Sagrada Família or the church of The Holy Family is sometimes referred to as Gaudi’s Cathedral after the architect who gave it its unique design, Antoni Gaudi; although it is not a cathedral. The decision to construct a church in Barcelona dedicated to the Holy Family was taken in 1874 by Josep Bocebella. In 1881 the land was purchased and the following year on March 19, the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Barcelona.
Gaudí had moved to Barcelona to study architecture in 1868 and had to work as a builder to help finance his studies and had started to work on the Church. In 1883 Gaudi started to lead the construction when the previous architect, Francisco de Paula Villar, resigned over a disagreement over the design and costs. Originally the design was to be Neo-Gothic with square towers but Gaudi changed the design in 1898 to incorporate high round towers and detailed sculpture formations depicting the teachings of the Gospels. During his life Gaudi created many unique buildings but worked on the Sagrada Família for over 40 years. After 1914, he devoted himself exclusively to the building. He died in 1926 after being hit by a tram and is buried in the Crypt of the Sagrada Família.
When completed the Church will have three façades; the Nativity façade was constructed between 1893 and 1930 and has three porticos, Hope, Faith and Charity. Around the façade are figures depicting the story of the birth of Christ, above are four tours dedicated to Saint Matthias, Barnabas, Jude and Simon. The Passion façade was began in 1952 according to the instructions and drawings left by Gaudí. It is in stark contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade in that it is plain and austere and shows the crucifixion with figures in very angular form. The façade also has three porticos which are supported by six large and inclined columns, and four towers dedicated to the apostles James, Thomas, Philip and Bartholomew, these were completed in 1976. The sculptures were begun in 1987 and are at three levels they depict scenes from Christ’s last night before the crucifixion, Calvary and his death, burial and the resurrection. The largest and most striking facades will be the Glory Façade. Construction on this started in 2002 and will provide access to the central nave. It is dedicated to the Glory of Christ and represents the road to death, judgment, glory and God. Its most striking aspect is its spindle-shaped tall towers, a total of 18, a number of which, including the ones dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to Christ have still to be constructed.
The plan of the church is set out as a Latin cross and has five aisles with the central nave having a height of 45 metres. The interior columns were inspired by nature in that they are based on the form of a tree. Also contained within the church are workshops, a museum and a souvenir shop. Although it is not due to be completed until 2026 it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7th 2010.
Located in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Park Güell is a garden complex with architectural elements designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built from 1900 to 1914. Covering an area of over 17 hectors it is one of the largest architectural works in south Europe.
The park was originally intended to be a residential complex and consist of 60 luxury houses. The idea for the site was that of Count Eusebi Güell, after whom the park was named and was based on the English garden city movement.
Güell appointed Gaudí to draw up plans for the developing and work started in October 1900 with the dividing the site into levels, by January 1903 the two entrance pavilions had been constructed, as well as the main flight of steps, the refuge shelter for horse-drawn carriages, the outer enclosure, the viaducts, the water evacuation system and part of the great esplanade. By 1907 events were being held in the great square and the intended covered market, with its forest of fluted columns. Its roof forming a vast terrace with a view of the city. The tiled bench in the form of a sea serpent with curves that form a number of enclaves, creating a social atmosphere was completed in 1914.
The first person to buy a plot in the Park, in 1902, was a friend of Güell and in 1904 a show house was built to encourage sales. Unfortunately no sales occurred so in 1906 Güell persuaded Gaudí to buy the show house which was to become his family home until 1926. It contains original works by Gaudí and since 1963 it has functioned as the Gaudi House Museum and in 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest. In 1907, Eusebi Güell converted the old mansion (Casa Larrard) that was already on the site into his residence.
The buildings were designed with fantastically shaped roofs with unusual pinnacles. Roadways were constructed using local stone and as structures jutting out from the steep hillside or running on viaducts, with separate footpaths in arcades formed under the structures. The structures echo natural forms, with columns like tree trunks supporting the vaulting designed as branches under the roadway.
The failure of the plots to find buyers led to the works being abandoned in 1914, with only two of the sixty houses envisaged having been built. However, it did become a tourist attraction and Güell allowed it also to be used for public events. In 1923 it was handed to the city of Barcelona.
Located in the region of Catalonia on the East coast of Spain, Tarragona is approximately 60 miles (98 km) from Barcelona. The city dates back to the Phoenicians when it was called Tarchon. During the Second Punic War, (218 – 201 BC) Tarragona was taken by the Romans and became the main military base in Hispania. Over the next 200 years it was used as the base in the conquest of the whole of the Iberian Peninsula and was the Capital of Hispania Citerior, which later became Hispania Tarraconensis, one of Rome’s two colonies on the Iberian Peninsula and the empire’s largest province; at that time the city was known as Tarraco. Around 45 BC Julius Caesar granted the town the title of colony and during the Cantabrain Wars (29 -19 BC) the Emperor Augustus stayed in the city (26 – 25 BC), ruled the Empire from it and made it a Colonia, which was the highest rank of Roman city.
