Almería Cathedral

Almería, Spain

Almería cathedral was built in Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles from 1524 to 1562. Its last bell was built in 1805. It had a dual role: as a place of worship, but also to protect the citizens when pirates attacked the city of Almeria after the Reconquest.

After an earthquake destroyed the previous structure, the cathedral is constructed, like so many churches in Spain, on the site of a mosque. Largely late Gothic/Renaissance in style, the cathedral's defensive structure consists of largely plain walls (apart from the elaborate entrance, Puerta Principal) with small, high windows, all designed to be inviolable to the invasions by North African pirates, which continued for many years after the Moors were expelled from Spain. This is the country's only fortified cathedral dating from the 16th century.

With three naves and three chapels, the magnificent Gothic interior is on a typically grand scale, with ribbed ceiling and soaring arches, featuring Baroque and neo-classical details. The Capilla de la Piedad has some superb paintings - the Anunciacion by Alonso Cano and Murillo's Concepcion Inmaculada, while dog-lovers will enjoy the Capilla de Santo Cristo where the Bishop Villalan, who founded the cathedral, lies in state in his marble tomb, complete with his hound at his feet. The choir stalls, carved from walnut, and the Sacristia Mayor with its fine stone roof, windows and arches, are particularly impressive. The stalls and bishop's tomb are both by Juan de Orea.

The cathedral shows many typically defensive features such as ramparts and artillery loopholes - the four circular corner towers, which look like they belong more on a castle, once held cannons, which could hold off Moorish invaders.

Look out for the carving of a sun on the eastern wall, the Sol de Portocarrero, not a symbol typically seen on religious buildings, which is now used as the logo for Almeria province. The Renaissance north facade is an elaborate mid-16th century design, also by de Orea.

The broad pedestrianised plaza in front of the cathedral is very pleasant, with lofty palm trees and plenty of space to stroll, contemplate the basilica, and for children to run about.

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Details

Founded: 1524-1562
Category: Religious sites in Spain

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rachel Romero (2 years ago)
Impressive architecture as with many buildings of the same kind. Not a pleasant place to visit in summer due to the heat. There are visibly fans in the cathedral throughout but not one was switched on in 30+ degree temperatures inside. Heat makes it difficult to enjoy and educate yourself about museum collections.
peter brown (2 years ago)
Interesting cathedral with audio commentary included in the entrance fee. Too much audio detail in some of the side chapels but worth a visit.
Sander Faas (2 years ago)
Nice cathedral, well worth a visit. The audioguide (at least the Dutch version) has too much detail and highbrow language to be taken very seriously. It made us laugh quite often.
Christopher Coleman (2 years ago)
The Cathedrel is very nice. Some interesting architecture because it is a fortified church. Small museum within houses the vestments and some other artifacts. There is an audio guide included with admission that is very informative.
Jeff P (2 years ago)
It was nice to see and certainly beautiful inside but the audio tour was a bit thick for my taste. I found myself skipping ahead a bunch. Also it seemed a bit pricey for what it was. Not a bad experience but the true beauty of this city is in the streets with the people and how they live, not in and old church. I'd only recommend this to true history or art lovers.
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.