress because this was where the populace took refuge during the continuous wars that involved the city. The construction work was ordered by Bishop Pedro Perez in 1232 and it was only in the 17th century that the church was completed. The building has a high tower with large windows in the top floor and the tower dates from the 15th century. The top of the church has battlements. The main door is that of San Juan Bautista, and on its top there is the image of the saint. The ground plan of the church is a Latin cross, with three naves that are quite austere. The roof has Gothic arches. Since the construction continued into the 17th century, the church has many styles, the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The choir stalls are Renaissance and the main altar has the Churrigueresque style, which was created in 1708. There are a total of 12 chapels and one of them is the Encarnacion or Fonseca Chapel, which has an 18th century altarpiece and an alabaster relief of the Virgin with the Child that was created by the artist Desiderio de Settignano, who was a disciple of Donatello. There is a Renaissance cloister that is adorned with tile and has tombs on the floor. There is a Diocesan Museum that has beautiful silverware and paintings by Luis de Morales, from the 16th century.

 

5. Baeza Cathedral

The Baeza Cathedral was built on the site of the Moorish mosque, previously a Roman temple. The church is Renaissance in style, although large modifications were made in the 16th century by Andres de Vandelvira, and it is named the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The church was dedicated in 1593. It contains a Gothic rose window from the 14th century and a beautiful choir stall. There is a Gothic cloister and has three Mudejar chapels and one Gothic chapel. The church has a tower with a square ground plan on the northwest side, that was formerly the minaret of the Moorish mosque. On top of the base is an octagonal construction that is topped with the belfry.

The south wall has a 15th century Gothic door called the Perdon Door, and this leads to the cloister. It is said that convicts who escaped from the authorities and crossed this door would be freed. There are nine chapels in the naves and among them are the San Jose Chapel, a work of Vandelvira from the 16th century, and the Golden Chapel that was founded by the Cabrera Godoy family in the 16th century.

The main chapel has a Baroque altar that was sculpted in 1619 by Alonso Rosillo and later gilded with gold. The sacristy is from the 17th century. The choir grill was made by Bartolome in 1520. The jewel of the Cathedral is the Baeza Monstrance, from the 18th century. It is two meters high, Baroque in style, and made of silver, gold, and bronze. The silversmith Gaspar Nuño de Castro (from Antequera, Malaga) was the artist who made it, and it took him 14 years to finish the work. In front of the Cathedral is the Fountain of Santa Maria, built in 1564.

 

6. Barcelona Cathedral (La Seu)

The Barcelona Cathedral uses the Catalan Gothic architecture of the 14th century. The church was started in 1298 and finished in 1448, while the main front was done in 1898 and the dome tower in 1913. The site first had a Roman temple, then a mosque, and then a Christian church before the Cathedral was finally built, under the reign of King Jaume II. The church has flying buttresses and gargoyles. The interior has slender pillars.

The interior is 83m long, 37m wide, and 25m high. There are two bell towers that are covered with Gothic pinnacles. Inside the church there are high Gothic arches. The Capilla Mayor (major chapel) has a late Gothic retablo.

There are many side chapels, but the most interesting is the Capilla del Santisimo Sacramento (the Chpel of the Most Saintly Sacrament). It contains the alabaster tomb of St. Olegarius, the archbishop of Tarragona who died in 1136. There is also the Christ of Lepanto, which Don Juan de Austria carried on the prow of his flagship during his victorious battle with the Turks at Lepanto in 1571.

From the Capilla Mayor (main chapel) has steps down to the crypt. It has an alabaster sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia, who died in the 3rd century. Santa Eulalia is the patron saint of the Cathedral and co-patroness of the city. She was the virgin daughter of an upper-class Barcelona family, and later was burned at the stake for her beliefs under the Romans.

There is a large cloister which has an inner courtyard that has many palms, orange trees and magnolias. In one corner is the Capilla de Santa Lucia.

 

7. Burgos Cathedral (Santa Maria)

The City of Burgos is famous for its very impressive Cathedral, built in the Gothic and most extravagant style. The Burgos Cathedral is the third largest cathedral in Spain, after the ones in Seville and Toledo. It was begun in 1221 and completed in the mid 13th century. It is built with white limestone that looks like marble. The two towers (84m high) were built in 1458 by John of Cologne. Above the main door, the Door of Santa Maria, is a wonderful rose window, and over this are eight statues of kings. The church is filled with many other Gothic statues, more than a hundred inside and outside the church. King Felipe II said that this cathedral seemed more the work of angels than of men.

The interior of the church is 84m long. Over the nave is an octagonal lantern that is 59m high and is a masterpiece of Plateresque art. The main chapel has a high altar that is richly gilded, made by Rodrigo and Martin de la Haya in 1580, during the Renaissance.

There is a two story cloister and on the upper floor is a large Cathedral Museum which contains many tapestries of the 16th and 17th centuries, and many works of art having to do with the church. There are beautiful gold masterpieces created by goldsmiths of the past. Among these are communion cups, processional crosses, and reliquaries. In the Chapel of Corpus Christi there is a wooden chest that El Cid (Rodrigo Diaz) left as a security for a loan. It is said that El Cid filled it with gravel and used it as collateral to trick the moneylenders. El Cid was born in Burgos and he is buried in the Cathedral, together with his wife Doña Jimena Diaz. They are found under the lantern like dome under the floor, where their names are inscribed in the floor. The cloister has a modern mural of El Cid in front of the City of Burgos, painted by the artist Candido Perez in 2007.

There is also the elaborate Golden Staircase in the north transept, built in the 1488 by Juan and Simon de Colonia. Behind the altar, at the crossing of the dome and transept, there is a design like a star that allows light to enter from above. It was built by Juan de Vallejo in 1568. It is a beautiful 8 sided star window made of stained glass.

There are 17 chapels that are filled with impressive altars and artwork. The Visitation Chapel was built in 1442, ordered by Bishop Alonso de Cartagena. The chapel contains the bishop's tomb, done in alabaster, created by Gil de Siloe. The Presentation Chapel was built in 1524 by Juan de Matienzo . It was commissioned by Canon Gonzalo de Lerma and it contains his alabaster tomb, created by Felipe de Vigarny. The Chapel of the Constables has the tombs of the Constable of Castile and his wife (Pedro Fernandez and Mencia de Mendoza), built at the end of the 15th century. The tombs were carved in Carrara marble in 1534 by the artist Felipe de Vigarny.

The Cathedral is very well organized and there are signs directing visitors where to go next. All the chapels have signs with their names. Everything important is labeled.

 

8. Caceres- Santa María Church-Procathedral

The Santa Maria Church-Procathedral was constructed over a foundation of a hermitage that dates from the 13th century, after Caceres was conquered by the Christians. The church was completed in the 16th century with thick defensive walls. The church shows a transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic. There are two Gothic facades. There is a Doorway of the Gospel that has an image of the Virgin in the tympanum. Another Doorway of the Feet contains the coat of arms of the Orellana family.

There is a Renaissance tower with three sections, a rectangular plan, and topped with torch holders. At the corner of this tower is the statue of St. Peter of Alcantara, designed by Enrique Perez.

The interior of the church has three naves with groined vaulting and chapels in the presbytery. The main altarpiece has the Plateresque style and was made of pine and cedar, and the artists of this altarpiece were Guillen Ferrant and Roque Balduque. The altarpiece was constructed between 1549 and 1555, and it does not have any polychrome. This is divided into three sections and has sculptures of the apostles. The central portion has themes related to the Virgin Mary and the early life of Jesus and His passion. The most important sculpture is that of the Virgin Mary in the center of the second section.