During the 1st and 2nd centuries Tarraco underwent a period of growth. This period saw the enlargement of the forum and public baths and the construction of many of the buildings, the ruins of which remain today. The construction of the provisional forum and the circus also occurred during this period. The circus, the place of chariot races, was 190 metres long and although it has largely disappeared, the turn at the eastern end can still be seen with an illustration on a wall overlooking the site showing how it would have looked. To be seen clearly at this site are the concrete vaults which supported the circus. Running along the centre was the spina, a dividing wall containing statues, fountains and the counter to mark each lap. Also built at this time was the amphitheatre which is found just outside the town by the sea and it was during excavations in 1953 that an early Christian church was discovered.
The crisis affecting the Roman Empire during the 3rd century did not spare Tarraco and it was invaded by the Franks and Alemanni, although it did recover during the 4th and 5th centuries under the Visigoths. It suffered significantly during the Moslem invasion of 716 and as it was in the area that separated the Moslems and Christians, this prevented its’ recovery until the 11th and 12th century. In the mid-14th century the city once again went into a period of decline due to the arrival of the Black Death which killed 25% of the population, this in turn led to severe economic problem which was to continue throughout the 15th century before the situation was to improve.
The city then underwent periods of prosperity that coincided with those of the Kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon; these resulted in the construction of the great architecture which can be seen from the medieval period. During the Napoleonic Wars (1803 – 1815) the city was sacked by the French following a siege in 1811.
Still surrounded by the Roman wall on three sides is the old quarter where most of the historic monuments are located. Most of the area within this was in Roman times occupied by public buildings, although it did not just prosper in the Roman period but also during medieval times and periodically in the years that followed, providing a number of interesting buildings. The Cathedral of Santa Maria built in the 12th century stands on the ground of a Roman temple. The city also has a good selection of architecture dating from the 15th century.
Roman wall is the oldest Roman wall outside of Italy and dates from the 2nd century BC. Constructed in three distinctive layers; the lowest is constructed with large stones and the middle with the typical smaller stones which date from Roman times. The top part of the walls comes from the middle ages when significant work was carried out. A gateway, known as the Roser Doorway was opened in the wall during the medieval period to provide access to the city from the west. A tower built against the wall was also constructed in this period.
The tower known as the Tower of Pilates or Castle of the King was constructed in the 1st century AD to contain a staircase linking the circus with the gateway to the Provincial Forum. The tower was used as a Royal residence during the Middle Ages and during the post-civil War years it was used as a prison: It is now used as a museum.
A number of buildings are currently having work carried out on them; this includes the building from the 13th - 14th century built over a large Visigoth building which was to become one of the most important buildings in the Jewish quarter.
Tarragona has numerous sites of interest spanning the centuries, these are scattered around and outside of the city. Considerable work has, and is being carried out to preserve and restore the sites and in 2000 the Roman ruins of Tarraco were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in the city of Cartagena in the South East region of Spain the city was known as Carthago Nova following its conquest in 209 BC by the Roman general Scipio Africanus. The city came to prominence in 228 BC when it was taken by the Carthaginian general Hadrubal as a base for the conquest of Spain due to its strategic harbour, and given the name of Qart Hadasht which means New City after Carthage. The city became pivotal in the conquest of the area both for the Carthaginians and later the Romans. In 298 AD the Roman emperor Diocletian established the province of Hispania with Carthago Nova as its capital. Over the years it has held a number of other names instigated by different emperors.
Cartagena has a number of Roman ruins but certainly one of the finest is the Theatre which was constructed between 5 and 1 BC. In the 3rd century AD a market was built over the site of the theatre, and evidence of the reuse of materials can be seen in the semicircular open space which followed the plan of the orchestra. Significant damaged was done in 425 AD when the town was sacked by the Vandals resulting in the abandonment of the market square although a market quarter was established on the site in the 6th century.
The theatre was rediscover during construction work in 1988 and excavations and restoration was completed by 2003 and opened to the public: In 2008 a museum was added.
With regard to the design of the theatre it is divided horizontally into three parts which are then split into radial sectors by a number of stairways. The public, estimated to be a capacity of 6,000 entered by two side passages where the dedications were found and with the cavea (the tiered semicircular seating space) having been carved directly into the rocks in the central portion. Also to be seen are a series of vaulted galleries.
At the front is the stage (proscaenium) 43.6m in length and set at a height of 14.6m. Also to be seen is the semicircular orchestra used for seating the important people and the columns of marble and travertine. While altars dedicated to the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva were also found during the excavations.
Behind the stage building was a portico gallery revolving around a central room which housed a garden. The design of the building can be seen by models which are displayed in the museum as can a number of the finds unearthed during the excavation work.
The first religious building to stand on the site of the Mosque-cathedral in Cordoba, was a Roman temple dedicated to Janus, but following the withdrawal of the Romans from the Iberian Peninsula in the 6th century, Cordoba fell in 572 to the Visigoths. They constructed a Christian Church dedicated to St Vincent of Saragossa on the site of the Roman temple which remained in the hands of the Visigoths until the arrival of the Muslims in 711, although Christian continued to worship there until 714.
