They rose up as a sign of faith and ecclesiastical power, rivaling with secular and villainous pride those of neighboring cities to end up combining their religious function with that of true museums of religious art of incalculable value. They are the cathedrals, and in this article we present you the 10 most beautiful cathedrals in Spain.
I have always said that a religious building, be it a mosque, a Buddhist temple or a church, is a destination for the traveller, even if he is an atheist or an agnostic. Especially if you travel to a country where the religion you profess is different from that which prevails in our country, religious buildings are part of the local culture.
And when we travel we want not only to admire sights and attractions but, or at least that should be our intention, to learn more about the destination to which we have moved.
So these are, in my opinion and on a list – in random order – that can be considerably extended, the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain, a country where churches and chapels of great historical and heritage value abound.
Recently I wrote an article about what to see in Seville in one day and I could not miss a visit to the Cathedral of Seville. The Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world but it was also, along with the Real Alcázar and the Archivo de Indias, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
Special mention of how the minaret of the mosque, the tower known as La Giralda, was integrated into it as a bell tower.
When you travel to Seville, we recommend that you take advantage of your time there to take a tour of Seville with the Cathedral, the Alcazar and the Giralda included, take a boat trip on the Guadalquivir River, enjoy a flamenco show in the Andalusian patio, or a “Game of Thrones” tour in the Alcazar, although you can go over this list with more excursions in and around Seville.
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Another record-breaking cathedral is the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca, for having the largest Gothic rose window in the world. Consecrated to Santa Maria, this enormous building that reaches 45m high in its vault, had a long construction that lasted more than 100 years, between the 13th and 14th centuries.
Visiting the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca is one of the 10 best things to do and see in Palma de Mallorca (read the article to discover the other 9).
If you travel to Mallorca, we recommend a free excursion to Palma de Mallorca, a train visit to Sóller and a boat trip to Sa Calobra, a boat trip to the island of Dragonera, a half-day excursion to the Drach Caves, a catamaran trip along the coast of Mallorca and the island of Dragonera, or any of these other spectacular excursions in and around Mallorca
In the middle of the Camino de Santiago, the Cathedral of León has more stained glass windows than walls, if I may make the only slightly crazy comparison. Also called “pulchra leonina” (“beautiful from Leon”), the Cathedral of Santa María de Regla houses one of the largest collections of medieval stained glass windows in the world and it is really impressive to walk around inside, look up and walk around with it and with time the almost 2,000 m2 of polychrome glass that gives it light and colour.
If you travel to León, we recommend a dramatised tour of León or activities such as a gastronomic tour of León, a guided tour of León Cathedral, a night tour of the mysteries and legends of León or, if you have time, an excursion to Astorga or a trip to the spectacular Valporquero Cave.
It is said that the Cathedral of Murcia is a church attached to a facade, such is the spectacular nature of this authentic masterpiece of the Spanish Baroque. The building, dating from the 15th century, had an addition that took more than 250 years to be definitively completed, a bell tower that is the second highest in Spain at 93 m (or 98 if we count the tip of the weather vane).
If you travel to Murcia, we recommend a guided tour of Murcia or, for only 3 euros more, a guided tour that includes the cathedral of Murcia. You can also take part in other interesting activities, such as a tour of medieval Murcia, a tour of Masonic Murcia or a night tour of the mysteries and legends of Murcia.
When we talk about the Cathedral of Salamanca, we must specify which one, because the city has not one but two cathedrals. Modestly, in my native Avilés we also have two churches in the same neighborhood, so there we speak of the Old Church of Sabugo (13th century) and the New Church of Sabugo (completed in 1903), separated by only 200 m.
Well, if we leave this town in Asturias and go to Castilla – León, in Salamanca they talk about the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral. The first one, Romanesque and from the 12th to the 14th century, became too small and dark for them and the ecclesiastical authorities undertook the construction of a second cathedral at the beginning of the 16th century…attached to the Old Cathedral in such a way that the southern wall of the new one is the northern wall of the old one.
If you travel to Salamanca we recommend a complete tour of Salamanca, a bicycle tour of Salamanca, a night tour of the illuminated Salamanca or, and here the price is symbolic, a free theatrical tour of Salamanca.
In the Crown of Aragon, the “seo” was the seat of the bishop and, by extension, the building of the town hall, the cathedral, was called “Seo”. Well, Zaragoza is another of those Spanish cities to which the peculiarities of history have granted two great religious buildings, built in different times, by the presence of two different town halls in the city.