There is an organ that was built in 1703 by Manuel de la Viña. The sacristy has a Plateresque facade created by Alonso de Torralbo in 1527. There is a sacred art museum that has silver pieces and sacramental pieces. The Blazquez Chapel has a figure of the Black Christ, a Gothic crucifix from the 14th century. The other important chapels are the Chapel of Santa Ana from 1446, and the Chapel of San Miguel from 1551.

The church was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931.

 

9. Ciudad Real - Cathedral of Santa Maria del Prado

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Prado has the Gothic style and has been restored several times in the past using different architectural styles. There is a doorway called the Perdon doorway, which was the main entrance during the time of Alfonso X, and this is Gothic with Romanesque elements. There is a rose window that was built in the 13th century. The southern door is decorated with three coat of arms, which represent the three military orders that influenced the city. The church has only one nave, but it is the second biggest nave in Spain. The main altarpiece is huge and was built by Giraldo de Merlo in 1617. At the base of the altarpiece is the choir that was finished in 1960. To the left of the nave is the Capilla (chapel) del Santisimo, and in front of this is the Capilla Penitencial. Below the high choir is the Capilla de la Virgen de los Dolores, with a Baroque altarpiece from the 16th century. The new tower was finished in the 19th century and has four sections done in stone.

 

10. Cordoba Cathedral

The Cathedral in Cordoba is the Mezquita. This was the most important mosque of the western Islamic world and one of the biggest mosques. The mosque was built on top of an earlier Visigothic church, which they destroyed, and this was started in 785 A.D. by the Moorish leader Abderrahman I. In the 9th and 10th centuries the building was enlarged to its present size, which is 179m long and 129m wide. About one third of this area is taken by the courtyard. The perimeter of the mosque has an outer wall that is between 9m and 20m high, and with many buttresses.

When one enters the Mezquita, there is a hole in the floor in one part, and one can see the Visigothic remains. The Moors used the marble columns of the Visigothic church in their construction of the mosque. It took 2 centuries to finish the mosque, and at that time it was the second biggest mosque in the Muslim world. When the Spanish reconquered Cordoba in 1236, they built a Renaissance nave in the middle of the mosque and the mosque became the cathedral. The continued use of the church has saved the mosque from destruction, especially during the time of the inquisition. The Catholics dedicated the church to the Virgen de la Asuncion (the Virgin of the Assumption).

The most important architectural feature of the Mezquita are the double horseshoe arches, made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. There are more than a thousand columns in the church and they seem to be a sea of arches and columns to the visitor. The interior is only 11.5m high. All visitors are impressed. The Catholic section is also beautiful, and there was reconstruction for several centuries, so one also sees Baroque elements in the church. There is a bell tower (the campanario) that is 60m high, and this was built in 1593. It is crowned with the statue of the Archangel Raphael, who is the patron saint of the city. There is a choir that is very richly decorated with Baroque stalls from the 18th century. The high altar is made or red marble and has a picture by Palomino. In the Capilla Real there are nine statues of the saints by Alonso Cano and a silver tabernacle by Enrique de Arfe.

The Mezquita has a huge patio and garden filled with short orange trees, called the Patio de los Navajos (the patio of the oranges). This was used for the ablutions required by the Muslim religion. Many times the Moors would pray in the patio, so most mosques have large patios. Anyway the Mezquita is one of Spain’s most impressive monuments, one of a kind. It is considered the highest achievement of Moorish art in Spain.

11. Girona Cathedral

The Girona Cathedral is called the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Girona, and was first built in the 11th century as a Romanesque church, but was later remodeled to have a Gothic design. The facade is Baroque and was mostly finished in the 18th century. The facade work was completed in 1961. At that late date, the local sculptors Josep Bohigas, Antoni Casamor, Jaume Busquets and Domenec Fita worked on the statues that finally fit into the niches of the facade. The facade has three parts like an altarpiece, each separated by columns. Above there is a very large stained glass rose window.

The bell tower has a Neoclassic design and the layout is octagonal, and this was finished in the 18th century, although it was started in the 11th century, and it is called the Tower of Charlemagne. Beside the bell tower is the Door of the Apostles, which originally had a Gothic design from 1394, but was finished in 1975 in a Neo-gothic design.

The interior of the Cathedral has one large nave, and construction of this nave was started in the 14th century. The church has the largest nave in Spain under one vault, with a width of 23 meters, a height of 34 meters, and a length of 50 meters. Light enters the church from stained glass windows that date from the 14th and 15th centuries.

In the middle of the church is the choir, with chairs from the 16th century. One important chair used by church officials dates from the 14th century. The major altarpiece is in the middle of the nave and this has a Romanesque design from the 16th century and is made of alabaster. On top is a canopy made of silver, and with a Gothic design. There is a Chapel of Sant Pere, that can be accessed by stairs. It has very important Catalan paintings and a retable designed by Pubol in the 15th century. There is a rare church organ in the church.

The Cathedral museum is very beautiful. It is very well organized and has beautiful art work and church treasures in it. It has a very rare 11th century tapestry that is called the Tapestry of Creation, featuring many Biblical characters. This was created in the 10th or 11th century.

There is a cloister that was constructed in the 12th century, and this has a trapezoidal design, which is very unique. This has double columns that support the arches. The capitals have Biblical scenes and vegetal designs.

 

12. Granada Cathedral

The Cathedral in Granada was started in 1521 and finished in 1714. The plan of the church is in the Gothic style, but the façade and many structures in the church are in the Renaissance style. The interior has a beautiful gold and white finish. Diego se Siloe designed the Capilla Mayor, which has a 45m high dome, with a diameter of 22m. The rotunda was adorned by Alonso Cano, with paintings and sculpture.

Behind the cathedral is the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) in the Plateresque style and where Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand are buried. The entrance to this building is separate from the entrance to the Cathedral. The building was started in 1506 and finished in 1521. The chapel uses the Isabelline style and the walls have the arms of the Catholic Kings, who conquered Granada. There is a chancel that has the mausoleums of Isabella and Ferdinand, as well as those of their daughter Juana La Loca and her husband Philip the Handsome. There are marble sculptures of the four.

There is a very good art collection that was owned by Queen Isabella. Some of the Flemish and Italian artists represented are Boticelli, Roger van der Weyden and Memling. On display are Ferdinand’s sword and Isabella‘s crown and scepter. There is also a copy of the painting where the last Moorish king Boabdil is surrendering to Isabella.

 

13. Guadix - Cathedral of Saint Mary

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Incarnation was founded in 1492 by Cardinal Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, three years after the Catholic Kings conquered Guadix. It was built on top of the mezquita that used to be there and occupies the highest point of the town. The church started out as a Gothic structure but was completed in 1796 as a Baroque church, and the exterior is completely Baroque. There are three large doors to the church and a very tall tower, which was finished in the 17th century. The exterior was remodeled in the 18th century by Vicente Acero, who worked on the Cadiz Cathedral. Diego de Siloe designed the church in 1549 and he was influenced by the Cathedrals of Malaga and Granada. The main chapel was designed in the Renaissance style by Siloe. The church has three naves. At the back of the choir there is a spectacular sculpture of the Pieta, a copy of Michelangelo's statue in St. Peter's. This statue was made in the early part of the 20th century by an unknown artist. During the Civil War in 1936, the statue was broken and thrown away. Later it was repaired by the Guadix artist Maria Angeles Lazaro and now is found in the Cathedral.

The church has a beautiful choir made of walnut and was carved by the artist Torcuato Ruiz del Peral. The main altar is found under a cupola and each arch has a big painting of the life of the Virgin Mary. There are a total of ten paintings. There is an important Chapel of San Torcuato, who is the patron saint of the town. San Torcuato was one of seven disciples of St. James who came to Spain to evangelize it, and became the first bishop of Guadix and Europe. Guadix is considered the birth place of Christianity in Spain because San Torcuato converted all its inhabitants to Christianity after performing a miracle there. The chapel was executed by Diego de Siloe. The Baroque altarpiece is gilded and has a sculpture of San Torcuato made by the artist Antonio Castillo Lastrucci. The church is famous for a Monstrance created by Alonso Cano and this is considered as one of the jewels of Spanish silver work. Carlos II paid for it after his stepbrother Carlos Fernando of Austria, the canon of the Cathedral, commissioned it at the end of the 17th century.