In 756 Abd al-Rahman fled to Cordoba from Damascus and assumed the title Emir, establishing control over most of the Iberian Peninsula and setting about recreating the grandeur of Damascus. In 784 he started the construction of the Mosque that was known as the Aljama Mosque. This was based on the mosque at Damascus and its construction integrated parts of the Christian Church with that of Islamic architecture.
As with all mosques, it contained an ablution courtyard and Prayer Hall although its design was influence by the use of the materials obtained from the church of St Vincent, which were used to create the alternate brick and stone overlapping arches of red and beige. Over the subsequent years the mosque underwent a number of changes carried out by successive Emirs; something which divides the site into 5 different areas, which correspond to the number of expansions that it has undergone.
During the reign of Abd-ar-Rahman II (822–852) the courtyard and the Prayer Hall were extended, and his successor, Abd-ar-Rahman III (912–929), constructed the minaret. Al Hakam II (961–976) extended the mosque and the mihrab to such an extent that it surpassed the grandeur of the mosque of Damascus. Much of the work on the mosque at that time was carried out by Byzantine artisans provided by the Christian Emperor, who also provided the mosaics used in the mihrab. During this period the Mosque was a major site for Muslim pilgrimage due to its holding an original copy of the Koran and an arm bone of the Prophet Mohammed.
The final development of the mosque was carried out by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir in 987 when he added the orange tree courtyard and outer aisles and eight aisles along the east side of the building, although this was not executed to the same standard as the existing architecture as he used paint to give the arches their alternate colour rather than by the use of brick and stone.
Following the civil war of 1009-31, the Caliphate collapsed, and in 1236 the city was captured by Ferdinand III (1217-1252), when once again the mosque was used for Christian worship, although initially the architecture of the mosque was left largely intact. The building was consecrated for Christian worship and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption when it became a cathedral in 1238 on the appointment of its first Bishop.
The construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel with its many arches and the Royal Chapel was carried out under King Alfonso X (1252-1284) within the centre of the mosque, and in the 14th century Enrique II (1366-1367, 1369-1379) rebuilt the chapel. In the 16th century Carlos V (1516-1556) constructed the nave which occupies the centre of the former mosque, although large areas still remain much the same as they were in the 11th century.
Also in the 16th century the central high altar and cruciform choir and numerous chapels along the sides were constructed as was a belfry rising 300 feet (90 m) high in the place of the old minaret. In the mid-18th century, the Baroque choir stalls and the two pulpits, which feature a near life size bull and a lion in veined marble and an eagle in black marble, were also added.
Today, visitors see the Mosque-cathedral surrounded by a low wall and with tooth-like crenulations giving the building the look of a fortress. Its outer gates lead to the courtyard, which contain the orange grove and a fountain for the purification rituals performed before entry into the mosque. This is surrounded by a covered walkway. It also contains the minaret which was encased by the bell tower.
From the courtyard, a number of doors lead to naves within the mosque and to the hypostyle hall, with 856 of its original 1,293 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite, many taken from the Roman temple which previously stood on the site or from other Roman buildings. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the church of St Vincent below a protective sheet of glass in the existing floor of the prayer hall; although the most striking sight is the forest of double arches with a lower horseshoe arch and upper semi-circular arches consisting of alternating red and white voussoirs which stretch before you. These were a new introduction to enable higher ceilings to be produced and were inspired by those in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
The focal point in the prayer hall is the horseshoe arched mihrab with its chambers on either side, decorated with Byzantine gold mosaics. The Cordoba Mosque mihrab does not face south east in the direction of Mecca as is its normal orientation but south in the same way as the Damascus mosque did. Its shell-shaped ceiling is carved from a single block of marble and is built of crisscrossing ribs that create pointed arches and walls inlaid with Byzantine-style mosaics.
In 1984 the Historic centre of Cordoba, which includes the Mosque-cathedral, became a World Heritage site and is a major tourist attraction.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is located in Galicia in north-western Spain and is famous for its Cathedral, which was built on the shrine of Saint James, (son of Zebedee) one of the Apostles of Jesus. The cathedral is the destination for Catholic pilgrims who complete the Way of Saint James, a pilgrimage which originated in the 9th century and is the third most popular pilgrimage for Christians/Catholics.
According to legend, it was Saint James who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula around 44 AD. On his return to Jerusalem he was beheaded, but his remains were brought back to Spain where he was buried. His tomb was maintained until the 3rd century when, as a result of Roman persecution, it was abandoned and forgotten. In 814 the tomb was rediscovered and a chapel was built on the site by King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia (791-842). The first church was built on the site in 829, and this was enlarged in 899. In 997 the church was destroyed but Saint James’s tomb survived, although the Gates and bells were taken to the Aljama Mosque at Cordoba.
Constructed mainly of granite, the present cathedral was started in 1075 during the reign of Alfonso VI of Castile (1040–1109); although construction was halted a number of times and the last stone was laid in 1122, and was consecrated in 1128. The cathedral underwent a number of expansions in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Despite its Baroque facade, the present cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is predominantly Romanesque; in fact, one of the finest Romanesque churches in Spain.
