Cathedrals in Spain- Part 1
Spain is a country with an incredibly rich history, which has spanned the rule of many different peoples and civilisations. From the Romans to the Visigoths, the Muslims to the Christians, we are incredibly lucky to still have so many ancient buildings that tell us about these fascinating periods. In this post we have chosen to look at the cathedrals of Spain, ranging from the Mudéjar inspired designs that blend both Christian and Muslim architectural concepts, to the Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic and uniquely ´Gaudí´ styles. Many of the Cathedrals are also UNESCO world heritage sites. Each building has its own distinct history and is ready for you to explore.
This is the first part of our series on the best cathedrals in Spain.
You may find something strangely familiar about the cathedral of Burgos. Its façade is undeniably similar to that of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Built in a gothic style and worked on by French and German architects, if you place an image of the Burgos Cathedral next to the façade of Notre Dame, you will see many similarities. Its style is, overall, an exemplary summary of the history of Gothic architecture.
Also a UNESCO site, the cathedral has been recognised by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage Site. For history buffs, the cathedral is the resting place of the remains of ´El Cid´, a historical Spanish figure. Inside the cathedral there is also a mechanical figure, the ´Papamoscas´, that opens its mouth and moves its arm when the bells chime.
If you´re thig about staying in Burgos and visiting the Cathedral and the Museum of Human Evolution.
Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is one of the most famous cathedrals in Spain for those that know about the ´Camino de Santiago´, or the walk of St. James. The story goes that in 830AD, on seeing some mysterious lights in the sky, a religious man stumbled across a Roman cemetery. Here, much to his amazement, he found the tomb of the martyred St. James. Seemingly blessed by this find, soon a church, a basilica, a cathedral and then finally a whole city were ordered to be built on and around this spot, creating the city of Santiago de Compostela. The Cathedral today houses the tomb of St. James in a crypt, over which you can see the main chapel.
There is an impressive censer in the Cathedral called the ´Botafumeiro´, which swings over the main aisle of the church to spread the scent of incense. Originally used to hide the smell of dirty pilgrims that arrived at the tomb of St. James, today the censer is only used for certain masses.
The cathedral of Leon is also called the Santa Maria de la Regla. This cathedral is well-known for its beautiful stained glass windows and the cathedral itself has the most light in Spain.
Many of the windows in the cathedral today are the original windows from the 13th and 14th centuries, and are extremely valuable. In total there are around 737 windows, a small number of which are huge in size and cover around 1800 square metres of stained glass. Look out for depictions of the lives of Jesus, Mary and the prophets as you gaze at their beautiful bright colours.
What most people don´t know about the Cathedral of Salamanca is that there actually 2 cathedrals, right next to each other. Due to their proximity, many people think that they are one huge building, but in fact they were built at different times and are referred to as the ´new´ and ´old´ cathedrals of Salamanca. The old cathedral was built during the 12th and 13th centuries in a Romanesque style with Gothic touches and houses Europe´s oldest organ. The new cathedral, in contrast, was started in 1513 and was finished in 1733. The new cathedral façade has scenes of the Navity spread across as decoration- see if you can spot them.
One of the most fascinating facts about the Cathedral of Sevilla is that it houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and part of the church was built with the first gold bars that he brought back with him from the Americas. Near Seville you can find the "wine Cathedrals" of Jerez de la Frontera. These are wineries that are sometimes so big, impressive and beautiful that are referred to as cathedrals by locals. A sherry wine tours from Seville can be enjoyed daily and it is a very good activity as a day tour from Seville.
Having gone through construction stages that include Gothic, Rennaissance, Mudéjar (Moorish and Christian), Barroque and Neoclassic styles, it is easy to see why this indows has been named a UNESCO ´World Heritage Site´. It is also the biggest indows in Spain and has beautiful stained glass windows.
Look out for next installment for part 2 of th best Cathedrals in Spain!
(All photos from Spain´s official tourism website, http://www.spain.info/en/)