 

14. Jaen Cathedral

The Cathedral is called the Assumption of the Virgin Cathedral and was built on the site where the mosque stood. The city was conquered by Fernando II, the Holy, in 1246. The present Cathedral was built in the late 15th century and sits on Santa Maria Square. It was designed by the architect who was a genius, Andres de Vandelvira, who designed many other monuments in the province of Jaen. The style of the church is Renaissance. The facade was designed by Eufrasio Lopez de Rojas, who also built the towers. The designer of the Sagrario was Ventura Rodriguez.

The main altar of the church sits by itself, quite a ways from the main altarpiece at the end of the church. The chapels on the sides of the church (there are 17) are beautiful because they have columns that are painted in pastel colors, to simulate marble. The tops of the columns have beautiful gold Corinthian decorations. The choir stalls date from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The main chapel has the Gothic image of the Virgen de la Antigua and the relic of the Holy Face of the Veil of Veronica. This is supposed to be one of the three cloths that Saint Veronica used to wipe the face of Christ. Juan de Aranda decorated the main chapel in the 17th century.

In the Chapter House there is the beautiful Altarpiece of San Pedro de Osma, which was done by the artist Pedro Machuca. There is a beautiful sculpture of Our Father Jesus of Nazareth, El Abuelo (Grandfather) in the Chapel of San Ferdinand.

In the lower floor there is a huge space devoid of supporting columns, that contains the art collection of the church. This collection has many important paintings and sacred art sculptures, that are quite impressive. Truly, this church is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain.

 

15. Jerez de la Frontera Cathedral

The Cathedral used to be the collegiate church (Iglesia Mayor de San Salvador) and was named as the Cathedral only in 1980. The building was built on top of the Moorish mosque in 1695 and this construction ended only in 1778. There were at least seven architects involved. The roof caved in and it had to be reconstructed in the 18th century. The Cathedral is a Gothic building that has Baroque and neoclassical elements. It has the form of a Latin cross and has five naves. It has a cupola over a hexagonal drum, which lets in a lot of light. The altarpiece is Baroque in design. There is a separate bell tower in another building, also with a mixture of styles, the Gothic-Mudejar and the neoclassic style.

The facade of the Cathedral is very impressive. It is said that it was the last Gothic church built in Spain. However it is observed that the outside of the church, as well as the inside of the church, has deteriorated very much and the whole church is in need of restoration.

 

16. Leon Cathedral

The Cathedral of Leon is also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Regla. It is 91m long and is a great masterpiece of early Gothic architecture in Spain. The Cathedral of Leon was built starting in 1255 on the order of Bishop Martin Fernandez, under the direction of Enrique de Burgos and Juan Perez. It is thought that the architecture of this church was influenced by models from northern France. There are three naves in the church. The clock tower was built in the 15th century. There is a bell tower that was rebuilt in the 17th century by Joaquin de Churriguera after it was destroyed by a lightning bolt. The church was renovated extensively at the end of the 19th century because the church had suffered a lot of deterioration from time.

The main facade is the west facade and has many beautiful sculptures. There are sculptures of the White Virgin, St. John, St. James, and St. Peter in the three doorways. Each doorway is crowned with a tympanum that has impressive sculptures too.

The interior has a large amount of light, which comes from the extensive stained glass windows.

Most of these windows are from the 13th and 14th centuries, although some are new windows that have replaced damaged windows. There are a total of 737 windows, including three large rose windows, which occupy a space of about 1800 square meters of glass. The stained glass windows depict the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as the prophets. These are the most valuable stained glass windows in Spain and some of the best in Europe. This cathedral is the cathedral that has the most light in it.

Under the main altar is a silver urn created by Enrique de Arfe from the 16th century that contains the remains of St. Froilan. Behind the altar is the tomb of Ordoño II. The choir was carved from walnut by the artists Juan de Malinas and Copin of Holland. The choir is open, which increases visibility in the central nave.

There is a Cathedral Museum that is very large and that contains a very large collection of sacred art, about 1500 pieces. There is a Mozarabic Bible that dates from 920, and written by Juan Diacono, with many miniature paintings. There are many Romanesque and Gothic sculptures of the Virgin and Child that were saved from small villages of the province. There is a wonderful crucifix by Juan de Juni that calls attention. Important sculptures from Gregorio Fernandez, Pietro Torrigiano, Salvador Carmona, Berruguete, and Gaspar Becerra are found in the collection. There are also prehistoric and Roman archaeological remains in this museum.

 

17. Logroño - Concatedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda

The Concatedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda is the main church of Logroño, built in the 15th century. There is a large plaza in front of it. The church was built over an older Romanesque church. The church was remodeled continuously until the 18th century. The main doorway has a Baroque design with three sections. The two towers were designed by Juan Bautista Arbaizar and Martin Beratua in the middle of the 18th century. The interior of the church has three naves. The main altarpiece has a Baroque design.

The church has the pantheon of General Espartero and his wife Doña Jacinta Martinez de Sicilia.

The elaborately carved choir calls attention. There is a Gothic sculpture of the Virgen de los Ajusticiados that is famous. There are two other chapels that call attention, the Chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Paz, which has a Plateresque altarpiece and the tomb of its founder Diego Ponce de Leon. The Chapel of the Kings and San Ildefonso has a Flemish altarpiece from the 16th century.

The church has a Michelangelo which shows the Crucifixion of Christ. The painting measures 1.5 by 1 foot. It is located in a burglar proof vault. Michelangelo had a very good friend named Vittoria Colonna, the daughter of the aristocrat Fabrizio Colonna. She was married to Francisco Ferrante d’Avalos, the Marques de Pescara. He came from La Rioja and was living in Italy because part of Italy was under Spanish rule. In 1525 the troops of the Emperor Carlos V fought the War of Pavia against the troops of Francis I of France and won. Francisco Ferrante d’Avalos was one of the captains of the Spanish and was wounded in the battle. Shortly later he died. His young wife was a poetess and wrote her late husband sonnets of love. In 1540 she asked Michelangelo to paint her a small painting of the Crucifixion to help her in her prayers. Michelangelo made several sketches, which are now in the British Museum and the Louvre. The painting had the figure of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. John. In 1547 Vittoria died and Michelangelo took back the painting and painted the figure of Mary Magdalene hugging the cross. This figure represents Vittoria.

Bishop Pedro Gonzalez del Castillo decided to build the Chapel of Santo Cristo in the 17th century, adjacent to the main altar. His mausoleum is included in this chapel. The bishop had a large fortune and made many trips to Rome and bought many paintings to put in his chapel. He wrote in Oct. 13, 1627, that he had bought the Crucifixion of Michelangelo. He gave orders not to hang the painting until the protective grill had been made, so the painting was placed in a chest. The painting was forgotten and was rediscovered in the second half of the 20th century.

 

 

18. Madrid - Cathedral of La Almudena

Across the square of the Palacio Real is the Almudena Cathedral. This was the church where Prince Felipe married Letizia in 2004, in a very big state wedding. Before that wedding, the church was closed for many years because the church construction was not finished. The church is dedicated to Madrid’s patron saint, Santa Maria de la Almudena. The church construction started in 1883 and the design was Neo Gothic. Construction went slowly and stopped completely during the Spanish Civil War. Construction continued in 1944 with a new architect who restyled the church as a neoclassic building, to go with the style of the nearby Palacio Real. The church was finished in 1993 and was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. The church has a lot of light and is one of the most beautiful churches in Spain, especially because of the modern designs of the big stained glass windows. There are also many side chapels with very modern sculptures and designs. Below the statue of the Virgin is a niche where the late King Alfonso XII and his wife Maria Mercedes de Orleans Borbon are buried.