Each of the facades is known not only by its orientation but also by name. The West façade, which has become the symbol of the city is known as the Obradoiro and overlooks the Obradoiro Square. This has undergone a number of developments over the years, with the current Baroque façade being constructed in the 18th century. The tower to the right (The Bell Tower) represents the mother of Saint James, whilst the one on the left (The Rattle Tower) represents Zebedee, his father. In the centre are statues of Saint James and below him are his two disciples.
The two towers are of medieval origin with the first part of the tower being built in the 12th century, but in the 15th century several modifications were made. They were remodelled in the latter half of the 17th century. Due to a tilt being detected in their structure, the towers had to be reinforced with buttresses, between 1667 and 1670. Known as the Torre das Campás they reach the height of over 75 metres.
During 2014 (when these photographs were taken) the cathedral was undergoing repair works to eradicate a fungus which was growing on the façade, which meant that parts were covered in scaffold and hoardings.
The stairway leading to the entrance is in the Renaissance style and was constructed in the 17th century. This surrounds the entrance to the 12th century Romanesque crypt which was part of the old cathedral constructed by Master Mateo; the most important artist/builder of the Romanesque period.
The North façade or da Acibecharía contains a Romanesque portal built in 1122. This portal was demolished following a fire in 1758, although some of the sculptural pieces were saved and were placed on the South façade. The new North façade was designed in Baroque style but was finished in the neoclassical style in 1769, although it retained some aspects of the baroque. At the top of the façade is an 18th-century statue of Saint James with King Alfonso III and King Ordoño II at his feet.
The South façade or das Pratarías is in Romanesque style built between 1103 and 1117 and is the only Romanesque façade to remain. This façade has two doors with figures of prophets and the Apostles. The façade contains many figures which were brought from the North façade in the 18th century. At its corner stands the Clock Tower (also called Torre da Trindade or Berenguela) the construction of which was believed to have begun in 1316 as a defensive tower. This was subsequently added to and between 1676 and 1680 two additional floors were added with its cupola and a lantern rising to 75 metres. The clock faces on each side were added in 1833.
The East façade or da Quintana has two gates: the Porta Real or Royal Gate and the Porta Santa, the Holy Gate. The Porta Real, in the baroque style, was begun in 1666 and completed in 1700. Located above the door is the Royal Coat of Arms as it was this door which was used by the Kings of Spain to enter the cathedral, hence the name. The Holy Door is only opened in the year when St James's Day (25th July) falls on a Sunday. Above the door are statues of St James with his disciples Athanasius and Theodore on either side of him.
Inside the cathedral, visitors find the nave, with two lateral aisles, a wide transept and a choir with radiating chapels. The interior is 97 m long and 22 m high. It still has the original barrel-vaulted cruciform Romanesque interior.
Behind the western façade is the 12th-century Portico da Gloria (The Glory Portico). It stems from the Romanesque period and was built between 1168 and 1188 by Master Mateo.
The barrel-vaulted nave and the groin-vaulted aisles consist of eleven bays, whilst the transept consists of six bays. The Piers are clustered and flanked by semi-columns, three of which carry the cross vaults of the side aisles and the truss of the arched vaults, whilst the fourth goes to the spring of the vaults.
The Transept contains the giant Botafumeiro which is suspended under the dome. Measuring 1.60 m in height and weighing 80 kg it is the world’s largest Botafumeiro. On important religious days it is attached to the pulley mechanism, filled with charcoal and incense and is swung across the transept; a custom which is believed to have originated more than 700 years ago to cover the smell of the many unwashed pilgrims who arrived at the cathedral at the end of their pilgrimage. The original Botafumeiro was made of silver but this was removed by French troops in 1809 and was replaced with an iron one, the current one is silver plated and was installed in 1851.
The Church of the Corticela is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Her statue holding Jesus in her arms and wearing a large crown presides over the chapel which is divided into three naves. Built in the 9th century it was originally independent of the cathedral and was used by the Benedictine monks. In the 13th century it was refurbished and was later connected to the cathedral’s transept by a corridor.
One of the main attractions has always been the tomb of Saint James, although prior to an English invasion, the remains of Saint James were hidden. These were lost in 1700 and remained lost until they were found in 1879 during the course of building work. Three skeletons were found which were believed to have been Saint James and his two disciples. The one of Saint James was confirmed by the fact that a fragment of his skull was held by a church in Tuscany which fitted a gap in the skull of one of the skeletons.
The remains of the three skeletons are in a silver casket over a marble altar in the apostolic crypt below the High Altar of the cathedral. Rising above the altar is a large baldachin with a highly decorated statue of Saint James dating from the 13th century. Behind the altar is a narrow passage which pilgrims can use to gain access in order to kiss the saint’s mantle.
Today the Way of Saint James has a number of routes with hostels established to cater for the thousands of pilgrims who travel to Santiago de Compostela each year.
Town Wall Museum
The city of Orihuela lies between Alicante and Murcia on the Costa Blanca. Its archaeological ruins of the town wall and buildings were discovered in 1998 during construction work for the University of Orihuela. Their importance resulted in them being integrated into the basement of the building, and to the establishment of the Wall Museum, to enable them to be preserved and viewed.
