This is the second installment of our series ´Cathedrals in Spain´, in which we highlight the fantastic cathedrals of Cádiz, Zaragoza, Toledo, Barcelona, Valencia, Cordoba and Granada.
The cathedral of Cádiz is well-known for its huge yellow dome, which together with the light colored stone of the building, contrasts the almost always sunny blue sky of Cádiz.
The cathedral took 116 years to complete, and over this time changed hands and styles. Starting with a baroque style, it was finally finished with neoclassical touches. In contrast to the cathedrals of northern Spain, here you can see an example of Moorish influence on the architecture. Cadiz is one of Spain´s main wine-producing regions. Sherry wines are produced in Cadiz in the sherry wine region and some of the local wineries are called “wine cathedrals” due to their size and beauty.
The Cathedral of Zaragoza is a Gothic-Mudéjar cathedral that mixes Christian, Muslim and Gothic styles to interesting effects. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it houses a Treasury and a Treasury Museum, where you can see some very valuable 15th-century tapestries.
Many of Spain´s most important Kings and Queens are buried in this cathedral, making it a place to visit for those who are interested in Spanish history or the Middle Ages. There is also a special chapel dedicated to Pedro de Arbues, an unlucky member of the Spanish inquisition who was murdered in the church whilst he was praying.
Given that Toledo is the ´city of 3 cultures´, it is not surprising that the cathedral of Toledo was built on top of a Moorish Mosque. Once the centre of the country and the capital of the Catholic faith in Spain, the cathedral in Toledo is seen to be hugely important.
Although it is not the largest cathedral in Spain, it comes a close second, and is full of interesting historic pieces. As well as beautiful wooden panels carved to show scenes from the old testament, there is a treasury filled with solid gold pieces studded with jewels, beautiful choir stalls and elaborate frescoes. For those that like art, and have come to Toledo following the artistic presence left by the famous artist ´El Greco´, there is a room entirely dedicated to works by Goya, Zurbaran, Van Dyck, Bassano, Titian, Rubens, Morales and Caravaggio, plus 16 paintings of the apostles by the man himself, ´El Greco´.
If you´d like to join us on our Toledo Tour from Madrid, you can find out more about Toledo and the fantastic wineries nearby.
The Sagrada Familia is probably the most famous cathedral in Spain for tourists, not least because of its unique and captivating design that sets it apart from many of the other cathedrals seen across mainland Europe.
Designed by the famous architect Gaudí, whose name is today almost synonymous with ´Barcelona´, this cathedral was taken over by Gaudí and had its design changed after it was approved by the Pope. Begun in 1882, the construction of the cathedral continues according to the original plans but is funded by the public. As each era before us has used its best techniques and materials to construct large buildings such as cathedrals, the same is true of today with the most up-to-date modern techniques being employed to finish this incredibly unique religious building.
There are also other religious buildings to see in Barcelona, such as the Catalan Gothic cathedral ´La Seu´, which offer more traditional architectural styles. Local wineries south of Barcelona in the region of Penedes are sometimes called wine cathedrals. The best example of this is Codorniu and its main building. Wine tours run daily from Barcelona to Penedes.
The cathedral of Valencia holds something special for both the Christian and the scientific community: one of the holy grails. The ´Holy Chalice´, studded with jewels, is supposedly the chalice used by Jesus at the last supper. Featured in a medieval painting of the last supper at the Prado museum in Madrid, the cup part of the chalice has been dated by scientists to around 100 – 50 BC in Egypt or Palestine. The handles of the cup, along with jewels, were added later, potentially throughout the Middle Ages. Whether you believe that this is the cup was used by Jesus himself or not, it is an incredibly valuable item for the studies of history, archaeology, science, culture and art.
The cathedral itself has many other historical pieces to see, such as paintings and sculptures around the cathedral, as well as a small museum area and a shop to buy mementos. It is also a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The cathedral in Cordoba is actually a mosque-cathedral. Although once used by both faiths, Muslims are currently not permitted to pray in the mosque. It is hoped that this will change in the future.
The most symbolic and well-known part of the mosque-cathedral is the prayer hall of red and white arches, where you will find (at the end of the room) the stunning horseshoe arched mihrab, or wall that signals the direction of Mecca for prayer. This is covered in beautiful gold script and gorgeous colours, a truly stunning piece to see in real life. Above the arch is an equally stunning dome, which in fact anticipates later Gothic rib vaulting way before its time. The mosque-cathedral is an example of the Muslim world´s extraordinary ability to embody the Muslim faith so intrinsically into the architecture, that it can be considered Islamic in style even today.
The Cathedral of Granada was built after Granada was conquered by the Christians, and, perhaps symbolically, was chosen to be built over the site of an ancient Mosque. Construction began under the watchful eye of the Old Gothic architect Enrique Egas, until five years later, when the project was taken over by a new architect, Diego of Siloam, who decided to change the style to Renaissance.
Skilful in his craft, Diego managed to build a Rennaisance cathedral on Gothic foundations. Although only one of the two planned towers could be built and has to be lowered due to the strain on Gothic foundations, the cathedral today is a beautiful cathedral of pure white stone and golden details.
Enjoy exploring these fantastic cathedrals on your trip to Spain!
All photos come from Spain´s official tourism website, http://www.spain.info/
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