The Crypt of the Cathedral de La Almudena

The crypt is a beautiful Neo-Romanesque church that was built in 1883 and finished in 1911 and the architect was the Marques de Cubas. The facade has a medieval look and three large doors. The central nave has 50 monolithic columns and the capitals of these columns have different designs. There are two other naves with a total of 365 columns. There are ten side chapels that belong to the most prominent Spanish families, many decorated with great art, with sculptures done by artists like Mariano Benlliure. There is a mural painting of Nuestra Señora de la Flor de Lys, and this is the most famous work of art in the church. The church also has the remains of Queen Maria de las Mercedes, the wife of Alfonso XII. She was denied burial in the Monastery of El Escorial in the pantheon of the Borbons because she was not the mother of a king.

 

19. Malaga Cathedral

In 1487 the Catholic Kings dedicated the Cathedral of Malaga in a building that was a mosque. In 1528 construction was started on the present Cathedral and it became known as the Cathedral of the Encarnacion, because it was dedicated to the Virgen de la Encarnacion. The architect was Diego de Siloe, and the style was to be late Gothic. The building was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 1680. Building was resumed in 1719 and construction was officially stopped in 1783, although the right tower was not finished, for lack of money. The Cathedral is called “La Manguita” (one armed woman) because the right tower is missing.

Bernardo de Galvez was a brave soldier from Macharaviaya, who became the governor of Louisiana, before the territory became French. During the American War of Independence, Galvez convinced the Spanish King Carlos III to divert the money that was going to be spent to complete the second tower of the Cathedral to help the Americans against the British. The money was spent for arms, food, medicine, and blankets. They did not send any men because they wanted the help to the Americans to be hidden from the British. This information is a result of the investigations of Marion Reder, a lady professor at the University of Malaga, who teaches Modern and Contemporary History.

Because construction took so long with many different architects, the Cathedral has three different architectural styles. The interior is Gothic, the head of the church and naves are Renaissance, and the entrance and tower are Baroque. The church is 115 meters long. The choir has stalls with carved wooden statues of saints and other figures, which number 42. These were carved by Pedro de Mena, one of Spain‘s best wood carvers of his time.

Behind the choir is a marble statue of a Pieta, done by the Pissani Brothers in Italy in 1803. There are two sculptures in wood that have been polychromed to look like marble, done by Salvador Gutierrez de Leon in 1838. They represent St. Mary Magdalene and St. John the Baptist.

There is a chapel, Capilla del Rosario, there is a statue of the Virgin with Saints done by Alonso Cano. There is another chapel, Capilla de los Reyes, that has a statue depicting the kneeling figures of the Catholic Kings, done by Pedro de Mena. There is also a statuette of the Virgin that the Catholic Kings always took with them on their crusades. The main chapel has a modern altar with scenes from the Passion.

One of the important chapels is the Chapel of Santa Barbara. The retable was done by the artist Nicolas Tiller in 1524 and is in the Gothic style. It shows the Crucifixion, Santa Apolonia, Santa Catalina, San Roque, Santa Ana with the Virgin and Child, Fathers of the Church, and the Four Evangelists. There are small paintings of the Annunciation, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, Santo Tome, San Damian, San ciriaco, and Santa Paula. This chapel also has a painting of the Assumption by Juan Niño de Guevara. There is a painting of the Ascension by the same artist.

The ceiling is very unusual because it has 23 cupolas, the only church in Spain with this feature. These cupolas have very beautiful designs of keys. Outside, the cupolas can be seen extending on the roof of the cathedral. The Cathedral has two organs from the 18th century and these have over 4,000 pipes and are still in good working condition. The church also has a fabulous domed ceiling.

The church has a museum which contains many treasures that have been donated, such as gold and silverware used in the ceremonies, as well as vestments used by the priests, and a lot of artwork.

Today some citizens of Malaga want to finish the construction of the second tower for aesthetic reasons, but there is plenty of inertia and others want to leave the unfinished tower as it is.

Beside the Cathedral there is a smaller church called the Iglesia del Sagrario. This was constructed in the 15th century on a site of a mosque. The portal has the Isabeline Gothic style and this is the only part of the original building, which was rebuilt in 1714.

 

20. Murcia Cathedral

The Cathedral of Murcia was started in 1394 on top of the old Moorish mosque, when the Bishop Fernando de la Pedrosa started its construction by laying the first stone. It was not finished until 1467 officially, but construction continued until the 18th century. It is called the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary. The styles of the church are Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, because it took many years to completely finish the church. The Baroque facade was designed by the architect Jaime Bort in 1737. It resembles an altarpiece with three sections, divided by Corinthian columns. On top of the second part of the facade can be seen the emblem of the city. The central niche has the Coronation of the Virgin. The second part has a large window and the relief of the Assumption. There are figures of the four saints of Cartagena, who were Leandro, Isidoro, Florentina, and Fulgencio. There is also the statue of Fernando III, the Saint.

The church interior is Gothic and there are three naves, an apse, and 23 chapels. Each chapel is dedicated to a different saint or a bishop or noble who helped with its construction. One of the most famous chapels is the Chapel of the Velez, after a noble family. It has the Flaming Gothic style, with a cupola of stars with ten points. The plan of this chapel is polygonal and it is adorned with the coat of arms of the Chacon and Fajardo families. Another noteworthy chapel is the Chapel of the Junterones, another noble family, which has a Renaissance design. The Chapel of La Inmaculada is also important, in a beautiful Baroque style.

The choir has impressive Plateresque chairs. The sacristy is to the left of the main altar and has a Plateresque entrance that contains the image of Faith. Beneath the main altar are the remains of King Alfonso X, the Wise, who loved Murcia and dictated in his last will that he be buried there.

There is a tower that is 93 meters high, the second highest in Spain, after the Giralda in Seville, and this took more than two hundred years to finish, being started in 1521 and completed in 1792. This involved many different architects. The first part was designed by Francisco and Jacobo Florentino in the Renaissance Plateresque style. The second part was designed by Jeronimo Quijano, also in the Renaissance style. The third part was designed by Ventura Rodriguez in the Baroque style. There is a bell pavilion that has Rococo and Neoclassical influences. There are 25 bells that were made between the 17th and 18th centuries. Each of them has a name. The largest is called the Agueda Martillo. The bells were used to warn the populace of wars and floods from the nearby Segura River.

The main door is called the Door of Pardon, and has figures of the Virgin Mary surrounded by angels. The Virgin is flanked by the figures of St. John Baptist and St. Joseph. The Door of Chains is close to the tower and dates to 1515, created with the Plateresque style. This door has three reliefs of the brothers San Leandro, San Isidro and San Fulgencio. The Door of the Apostles is to the right of the main door and was created in 1488 by Diego Sanchez, with the Gothic style. It has sculptures of the Four Apostles on the door jambs, and a shield of Queen Isabel the Catholic.

The Cathedral Museum is very good, with many ecclesiastical art objects. There is a huge monstrance that is used in processions and is a wonderful example of the silversmith's art.

 

21. Palencia Cathedral

The Cathedral of Plasencia is dedicated to St. Antolin and is one of the largest cathedrals in Spain because it is the result of many enlargements during the years. It was declared a National Historical and Artistic Monument in 1929. The church was built over St. Antolin's crypt that was in a 7th century Visigothic church. A Romanesque church was built in 1218, while the Gothic enlargements took place between 1321 and 1516. The Chapel of the Tabernacle has a spectacular Plateresque altarpiece. The Chapel of the Monument has an ostentatious altar covered in silver in a Baroque style. The church has a large number of works of art by famous artists, such as El Greco (a painting of St. Sebastian), Zurbaran, Pedro Berruguete, Valdes Leal, and Lucas Cranach. There is a wonderful life-size statue of Ecce Homo by Diego de Siloe. Gregorio Hernandez did the figure of St. Antolin in the main chapel. The church has more than 1,200 human figures in paintings and sculptures.