The museum enables visitors to wander around the city layout of Orihuela by the perimeter path and along glazed walkways, and to be able see its layout dating back 1300 years. Alongside the ruins are display panels and models, which enable the visitor to appreciate how the city looked during previous times.
Orihuela is known to have been inhabited in the Bronze Age, and the area was later occupied by the Romans where it was known as Orcelus. During the 3rd century BC it was controlled by the Carthaginians until it was reclaimed by Rome following the Second Punic Wars (218 – 201 BCE). The Romans remained in Hispania (Spain) until the invasion by the Huns, Goths and Visigoths who took over the area. The invasion began in 409 AD with the Visigoths gaining control over all of Spain by 476 AD. This they held until the invasion of the Moors in 711 when the country became known as al-Andalus, which was to become Andalusia.
During this period, Orihuela or Uryula - as it was then - became a centre for Arabic culture and had substantial city walls and thermal baths, which can be seen today in the museum. The wall and towers run along the basement and date back to the second half of the 12th and first part of the 13th centuries. Changes were made around the 14th century.
Between 9th and 11th centuries a number of Christian Kingdoms emerged in Northern Spain which were to expand south displacing the Moors. In 1243, the city of Orihuela was conquered by Prince Alfonso ((who was later to become King Alfonso X (1252-1284)) and by 1250 only Granada was still held by the Moors.
The golden age of Orihuela was from 1296, when it became part of the Kingdom of Valencia. Due to its location between the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Granada, Orihuela was of great strategic importance, and Alfonso V (1416-1458) declared it a city in 1437.
In 1492 Granada was captured by Ferdinand and Isabella, which resulted in the expulsion of the Moors from Spain and included the expulsion of many of the Moriscos (converted Arabs) and Jews from Orihuela. Prior to this, the city had exhibited a high degree of religious tolerance within its population of 10,000. The ruins provide a good example of what life would have been like in the city around this time with examples of different types of buildings.
The baths, which were located just outside the city and accessed through an open passage in one of the towers, are from the second half of the 12th and first half of the 13th centuries. They functioned until the late Christian Middle Ages, although it is possible that they were used after that but perhaps for a different purpose.
The baths show the two areas quite distinctly; the public area for the bathers and a restricted area for the heating of the water and the drying of the towels. Like the traditional Roman baths these had a cold room, warm room and hot room which would have had domes and vaulted ceiling. The baths were not just for personal hygiene but also had religious and social functions.
The hot room was heated by a hypocaust connected to the oven. It consisted of twelve brick pillars which supported stone slabs. At one end was a small pool for the water. Attached to the wall at the end of the room are the remains of a chimney for the removal of the smoke.
The defence of the city in Moorish times consisted of a number of concentric walled enclosures. The Citadel or Alcazaba was for the rulers and was located at the highest point; below that was the Albacar with its defensive functions and this was where the livestock were held. Further down was the population centre, and all were surrounded by the city wall and defence towers. One of the towers dating back to the 12th century provides information on its construction which is made of concrete, with lime mortar, sand, gravel and limestone. The wall was constructed of concrete with gravel and limestone of different sizes using wooden formwork, the marks of which can be seen on the wall face. The river was used as a natural moat which had a bridge consisting of boats during the Islamic age. This was replaced by a stone bridge in the late Christian Middle Ages.
A number of Islamic homes are apparent and it can be noted that they are designed for the families’ privacy with emphasis on the courtyard with its well and water tank and its access path to all rooms. The exterior consists of a flat wall with just an entrance door.
Homes form the other periods of its history can also be seen, and one of the models shows a home in the 18th century with its large ground floor door and balconies. This at one time served as a Civil Guards barracks.
Also to be seen is the Palace of Prince Fernando de Aragon the Lord of Orihuela in the second half of the 14th century. The building consists of several corridors, two courtyards and a main room with pillars attached to the walls, supporting a series arches.
The museum also contains a collection of pottery and artefacts found at the site.
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.
Located at the top of al-Sabika Hill, in a strategic position overlooking the city of Granada. The Alhambra gets its name from the red walls that surround the structure. Its’ name coming from the Arabic qa'lat al-Hamra' which means Red Castle.
Although a fortress existed on the site before the Muslims arrived in Granada in the 8th century, and documents exist confirming that Sawwar ben Hamdun sought shelter there during the conflict that occurred within the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada then belonged, and it is believed that it was at that time that the castle was constructed turning it into a military fortress. The present fortress dates back to the 9th century, but it wasn’t until the arrival of Mohammed ben Al-Hamar (Mohammed I, 1238-1273), the first king of the Nasrid dynasty, in the 13th century that in became a royal residence.
Once under control of the Nasrid’s a number of developments to the Alcazaba (the Old Citadel) resulted, with the reinforcement of the fortress by the construction of the Watch Tower and the Keep and additional fortifications: Also at this time, the construction of warehouses and store rooms occurred. The ramparts for the palace were started and a canal was built to take water from the River Darro. Work which was carried out by Mohammed II (1273-1302) and Mohammed III (1302-1309), who was also responsible for the building of the public baths and the Mosque. The mosque was subsequently replaced by the construction of the Church of Saint Mary which now stands on the site of the mosque.
