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Town Wall Museum


Salvador and Santa Maria Cathedral
Located in the old quarter in the centre of Orihuela, the Holy Cathedral Church of the Saviour and Saint Mary was originally constructed as a Parish church on the site of the Aljama Mosque at the beginning of the 13th century. In 1281 it became the main church for the area and in 1510 Pope Julius II awarded it cathedral status although it represented the Dioceses of Orihuela and Cartagena with the one Bishop presiding over both. It was not until 1564 that a post of Bishop of  Orihuela was created and the Bishopric was consecrated in 1597. 
Constructed in the Catalan-Gothic style, the building has a Latin cross plan and includes a nave consisting of three aisles with the centre one being slightly taller than the two flanking ones; something which has restricted the size of the windows and consequently the amount of light that can enter the building. 
The cathedral also has an ambulatory (cloister) and a number of chapels which are supported by a series of buttresses. The great chapel, and the ambulatory were added in the late 15th /early 16th century. This involved the removal of two pillars from the nave in order to create a taller vault at the crossing.
Construction was undertaken in four distinct phases. Construction in the Gothic style took place in the late 13th to mid-14th century when the towers and aisle were constructed, and from mid-15th to early 16th century when the crossing, main altar, apse, old chapter rooms and the ambulatory were added.  In the later 16th century, the Portada de la Anunciation and the chapels next to the tower were constructed: the tower dating to the end of the 13th century. Consisting of four floors, the third was used to house the bells but these where later moved to the fourth floor when it was added to the tower. The pinnacles were added in the 18th century, taking it to a height of 28 metres. The sacristy and communion chapel were also added in the 18th century.
The cathedral has three entrances; the main one is called the Door of the Chains, its name coming from the bollards that carry chains to mark out a small area in front of the building. This dates from the 14th century, when sanctuary was claimed by those wishing to avoid being apprehended by the legal authorities. They had only to cross the chained area for protection.
The Door of the Musicians on the south side dates to the mid-15th century and consists of a flat arch which replaced the original mullion in 1580. It contains a number of sculptures depicting angels playing musical instruments, which is how the doorway derived its name.
The third doorway, the Portada de la Anunciation, is on the northern side and is flanked by chapels on either side. It portrays a triumphal arch with its semi-pointed arch.  Above the arch is a figure of the young Christ with the Virgin Mary and Archangel Gabriel on either side. This doorway dates to 1588.
The cloisters were first built in 1377 but were altered in 1560.  In the centre is a Gothic cross which is a copy of the original which is now held at the Museum at Denia, the place where the cross originally came from. Two of the aisles open to the street while on the north-west there is a passageway leading into the cathedral. 
Inside the cathedral is the large Baroque organ dating to 1733 while the lectern dates from the 15th century. The seats, in front of the main altar are carved walnut dating from 1716 to 1718. Carved on the back of the seats are scenes from the bible.  The choir is closed off by a Plateresque screen mounted on a stone base of sculpted human faces.  In front of the screen is the coat of arms of Carlos V. Also to be found are two pulpits made of wrought iron which were gold plated.
The main altar is surrounded on three sides by screens which are Gothic or Renaissance in style and date from 1549. The main chapel was originally of Gothic style but in the 19th century it was redesigned in the Neo-Classical style only to be returned to Gothic in 1942 following damage sustained in the Civil War.  The cathedral also displays a number of religious artefacts.  


To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.



              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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