 

22. Palma de Mallorca Cathedral

The Palma de Mallorca Cathedral was ordered built by King Jaume I in 1230 after he conquered the city from the Moors. It was built on top of the old mosque in that place, called the Medina Mayurka mosque. The church sits on top of a small hill that has spectacular views of the bay and the fishing port below. The church is mainly Gothic, but there are several styles, since the construction continued into the early 17th century. There was a partial reconstruction after an earthquake in the middle of the 19th century damaged the church. Between 1904 and 1914, Antoni Gaudi transferred the choir to the Royal Chapel to gain space in the central nave. He also designed the wrought iron baldachin and the wrought iron rings on the pillars. Recently a giant ceramic mural by Miquel Barcelo (the most famous Mallorcan artist) was placed in one of the apses. The cathedral is considered as a jewel of Gothic art and is huge, occupying an area of 7000 square meters, and about 18,000 people fit in the church.

The main doorway has a Renaissance style and was constructed by M. Verger between 1594 and 1601. There is a very large rose window in the facade that has a high tower (62 meters high) on each side of it. The rose window is almost 100 square meters in size and is the largest Gothic rose window in the world. Over the main doorway is a statue of the Immaculate Conception that has the Plateresque style.

On the right side of the church, facing the sea, is the Portal del Mirador. This is also known as the Sea Door or Sea Viewpoint. The portal is Gothic in style and was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries. The tympanum of the doorway has wonderful Gothic bas-reliefs that show the Last Supper and above this is an engraving of the Lord with six angels. These were created by the artist Guillermo Sagrera. On the left side is the Portal de l'Alomoina. This has the Gothic style of the 15th century. Beside it is the bell tower, which has a bell called Eloi, which weighs more than 5000 kilos and marks the hours and can be heard all over the island. There are eight other bells in this tower.

The interior of the church has three naves, with the central nave being the widest. Their ribbed vaults are supported by octagonal columns that are 20 meters high. The Royal Chapel has walnut seats in the Plateresque style and a Renaissance pulpit from the 16th century, a work of J. Salas. Behind the altar is the Chapel of La Trinitat with an episcopal seat from the 13th century, made of Carrara marble. There are also the tombs of Kings Jaume I and Jaume II. There are side chapels with works of art, such as the Gothic tomb of the Bishop Galiana, created by the artist F. Camprodon in 1364. The Cathedral Museum contains the impressive cloister and the Altarpiece of Santa Eularia de Merida.

 

23. Pamplona Cathedral

The Pamplona Cathedral is a Gothic structure built in the 14th and 15th centuries over a place where there was a Romanesque church. The Romanesque church collapsed in 1390 and the Gothic church was then started four years later. The church has a Neo-Classic facade done in 1783 by the famous architect Ventura Rodriguez. The side altars are beautiful and have gold leaf overlays. There is a north tower which has the bell called Maria, which weighs 12 tons, and is the biggest in use in Spain. The floor plan of the Cathedral is the Latin Cross, with three naves, and two other naves for the chapels. The main nave is 11 meters wide and 26 meters high.

In the Chapel of San Juan Bautista there is a crucifixion sculpture that dates from the 16th century and this is one of the gems of the church. It was the work of Juan de Anchieta. There is also the image of Santa Maria la Real, which is a 12th century Romanesque carving that is gilded in silver, and this used to preside over the coronation of the kings of Navarre.

There is a Royal Mausoleum with the statues of the Kings of Navarra, Carlos III the Noble, and his wife Leonor of Trastamara. They were done in alabaster by Jehan Lome de Tournai between 1413 and 1419. There are also sculptures of 28 nobles and high church officials. Below is a crypt that has the remains of the kings and princes buried here.

There is a museum beside the Cathedral which is quite interesting. One can see the cloisters, which are considered the most beautiful Gothic cloisters in Northern Spain and the masterpiece of Gothic art in the Pyrenean region. They were built between 1286 and 1472. The cloister is arched with simple ribbing and it has an upper story. The cloisters are connected to the Barbazana Chapel, which is guarded by the images of St. Peter and St. Paul by the doorway. Inside is the image of the Virgen del Consuelo, made of polychromed stone. There is a Gothic octagonal vault over the sepulcher of the Bishop Armando Barbazan (1319-1355), to whom the chapel is dedicated. This chapel is one of the favorite places of the natives of the city to celebrate weddings. There are also many Gothic sculptures of the saints in the museum, the best collection also in Northern Spain, and these date from the 13th century to the 14th century . The museum also has metalwork and other beautiful religious objects.

 

24. Salamanca Cathedral

Salamanca has two cathedrals, the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral, and these are located side by side and connected. The New Cathedral was started in 1513 and finished in 1733. The style is a mixture of Late Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The first architect was Juan Gil de Hontañon, followed by Juan de Alava and Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon. The tower was started in 1705 and later the Churriguera brothers built the dome. The dome had to be reinforced in 1763 because of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The bell tower, called the Torre de las Campanas, was also reinforced because the Lisbon earthquake also affected it. The main facade has arcades that are decorated with scenes from the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi, created in 1661 by Juan Rodriguez.

The inside of the church follows the Latin cross plan. The interior has 5 naves with wide pillars and side altars, and the dimensions are 105m x 50m. The dome starts 80m over the floor. The pews in the choir are some of the most famous of the Spanish Baroque and were done by Joaquin and Alberto de Churriguera. There are 104 choir pews made of walnut. One organ was made in 1568 and the other in 1745. There are two famous chapels, the Golden Chapel (which contains the sculpture museum) and the Chapel of Christ of the Battles. In the treasury is the bronze crucifix that was carried into battle before El Cid.

The Old Cathedral was constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries in the Romanesque style, but there are touches of the Gothic in the interior. One has to pay a nominal fee to see it. It has 3 naves and a beautiful hexagonal dome, called Torre del Gallo. The vault has a fresco of the Final Judgment, painted by Nicholas Florentino. In its Main Chapel, there is a beautiful Gothic retable from the 15th century, considered as one of the most beautiful 15th century altarpieces, consisting of 53 panels depicting the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, divided into 5 stories with 11 columns. This was finished in 1455. There are also big cloisters that started out as Romanesque, but later were remodeled at the end of the 18th century. The church has Europe's oldest organ, installed in the Chapel of Bishop Diego de Anaya. The Chapel of San Martin has the tomb of Bishop Rodrigo Diaz and the transept has the tomb of Don Alfonso Vidal, the Canon of Salamanca.

 

25. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the most famous place for pilgrimages in Spain. Santiago (St. James) became the patron saint of Spain at that time and many pilgrims from all over Europe went to see his shrine.

The legend is that in 830 AD, a hermit named Pelayo was at a place called Iria Flavia, beside the River Arosa. One night he saw some lights over the forest near his cell. People in a nearby church also saw the lights. The Bishop Teodomiro was informed of this strange happening and he decided to investigate himself. He went there and found a Roman cemetery. He found a small tomb, which was the tomb of the apostle St. James. St. James was martyred in Jerusalem in 44 AD, but it was said that his disciples had transferred his bones to Galicia.

The Asturian kings immediately realized that the interest in St. James would lend them prestige, so Alfonso II ordered the construction of a small church where the tomb had been found. The bishops of Iria decided then to live where the church was constructed. Alfonso III decided to build a basilica at that place also.

The sensational news about the discovery of the tomb of St. James spread like wildfire all over Europe and pilgrims started arriving. The first pilgrim whose trip was documented was Godescalco, the bishop of Le Puy, and he went to Santiago in 950. The numbers of pilgrims increase rapidly and merchants soon found that they could make money on the Way of St. James. Santiago increased in size and became a city, with walls around it.