The majority of the Alhambra that we can still see today was carried out by Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391). Their work replaced much of the buildings that was carried out by the Nasrid Kings and included improvements of the Alcazaba and the palaces. The main gateway, which is still used today if approaching the fortress from the city, was the original entrance and is known as the Tower of Justice. This was built by Yusuf I and was completed in June 1348.
Other work included the Courtyard/Patio of the Lions. This is the courtyard which contains twelve marble lions with water coming from their mouths and is the focal point of the sultan’s private dwelling and where the harem was located, it also included the extension of the area within the ramparts. It was at this time that the building of the Baths took place, these follow the design of Roman baths with its cool, warm and hot rooms and was seen as an informal place to conduct business. In addition the Comares was constructed, this was the official residence of the sultan and comprises of several rooms which surround the Court of the Myrtles which was the focal point of diplomatic and political activity. It was also the place where visitors waited prior to being seen by the sultan. The Hall of the Boat, is an anteroom to the Throne Room, a room which is also known as the Hall of Ambassadors. This room is renowned for its symmetry and precision and also for its stucco walls and for containing the Nasrid motto of “Only God is Victor”. It is also known for its ceiling symbolizing the seven heavens of Islamic Paradise and is decorated with stars. The floor would have contained brightly coloured rugs and cushions and curtains of silk; silk being used extensively throughout the palace.
The Alhambra became a Christian court in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel conquered the city of Granada; something which resulted in the construction of a number of structures for prominent civilians and also for a military garrison; a church and a Franciscan monastery were also constructed.
In 1516 Charles V ordered the building of the palace which bears his name and notable for its round courtyard within a square building. Its construction resulted in the demolition of a part of the Nasrid complex. Charles V also built the Emperor's Chambers. These consist of six chambers which were completed in 1537 and were intended for the residence of the King, although he never lived in them. At the same time the Queen's Dressing Room was also constructed at the top of the Abu l-Hayyay's Tower being named due to the Empress Isabel, Charles V's wife, living there.
In the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned and started to fall into disrepair and during the French occupation of Granada from 1808 until 1812, the palaces were used as a barracks. During a retreat the soldiers mined the towers and blew up part of them. Resulting in the Seven Floors Tower and the Water Tower being left in ruins. In 1870 the Alhambra was declared a national monument and the process of repairing, restoring and preserving the complex started, something that is still going on today.
At one time the Alhambra contained many gardens, today only the Generalife remains which was summer palace and country estate and retreat area for the sultan. Built originally during the reign of Muhammad II (1302-1309), although most of what can be seen today is reconstructed. It was once joined to the Alhambra by a covered walkway running across the ravine which is located between them. It consisted of pavilions, courtyards, pools, fountains walkways and gardens. In 1952 an open air concert area was constructed where today live concerts are held.
In 1984 the Alhambra and Generlife became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Gothic Cathedral located in the old town at the centre of Valencia is known as “Saint Mary's Cathedral”, “The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia” or just as "Valencia Cathedral".
Built on the site that was previously a Roman temple, a Visigoth cathedral and an 8th century Mosque, it was several decades after the Christian conquest of the city (1238), before the cathedral was constructed, between 1252 and 1482. Construction is in the Gothic style, although it contains elements of early Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical.
Originally the cathedral was dedicated to the Holy Saviour but was rededicated to the Blessed Virgin by James I (the Conqueror) who was King of Valencia (1238 – 1276). He would carry an image of the Virgin, which is now displayed in the sacristy.
Built with three naves, originally these would have only reached to the choir of the present building. Three of the four sections of the naves and transepts were built in the first part of the 14th century which was when the crossing was completed and the construction of the crossing tower (cimbori or eight-sided dome) was also constructed.
The old chapter house, was constructed between 1356 -1369, with a beautiful vault with star motifs, depicting an image of heaven with the 12 apostles and the coronation of the Virgin Mary. This is now the Chapel of the Holy Grail, where since 1916 the Holy Chalice has been displayed. The chalice was given to the cathedral by King Alfons el Magnànim in 1436. Made from brown agate and dating back to the 1st century BC, it is believed by some to be the Holy Grail. Standing about 6" tall and 3" wide it sits on a gold base adorned with two emeralds. This was created for it in the Middle Ages and is a major attraction. However, a number of other chalices exist, which also lay claim to being the chalice of Christ. The Holy Grail is said to be the cup of the Last Supper and, at the Crucifixion, was used to receive blood from the wound in Christ's side.
Although the authenticity of the Chalice has never been confirmed by the Vatican, it was used by Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1982 when he ordained some 150 priests. It was also used by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 to consecrate the wine during the celebration of Mass.
The cathedral has a number of chapels, one of which is dedicated to Saint Vincent Martyr, the Patron Saint of Valencia. Saint Vincent Martyr was a Deacon under Saint Valerious, Bishop of Saragossa during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284 - 305). Both were arrested and imprisoned, but whilst Saint Valerious was exiled, Saint Vincent Martyr was tortured and died from his injuries in 304. His left arm is preserved in a reliquary in his Chapel.