The best known of the two cathedrals is the Santo Templo Metropolitano de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, better known as the Basilica del Pilar, the other being, just a few metres away, the Catedral del Salvador.
In the best tradition of one religion building on the remains of another, from the Roman forum to the Visigothic church, from the Muslim mosque to the Romanesque, the two cathedrals of Zaragoza cover a period of 2,000 years of different buildings more or less superimposed.
If you travel to Zaragoza, don’t miss a free tour of Zaragoza, a night bus tour of Zaragoza or, if you are looking for something more curious, a tour of crime in Zaragoza or the tour of mysteries and legends of Zaragoza.
7Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
With its two towers covered by scaffolding alternately from 2013 to undertake some much-needed restoration work, it loses them in 2018 to make the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela the most spectacular end point of the Way of St. James since, according to tradition, the tomb of the Apostle St. James has been there since the Middle Ages.
A spectacular Pórtico de la Gloria, a detailed Fachada del Obradoiro, a Fachada de las Platerías, 8,000 m2 of extension and a vision desired by hundreds of pilgrims who arrive every day at the Plaza del Obradoiro make the Cathedral of Santiago one of the most important in Christendom.
Don’t miss our article with the best tips for visiting the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the 10 best things to see and do in Santiago de Compostela and our Guide to Santiago de Compostela with 11 sites to see, whether you are a pilgrim or not, and recommendations for eating and sleeping.
When visiting Santiago de Compostela, we recommend a guided tour of the Cathedral of Santiago and its museum, a free tour of Santiago de Compostela, a dramatised tour of mysteries and legends, a private tour of Santiago de Compostela or one of these other magnificent excursions in and around Santiago de Compostela
8Cathedral of Cordoba
Rebaptized as the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, in 1238 with the Reconquest that recovered the national territory invaded by the Muslims, the extensive, beautiful and spectacular Mosque of Cordoba became a place of Christian worship.
What was for years the second largest mosque in the world, only surpassed by that of Mecca, underwent successive remodeling and work to add Christian elements to the original set of buildings, including a basilica.
Be sure to read our articles with the best tips for visiting the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba and what to see in Cordoba in a day (with recommendations for eating and sleeping),
If you want to visit the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba with a tour, we recommend the options of a guided tour of the Mosque of Cordoba, a guided tour of the Mosque of Cordoba and the Jewish Quarter, a guided tour of the Mosque of Cordoba and the Alcazar of the Christian Kings, or a private tour of the Mosque of Cordoba.
On your trip to Cordoba we recommend a complete tour of Cordoba with tickets, a free night tour of Cordoba, a guided tour of the Medina Azahara, a free tour of Cordoba, a guided tour of the courtyards of Cordoba, or one of these other great tours and excursions in Cordoba.
Burgos Cathedral was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, a distinction that it shares with other cathedrals in Spain but in which it is unique for one important reason. It is declared a World Heritage Site per se and not, as in the other cathedrals in Spain, as part of a historic, old or monumental town.
In Burgos we recommend a guided tour of the Burgos Cathedral, a tour of the mysteries and legends of Burgos, a private tour of Burgos or a free tour of Burgos.
10Cathedral of Cuenca
Officially the Cathedral of Santa María and San Julián, the Cathedral of Cuenca has the peculiarity of being the first Gothic cathedral in Castile (in close rivalry for the title with that of Ávila) and with a surprising similarity to French cathedrals of the time, as the wife of King Alfonso VIII of Castile, Leonor of England or Plantagenet was accompanied by Norman knights.
We know the city well, to which we have dedicated these articles about Cuenca that we recommend reading: what to see in Cuenca and surroundings (with 16 visits and recommended activities), 10 museums in Cuenca (with Curiosities, Art, History, Religion and Nature) and where to eat in Cuenca, with our experience in 9 restaurants in Cuenca and surroundings.
If you want to combine a visit on your own with guided activities in Cuenca, we recommend a guided tour of Cuenca, a complete tour of Cuenca with tickets, a night tour of Cuenca, a tour of mysteries and legends, a dramatized tour, a tour of bars and restaurants in Cuenca or, if you have an extra day, a tour to the Enchanted City and the birth of the Cuervo River, the two most famous natural monuments in the province.
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