The Moorish king Almanzor destroyed the city in 997, but Almanzor left the tomb of St. James intact. In the middle of the 11th century, the Bishop Cresconio ordered the construction of new city walls.

The Cathedral was started to build in 1075 on the site of the church of Alfonso III, on orders of Bishop Diego Pelaez. It was built in the Romanesque style. Later in the 16th and 17th centuries, the church was remodeled in the Baroque style. The main front is the most splendid jewel of Galician Baroque art and was the work of Fernando de Casas y Novoa. The interior is Romanesque and is 94 m long, with a nave 24 m high and a dome that is 33 m high. The Capilla Mayor (main chapel) was built over the tomb of the apostle. The high altar is very impressive, and is made of alabaster, jasper, and silver, with many figures. Under the high altar is the crypt that contains the remains of the saint.

In the first half of the 12th century, the bishop was Diego Gelmirez, and he was the man who brought the Cathedral of Santiago to its splendor and fame in the Catholic Church. The see of Santiago became more important than that of Toledo or Tarragona. He died in 1140 and the Cathedral was almost finished at that time.

The church has a censer that is 1.5 m high, called the Botafumeiro. This is swung over the main aisle of the church during certain Masses and this ritual is very impressive to visitors. The censer was used in the past to perfume the church, since many of the pilgrims arrived quite dirty to the church, at the end of their pilgrimage.

The Cathedral Museum gives one access to the Plateresque Cloisters from the South transept. There is also the Chapel of Relics, and this contains the tombs of kings (six) and queens between the 12th and 15th centuries. On the upper floor of the cloister is a Tapestry Museum with many tapestries from Flanders. There are other tapestries made in Madrid and designed by Rubens, Bayeu, Teniers, and Goya. In another part of the cloister is an Archaeological Museum. There is a treasury area with valuable gems mounted on church chalices and many gold and silver works.

The Portico de la Gloria can be found when one enters the main door of the facade of El Obradoiro. The master builder Mateo was the one responsible for this work, which was begun in 1168 and finished in 1188. It is considered the most precious jewel of Romanesque art. The Portico consists of three archways corresponding to the nave and aisles of the church. There are hundreds of stone sculptures with figures representing the Apocalypse.

The church has a doorway on the east that is called the Puerta Santa, and this is opened only in Holy Years. A Holy Year occurs when the feast day of St. James (July 25) falls on a Sunday. The church is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.

 

26. Segovia Cathedral

The Cathedral of Santa Maria was started in 1525 and construction was finished in 1768. It occupies the highest point of the city. This is the last Gothic church built in Spain. The style is late Gothic and it replaced the old Romanesque Cathedral after it was destroyed in a fire during the uprising of the Comuneros in 1520.

The ground plan has three naves and chapels in the periphery. The architect was Juan Gil de Hontañon. The main facade has an entrance that was designed by Juan Guas. There are two other doors called the San Geroteo and San Frutos Doors. The dimensions of the church are 105 m long, 50 m wide and 33 m high at the main nave. The tower is 88 m high. The Cathedral has plenty of light and beautiful stained glass windows, many made in the 17th century.

The main altarpiece is made of marble, jasper and bronze, and is in the Neo-classic style. This was designed by Sabatini and it has a 12th century statue of the Virgen de la Paz in the center. The screens in the choir and main chapel are masterpieces of Baroque grill work. There are many chapels and one ends up in the cloister that overlooks the beautiful garden. The treasure room, or cathedral museum, is very impressive. There is a salon where the bishop meets with the priests. This is also a very impressive room in the Renaissance style, the Chapter House (Sala Capitular) with an impressive white and gold ceiling. On the ceiling beams were huge faces of men, with wings of angels. Usually angels are portrayed as children, but not here. There are fine paintings and beautiful Flemish tapestries also. Some of the artists featured are Van Eyck, Berruguete, and Morales.

There is a library collection that was donated to the Cathedral by the Bishop Arias Davila. There are two very important books in this collection. One is the Cancionero de la Catedral, which is an anthology of songs from Castile and other European countries from the end of the 15th century. The other book is the Sinodal de Aguilafuente, which was printed in Segovia by Juan Parix in 1472 and was the first book printed in Spain.

 

27. Seville Cathedral

The building of the Cathedral of Seville was started in 1401 after the destruction of the Moorish mezquita that was in that location. The legend is that it would be so large that when people saw it, they would think that the builders were madmen. The Church of Santa Maria de la Sede was inaugurated in 1507 and is the biggest Gothic church in Europe. It is also the 3rd largest church, after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London. Because the ceiling is so high, the cathedral has the largest volume of any church in the world. The church also has Renaissance and mannerist designs. The dimensions of the church are 126.18m long, 82.60m wide, and 30.48m high. The final cathedral was finished 3 centuries after the inauguration. When one enters the church, one has the sense of being very small in such a large church. The Cathedral has a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records of having the largest surface area of any church in the world.

The retable of the high altar is huge, the largest in the world. It measures 20 meters high by 18 wide. It tells the life of Christ in 28 niches. It has 189 small sculptures. There are four central scenes showing the Nativity, the Assumption of Mary, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of the Lord. The style is Gothic, but the sides are in the Renaissance style. The artists who worked on it include Pyeter Duncart (started in 1482), Jorge Fernandez Aleman, Alejo Fernandez, Roque de Balduque, and Juan Bautista Vazquez.

There are seven naves in all. The best materials and furnishings were used in building the church. This included Flemish altar screens, 75 stained glass windows, sculptured portals, wrought iron grills, marble floors, and bronze candelabra.

The choir is separated from the nave by a very large grill designed by Fray Frnacisco de Salamanca. The choir stalls were created using ebony for the most part and the style is Gothic-Mudejar. There are 67 high chairs with baldachin and 50 low seats. The artists who worked on the choir were Nufro Sanchez, Pyeter Dancart, Gonzalo Gomez, and Diego Guillen. There is a statue of the Virgin and Child created by Bautista Vazquez.

The Sacristia Mayor has the treasures of the Cathedral. Some of the paintings here are by Murillo, Goya, Valdes Leal, Roldan, Francisco Bayeu, and Zurbaran. There is also the Key of Seville, from 1248. There is a huge silver Monstrance of Arfe created between 1580 and 1587 by Juan de Arfe. This is one of the most beautiful Plateresque works of art.

The Capilla Real is a Renaissance structure in the Plateresque style, with a high dome. It has the 13th century Virgen de los Reyes, the patron saint of Seville. The legend is that Saint Louis of France gave the image to his cousin, Saint Fernando. Every August 15 it is paraded around Seville. It also contains the tombs of King Fernando III, the Saint (who liberated Seville from the Moors), and King Alfonso X, the Wise, and his wife Beatriz de Suabia.

At one corner in the front of the church, in the transept, is the tomb of Christopher Columbus, held aloft by 4 big statues of soldiers. Recent DNA analysis ( 2006) by scientists show that the remains in this tomb belong to Christopher Columbus, as they were compared to the bones of his son Fernando Colon, whose remains are in in a tomb at the west end of the nave. The bones of Diego Colon, the brother of Christopher, are also buried in Seville and a comparison was also made with his DNA, confirming that the bones in the Cathedral belong to Christopher Columbus. Hernando Columbus, son of the great navigator, bequeathed his collection of thousands of illustrated manuscripts and codices to the Cathedral. These documents form the bulk of the Columbus Library housed within the Cathedral. The library was founded in the 13th century, but the majority of its manuscripts and documents are about the discovery of America.

The cathedral has the Unesco World Heritage designation. Also it has 500 priceless works of art, such as paintings by Murillo (the Immaculate Conception and Saint Anthony), Zurbarán and Francisco de Goya.

