Built between 1151 and 1174, Zamora Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Spanish Romanesque architecture.
A previous church, also entitled to El Salvador ('Holy Savior') existed at the time of King Alfonso VII of Castile, but it was apparently in ruins, so that the king donated the church of St. Thomas in the city to act as cathedral.
The church was built under bishop Esteban, under the patronage of Alfonso VII and his sister, Sancha Raimúndez. The date of construction (1151-1174) is traditionally attested by an epigraphy in the northern side of the transept, although recent discoveries have proven that the church had been already begun in 1139, at the time of bishop Bernardo.
The cathedral was consecrated in 1174 by bishop Esteban, although works continued under his successor Guillermo (1176-1192), including the transept. The cloister and the bell tower date to the first half of the 13th century. The designer of the church is unknown.
The building, in Romanesque style, is on the Latin cross plan; it has a nave and two aisles, a short transept and three semicircular apses. The latter were replaced by Gothic ones in the 15th century. The transept is covered by barrel vault, the aisles by groin vault and the nave by cross vault in late-Romanesque or Proto-Gothic style.
Over the transept is the dome-tower, featuring 16 side narrow and tall semicircular windows enclosed in and between four turrets. These support two domes, an external one with a slightly pointed top, and an interior one with semicircular shape. Over the turrest are small domes, also with columns and thin windows, and typani with similar decoration. With its exterior, original scale decoration, the dome it is one of the symbols of the city.
On the south side of the church, facing the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace), is the richly sculptured Puerta del Obispo (Bishop's Doorway). It is divided into three vertical sectors, divided by blind columns and topped by semicircular arcades. In the lower sides are lunettes with Romanesque sculptures.
Notable features of the interior the choir-stalls constructed in 1512-1516 by Juan de Bruselas, carved not only with figures of saints and famous men of antiquity but also with vigorous and earthy scenes of country life. The Capilla Major has a marble table, and the high altar is flanked by two Mudéjar pulpits. In the Capilla del Cristo de las Injurias, which is found to the right of the south doorway, is a large figure of Christ by Gaspar Becerra.
The Cathedral contains numerous tombs; particularly notable is the filigree carving on tomb of Grado in the Capilla de San Juan at east end. The Capilla del Cardenal (named after cardinal Juan de Mella), also at the east end, has an altar by Fernando Gallego, in Gothic-Flemish style (1490-1494).
The bell tower, with a height of 45 m, was built in the 13th century in Romanesque style.
The Cathedral Museum, in the 17th century cloister, is notable particularly for its fine Flemish tapestries of the 15th-17th centuries depicting scenes from the Trojan War, Hannibal's Italian campaign and the life of Tarquin, the Etruscan king of Rome. Another treasure is a Late Gothic monstrance of 1515.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.