The Cathedral also contains a museum consisting of a number of rooms displaying other sacred relics and religious works of art from the 14th through the 18th Centuries, including a collection of medieval panels, vestments and two paintings by Goya. It also houses the statues that previously adorned the Apostle door.
Over the years - during times of war - a number of the artefacts have been looted or destroyed. This included a silver altarpiece which in 1813 was melted down in order to pay the troops who fought against Napoleon.
The octagonal Bell Tower, which is known as "Micalet" or "La Miguelete" named after its largest bell called Miguel, was constructed between 1381–1425. Originally this was separate from the main building but in 1459 the nave was extended joining the Tower with the Chapter House and the rest of the cathedral. This also resulted in the construction of the main entrance. In 1674 work began on the construction of the main chapel. The Bell Tower is accessible to visitors who are able to climb the 207 steps to the top of the tower, which allows access to the bells and good views across the city.
During the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries), little work was done on the main structure, although work was carried out on the decorations in the Resurrection chapel and on one of the high altars.
The façade of the main entrance was added at the beginning of the 18th century and restoration started in 1774, which converted the pointed Gothic arches to rounded arches. It also covered the Gothic columns with Corinthian pillars. The intention of the work was to give the building a neoclassical appearance. The work affected both structural and decorative features with elements being removed and others being concealed with stucco.
The Main Entrance is located to the right of the belfry and behind la Porta dels Ferros, the Door of Iron, the construction of which was begun in 1703, although this was interrupted by the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1715). The gate was damaged during the demolition of adjacent buildings in the 20th century to create the Plaza where the cathedral stands, when the work caused the doors to distort.
The other door on this side of the building is the Door of the Apostles. The statues which adorn the Apostle's doorway are copies, the originals of which are now in the museum. This was the main entrance to the Mosque and has a 14th century rose window positioned above it. This side of the building also contains the Galleries, a semi-circular triple arcaded wall of walkways in the Renaissance style which was built in the 16th century.
In 1931 the Spanish government declared the building a historic and artistic landmark. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) it sustained some damage, which included decorative elements and the Organs, which were never rebuilt.
In 1940 the choir was dismantled and moved from its position in the centre of the cathedral to the bottom of the High Altar.
In the 1970s, a building attached to the chapels was demolished, as were a number of the neoclassical features to give the cathedral back its previous Gothic appearance.
Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet Monastery
Christianity came to the island of Mallorca in the 5th century and it is known that the Bishop of Majorca attended a Synod at Carthage in 484 due to the existence of documentary evidence.
During the 9th century a series of battles took place between Christians and Muslims for the control of the island and when the Arabs conquered it in 903 under Emir Isam el Jawlani, they were, as they were through-out their area of domination, tolerant of the Christian religion.
Over the next two centuries there were a number of battles with the Christians attempting to regain control of the island, something that they achieved in 1229 under the 21-year-old King James I of Aragon.
Following his conquest, King James I embarked on the construction of a cathedral in Palma in order to show that, in the Mediterranean, Islam had been replaced by Christianity.
Work on the cathedral started in 1235. It was built on the site of a Moorish mosque which sat within the old city of Palma on top the hill. This was the location of the former citadel of the Roman city, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent to the Royal Palace of La Almudaina (See Article above)
Work started with the Royal Chapel, so named due to the patronage of the royal house of Majorca, and it was here that the funeral rites of James II (1311) and the coronations of King Sancho (1311), James III (1324) and Peter the Ceremonious (1343) were held. The current apse retains the funeral chapel that was planned as a resting place for the monarchs of the Majorca royal house.
In the 15th century Guillem Sagrera took over the construction of the Cathedral and built the Gothic chapter house and the Mirador Portal. In 1490, Guillem’s nephew, Francesc Sagrera, designed the Almoina Portal and in 1498 work on the bell tower to house the 9 bells stopped, although it was not actually completed.
Work on the choir started in 1514, and for centuries it occupied the centre of the nave of the basilica. The seats from the choir – currently comprising 110 walnut chairs – can be found by the main altar and in the Royal Chapel.
The Cathedral, of Gothic design, is 121 metres long, 55 metres wide and with its nave 44 metres tall it is second in height to Saint-Pierre de Beauvais, the tallest of all Gothic Cathedrals. 14 widely spaced and slender columns divide the nave from the aisles, seven on each side. Light enters the Cathedral through the numerous windows providing a brightly illuminated interior, something that has led to it being known as “the Cathedral of light”.
It is also known for the colour of its exterior. The cathedral, being constructed of limestone, changes in colour throughout the day, being a pale beige in the morning and changing to a creamy white at mid-day and then to a rich golden colour towards the evening.
The building was officially completed in 1601 with the completion of the construction of the Almudaina or main façade. This portal is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and is depicted on the tympanum surrounded by fifteen biblical symbols referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary “toda pulchra”. Upon its completion, it was blessed by the Bishop. However, during the 17th and 18th centuries the cloister and the new chapter house were constructed and many of the Baroque altarpieces, paintings and sculptures were installed.
Following an earthquake in 1851, which damaged the upper part of the main façade it was restored by Juan B. Peyronet. The interior was not restored until 1904-14 by Antoni Gaudi during his spell at the cathedral. Gaudi also moved the High Altar to the centre of the apse along with the choir stalls, which previously had been in the centre nave thus creating an open unobstructed space in the nave.