The cloister has the beautiful Patio de los Naranjos. The garden is of Moorish origin and was built on top of the old mosque. There is an octagonal Visigothic fountain in the center that was used by the Moors for religious ablutions.

Beside the church is the Giralda, the bell tower that is the symbol of Seville. It used to be the minaret of the old mosque and was designed by Abou Yakoub and built in 1184. The Christians topped the minaret with a five-story bell tower in 1568. On top of the bell tower is a weathervane in the form of a statue of Faith, called the giraldillo (something that turns), since it turns with the wind. That is how the tower got the name of La Giralda. The platform is 70 meter high and is reached by a ramp that two horsemen could pass abreast. One can go up the tower and get a bird's eye view of the city. The total height of La Giralda is 93m. The tower has 24 bells.

 

28. Tarragona - Cathedral of Santa Maria

The Cathedral of Tarragona is called the Cathedral of Santa Maria. It was built on the site where the Roman temple of Jupiter was. This temple formed part of the provincial forum in the first century AD. In the 12th century, Bishop Hug de Cervello of Tarragona collected a large amount of money to start the construction of the church. He died in 1171, but the construction started. The Cathedral started as a Romanesque structure in the 12th century, but in the 14th century the style was changed to the Gothic. Later baroque chapels were added in the 16th century. The church was consecrated in 1331.

The main facade shows the Gothic style, with a very large rose window that is very beautiful. The wings of the church are Romanesque. The main doorway has a sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the middle column. This was sculpted by Master Bartomeu of Normandy in the late 13th century. On the flanks of this statue are 22 statues of apostles and prophets arranged in the niches of the jambs. The tympanum shows the Last Judgment.

The church has a Latin cross plan with three naves. It also has a very big octagonal dome that is 36 meters high. The main altarpiece calls attention with its Romanesque style. There are polychrome alabaster sculptures created by Pere Joan that are dated to the 15th century . The top part has episodes of the Virgin's life and the lower part shows that of Santa Tecla, the patron saint of the city. There is a choir that occupies the central space of the main nave and has chairs from Flanders from the 15th century. There is a chapel dedicated to Santa Tecla that was started in 1775 and has Churrigueresque decoration from J. Prats.

There is a beautiful cloister that has the Romanesque style and also the Gothic style. There are remains of the ancient temple of Jupiter. The sculptures in the cloister are some of the best examples of Romanesque art in Catalunya in the 13th century. There is also a Diocesan Museum that is very interesting because it has many works of church art, tapestries from Brussels, altarpieces, stone sculptures, woode carvings, gold work, wrought iron work, textiles coins, ceramics, and Roman art. The church occupies the highest point of the city.

 

29. Toledo Cathedral

The Cathedral of Toledo is one of Spain’s finest cathedrals and was built on top of a Moorish mosque. Construction took place between 1227 and 1493. The building was started when the archbishop was Jimenez de Rada and the king was Fernando III, "the Saint". The earliest architect was Alvar Martinez, who designed the French gothic style plans. He was succeeded by Petrus Petri. The church plan uses the Latin cross. There are flying buttresses on the sides of the church.

The north tower was built in 1380, is 90m high, and contains the Campana Gorda (fat bell) that weighs 17,515 kg. The tower has an octagonal body and is finished with slate. There is an unfinished south tower that has a Baroque dome. The church has three big Gothic doors with rich decorations, sculpture, and reliefs from the artist Juan Aleman. The central door is called la Puerta del Perdon, the right door is la Puerta de Escribanos, and the left one is la Puerta de la Torre.

The interior of the church is 110m long. The Capilla Mayor (main chapel) has a colossal altarpiece in the late gothic style and was made of wood that was decorated with gold leaf and also polychromed. There are four levels for the panels that represent scenes from the New Testament. This was the work of artists from Burgundy, Flanders, and Spain, who worked on it between 1497 and 1504, under the orders of the Cardinal Cisneros.

Behind the Capilla Mayor is the Transparente, a huge marble altar dedicated to the Virgin, and topped by a painted dome. “El Transparente” has a mixture of stucco, painting, bronze elements, and marble, that goes to the roof, where a hole in the roof shines light over the whole masterpiece. Narciso Tome created the Transparente at the beginning of the 18th century, and this integrated architecture, painting and sculpture to achieve dramatic effects in light. This is considered a total work of art and one of the most spectacular structures of the Baroque in Spain. It is a type of camarin, a separate and slightly raised but open structure behind the main altar. A two story altarpiece holds a sculptural group of the Virgin and Child in the center of the lower section. Above it are scenes of the Last Supper and the Eucharist. An opening in the vault allows a ray of light in, suggesting a view into the open heavens, represented by as hosts of angels and saints flooded in heavenly light.

There are more than 750 stained glass windows from the 14th to the 16th centuries, made by the best artists of those times. Below the Transparente is the Chapel of the Santo Sepulcro, where the remains of Santa Ursula are kept. She became a martyr in the 4th century.

The Cathedral is also famous for the wooden choir, carved by famous artists. The choir is located in the center of the main nave. The choir has many beautifully carved chairs. The inner chairs have the gothic style and show reliefs of the conquest of Granada by the Catholic Kings, and were the work of Rodrigo Aleman. The outer chairs have the Renaissance style and were done by Felipe Bigarny and Alonso de Berruguete. Above the choir are two organs.

There is a Sala Capitular (Chapter House) at the end of the church. To enter this room, one passes a magnificent Mudejar door made in the 16th century. The room has a beautiful Mudejar ceiling made by D. Lopez and F. de Lara in 1508.

There is also a treasury, where one can see gold and silver treasures, studded with jewels, that are used in the Masses. The treasury is located in the chapel below the tower. There is a magnificent Monstrance that was made by Enrique de Arfe, which is composed of many pieces that were fitted together in a gothic filigree style of gold-plated silver. This Monstrance is 2.5 meters tall and weighs 172 kilos. Inside is the Monstrance of the Sacred Way that is made of solid gold and belonged to the Catholic Kings. Once a year the Monstrance is paraded around the city during the procession of Corpus Christi. There is also an exhibition of the vestments used by the priests, bishops, and cardinals.

Another room contains paintings by Goya, Van Dyck, Zurbaran, Titian, Rubens, Bassano, Morales, Caravaggio, and 16 paintings of figures of the Apostles by El Greco. Juan de Borgoña painted the frescoes that decorate the walls of the Chapter House and Lucas Giordano painted those at the ceiling of the Sacristy. The church has large cloisters with frescoes by Francisco Bayeu and Maella. Beside the sacristy is the Capilla del Sagrario (Chaperl of the Tabernacle), covered with a cupola and dressed with marble. This contains the old image of the Virgen del Sagrario, the patron saint of the city.

The Toledo Cathedral is the second largest cathedral in Spain, after the one in Seville, but it is considered the most important church in Spain because of its history and because the most important Catholic prelates have resided in Toledo over the ages. Toledo was also the capital of the Catholic faith in Spain.

 

30. Tortosa Cathedral

Tortosa is a city founded by the Romans. It used to be on the coast, along the River Ebro, one of Spain’s principal rivers. After 2,000 years, it is now about 30 kilometers inland because of silting at the mouth of the river. The principal sight here is the Gothic cathedral, started in 1158. The name of the cathedral is the Cathedral of Santa Maria, and is considered as one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Spain. The church is located where the Roman forum used to be. Later a Visigothic Cathedral took its place, followed by a mosque.

The Romanesque Cathedral was built between 1158 and 1178. The Gothic Cathedral was started in 1347 and continued until the middle of the 18th century.

The church has additions that are baroque in style, because many of these churches took several centuries to build. The Baroque facade was designed by the architect Benito Dalguayre and dates from the 18th century. There are three naves with chapels between the buttresses. There is a 13th century cloister that is attached on the south side and the access is via the Olivera door. There is an impressive main altarpiece with 14th century paintings. What is interesting is that there are no walls between the chapels.

The most beautiful chapel is the one dedicated to the city's patron, Mare de Deu de la Cinta. This chapel was built between 1672 and 1725. It is a wonderful example of the mature Baroque style, which used architecture, sculpture, and painting to achieve theatric effects. The choir stalls call attention with their beauty. Besides these, there is a cloister that has Romanesque and Gothic decoration.

There are rooms from the former Augustinian convent that was founded in the 12th century that has a permanent exhibition. There is stone epigraphy that dates from the Roman, Visigothic and Arabic times. There is a tapestry of the Holy Supper and the Transfiguration altarpice that was created by the school of Jaume Huguet. There are also samples of religious art with clothing, painting, sculpture, furniture, manuscripts and gold jewelry.


31. Valencia Cathedral

The Cathedral was built on the site of a Moorish mosque, which in turn was built over a Visigothic church. The first cathedral was early Gothic, but later additions were Romanesque and Baroque, so it is really a mixture of styles. The construction started in 1262 and lasted until the 18th century. The predominant style of the church is Gothic because the major part of the construction happened in the 14th and 15th centuries. The German Conrad Rudolphus added the very decorative Baroque facade of the main entrance in the beginning of the 18th century. Later in the same century, the pointed arches were rounded and covered with Gothic columns with Corinthian pillars.

There is an entrance on the Plaza de la Virgen, and the door is called the Puerta de los Apostoles (the Door of the Apostles). This dates from 1357 and the style is Gothic. It is adorned with statues of the twelve Apostles, and is profusely adorned. On top there is a very large rose window from the 14th century. In front of this door the Tribunal de las Aguas (the Water Court) meets every Thursday at noon. This court was founded by the Caliph of Cordoba in 960 and it arbitrates disputes having to do with the distribution of water from the Turia River in the fields of Valencia. The court consists of eight rural workers who are chosen every two years by the farmers. The hearing is conducted in the Valencian language. The other major door is called the Puerta del Palacio, and is a Romanesque door from the 13th century. It also has Mudejar elements.

The Miguelete Tower is beside the church and is an octagonal tower that is 65 m high. The style is Gothic, having been constructed by the architect A. Julia in 1381, and finished in 1429. Its name comes from the largest bell, which was baptized on the Feast of St. Michael in 1418. This tower is one of the emblems of the city. The tower (also calle Micalet) has 207 steps that can be climbed and the top gives spectacular views of the church and the city.

The interior of the church consists of three naves. On the sides of the church are beautiful chapels. There are two famous Goya paintings in the San Francisco de Borja Chapel. One painting is "San Francisco Bids his Family Goodbye", and the other is "The Condemned".

The Chapel of the Holy Grail has a beautiful vault with star motifs and images of the twelve Apostles and the coronation of the Virgin Mary. There is a goblet from the first century AD, which is called the Holy Grail. The legend is that Jesus used it to institute the Holy Eucharist. It was hidden in a monastery in Aragon during medieval times and brought to the Cathedral in 1437. The

Holy Grail has an ancient stone cup that is attached to a medieval stem and base. The cup is made of dark brown agate and measures 6.5 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide. The stem is made of gold and has an alabaster base that is decorated with pearls and precious stones.

The main altar has the Altarpiece of the Resurrection, a work of the Renaissance and made of alabaster. It has the image of the Virgen de la Cadira (Virgin of the Chair) in polychromed alabaster. This dates from the 15th century. One of the chapels has the Crucifix created by the artist Alonso Cano. Behind the altar is found the arm of St. Vicente Martyr, who is the patron saint of Valencia.

 

32. Valladolid Cathedral

King Philip II was born in Valladolid and in 1580 he asked Juan de Herrera, the architect of El Escorial, to build the cathedral in Valladolid. Philip II died in 1598 and the work stopped for 18 years. Later Alberto Churriguera was told to restart the construction and his design for the exterior was more flamboyant than the previous design. The design of the interior is more sober and that was the design of de Herrera. The main altarpiece was finished in 1551 and is quite beautiful, with its gold color and extraordinary sculpture. This was made by the famous artist Juan de Juni. The diocesan museum is beside the Cathedral and is quite big and has many valuable religious art pieces that were made by famous artists. There are many scCathedral of Valladolid - King Philip II was born in Valladolid and in 1580 he asked Juan de Herrera, the architect of El Escorial, to build the cathedral in Valladolid. Philip II died in 1598 and the work stopped for 18 years. Later Alberto Churriguera was told to restart the construction and his design for the exterior was more flamboyant than the previous design. The design of the interior is more sober and that was the design of de Herrera. The main altarpiece was finished in 1551 and is quite beautiful, with its gold color and extraordinary sculpture. This was made by the famous artist Juan de Juni. The diocesan museum is beside the Cathedral and is quite big and has many valuable religious art pieces that were made by famous artists. There are many sculptures that are very beautiful. One of the best is the Grief Over the Dead Christ, which has eight figures, one of them the Virgin Mary, that are grieving over the figure of the dead Christ. All of the figures are polychromed with beautiful colors and the sculptor was Francisco de la Maza. The art collection really overshadows the architecture of the church.

ulptures that are very beautiful. One of the best is the Grief Over the Dead Christ, which has eight figures, one of them the Virgin Mary, that are grieving over the figure of the dead Christ. All of the figures are polychromed with beautiful colors and the sculptor was Francisco de la Maza. The art collection really overshadows the architecture of the church.

 

33. Zamora Cathedral

The Zamora Cathedral's construction started in 1151 and it was consecrated in 1174 by the Bishop Esteban, who had the church built. The tower was finished in the 13th century as a defensive tower, with a height of 37 meters with five floors. The church is surrounded by the old walls of the city and is known as one of the best Romanesque churches in Spain. There were several Gothic features added later and a cloister in the style of Juan de Herrera. There are three naves in the church. The main door is called the Bishop's Doorway and has an austere style. The workshop of Juan de Bruselas carved the choir stalls in 1505, which are very impressive. The main chapel has a sculpture of Nuestra Señora de la Majestad, which shows the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. This sculpture is exceedingly beautiful. The Chapel of San Juan Evangelista has the tomb of Juan de Grado, carved in stone with incredible designs. The Chapel of San Bernardo has a sculpture of Cristo de las Injurias, which shows a crucified Christ, but the artist is still unknown. The museum contains 20 tapestries of an extraordinary quality, with vivid colors and beautiful designs.

 

34. Zaragoza La Seo Cathedral

The Cathedral in Zaragoza is a Gothic-Mudejar church dedicated to San Salvador and was built between 1119 and 1520 where a mosque stood before. The church has two lateral aisles, a main doorway done in 1795, a dome over the crossing from 1520, and a slender tower from 1686.

The cathedral has recently been restored and is quite impressive. The church is huge and everything inside is white. There are additions in Baroque and Plateresque styles. The high altarpiece or retablo (retable), is made of alabaster and has much gold and was done by the German Renaissance sculptor Hans of Swabia, and this is very impressive. They play very relaxing Gregorian music all the time in the church, and the music keeps visitors quiet.

All over the church there are lighted panels that explain every feature of an altar or sculpture, giving its history and importance in the art world. This explanation is very useful for the tourist. Besides that, the church is filled with light. Many of Aragon’s kings and queens are buried in this church. The Unesco in 2001 declared the church as a World Heritage site.

The Cathedral has a Treasury that is very rich and on the first floor there is a Treasury Museum that has 30 very valuable tapestries, some from the 15th century. There is a chapel dedicated to San Pedro de Arbues, who was an inquisitor and was murdered in the church in 1485 as he was praying. Apparently the Inquisition was not popular in the city. He was canonized in 1867.