In the 20th century the choir was moved, this had previously been located between the second and third sections of the nave. Work also included the construction of the baldachin for the main altar after removing the Gothic one. The work also included incorporating the bishop’s seat in the sanctuary and the inclusion of additional windows and artificial lighting.
In 2007 the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament was completely refurbished by the Majorcan artist Miquel Barcelo who also created five new stained-glass windows. There is a total of 61 stained-glass windows in the cathedral, with those in the two side naves depicting passages from the Old and New Testaments. It contains five Rose windows with the largest dating back to the 14th century, including the “the Gothic eye”, one of the largest rose windows in the world.
Today visitors can also view a number of chapels dedicated to the saints located around the sides of the building and containing some beautiful altarpieces and statues.
Located overlooking the sea on the site of a prehistoric town, the Palace still contains the ruins from that period some of which can still be seen at the lower level of the palace. When the island was conquered by the Romans in 121 B.C. they chose the site to house a fort, which remained there until it was destroyed by the Vandals in the 5th century, who then construct one of their own on the same site.
In 540 A.D. the island was recaptured by the Romans and remained part of the Byzantine Empire for almost two centuries. In the early 8th century the first Muslims started to arrive on Mallorca and a number of attempts were made to conquer the island. In 903 their efforts were successful and from 903 this was the residence of the Moorish rulers of Mallorca.
Over the next two centuries there were a number of battles with the Christian attempting to regain control of the island and in 1115 they gained entrance to the Palace, which they plundered and set fire to. This was rebuilt by Muhammad ibn Ganniya who broke away from the Almoravid (an imperial Berber dynasty known for its empire in the 11th century) proclaiming himself Muhammad I. During the late 12th century it took on the form of a Berber castle and no further alterations were made to it during the Moorish rule of the island.
In 1229 King James I (1229-1276) of Aragon captured the island and moved into the Palace whereby establishing it as the town residence of the Mallorcan Kings. James I spent the last years of his life at the palace and following his death in 1276, his son James, became James II (1276-1285), King of Majorca and began to convert the palace into a Christian castle in the Levantine Gothic style. Work started in 1281 but in 1285 Alfonso III (1285-1295) king of Aragon captured the island and held it until 1295 when James II (1296-1311) regained the throne.
From 1303 until 1311 when James II died, a number of the works were completed. This included: The Great Hall, Kings Palace, Queens Palace, St Anne’s and St James’s Chapels, Kings and Queens Gardens and the statue of St Gabriel the Archangel having been place on top of one of the towers.
The Kings that followed James II were Sancho I (1311-1324) and James III (1324-1344) and they continued the development of the palace until James was forced to leave the island by the Aragonese King Peter IV (1344-1387) but in an attempt to regain the throne was killed. This resulted in the annexation of Majorca to Aragon in 1349 and this led to a decline for the Almudaina Palace, although Peter IV did do some work on St Anne’s Chapel.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the palace was used by a number of Kings while visiting Majorca and during the 16th century it underwent a number of changes due to fire and earthquake damage, although improvements were also made with the installation of the Royal Audience Room in the Great Hall and the room being divided into two levels.
In the 19th century a number of projects were undertaken such as the lowering of some of the towers and the replacement of the groined vaults with simpler ones. In 1877 Alfonso XII transferred part of the building to the War Office for their use.
In the 1960’s the palace underwent a major restoration programme of both the interior and exterior. Today it is the headquarters of the Captain-General of the Balearic Islands although King Juan Carlos uses some of the rooms including the Grand Council Room. Parts of the palace are open to the public and can be seen on a visit.
Many of the rooms are empty although it does contain some beautiful tapestries dating back to the 16th century.
The Great Hall was the hub of the palace during the 15th and 16th centuries and was the place where the king held his audiences, it was also the place of banquets and where trials would take place. In 1578 the roof collapsed and the room was rebuilt on two levels with three rooms at ground level consisting of an audience room, which was later split into the Hall of Fireplaces, so called as it contained three fireplaces and the Hall of Kings containing the portraits of nine Kings and Queens of Majorca. The ground floor also contained an antechamber and a council room. Above these is the large hall containing a ribbed vaulted ceiling.
The Arab Baths were probably built by the Romans and consists of three rooms, which were normal for Roman baths; the frigidarium, the tepidarium and the caldarium. These were rediscovered in 1976 and were subsequently restored.
The Kings Palace is entered via the Royal Staircase which leads from the Parade Ground. During the time of the Moors this was a courtyard where the towns people would seek shelter when they were under attack. This was also used for such ceremonies connected to the funerals of the kings, and the swearing in ceremonies for knights. The courtyard contains the lion fountain and the entrance to St Anne’s Chapel. This Chapel was built for the Queen at the beginning of the 14th century, as was St. James’s Chapel, which was for the use of the King.
From a courtyard known as the Queen’s or Spring Courtyard is access to the Queen’s Palace which consists of a number of rooms but this is not open to the public as it is used as the Headquarters of the Balearic Military.