Lording over the old town of Palma de Mallorca, the Catedral de Mallorca gazes out to the sea. Colossal in size, it is one of those structures in the city you truly can’t miss. I must admit that my travel fatigue had reached its limits when I visited the cathedral. A full day of touring and wine tasting left me less than enthused to enter yet another church in Europe. However, after sightings of gargoyles, fish heads and one of the strangest chandelier-type altarpieces I had ever seen, I was wide-awake.
Palma de Mallorca keeps this structure in its palm, never overly showy about just how unusual its contents may be. If you are in Palma de Mallorca, even with travel fatigue and the skepticism that this is just another European church, think again and give a tour of the Catedral de Mallorca a chance.
Mosque Turned Church: The Catedral de Mallorca stands on what was once the central mosque of Medina Mayurka, the capital of Muslim Mallorca for three centuries. Once King Jaume I showed up on the island, the space would change faiths. Work on the cathedral began in 1300, but this massive masterpiece wouldn’t be completed until 1601. The result would be a predominantly Gothic church, with the exception of the main façade. From soaring high cross vaults to massive pillars, the Cathedral is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
Special Stained Glass: The Catedral de Mallorca is home to 61 stained glass windows, including five rose windows. While a gothic cathedral, the interior is almost bright with pinks, purples, blues and oranges shining on the walls and flooring, reminders that the Mediterranean sun is present inside and out. The grandest of the rose windows resides above the main altar. Meaning “great eye”, oculus maior is best seen in the morning when the light and shapes are reflected onto the west wall.
Gaudi Touches: Gaudi might be most famous for his works in Barcelona, but one look inside the Catedral de Mallorca, and you will see this guy made it to Mallorca. Antoni Gaudi worked on the cathedral from 1904 to 1914 as part of a restoration program. While he opened up some bricked-over windows, added new stained glass and even installed a massive piece to the pulpit, his most eye-catching work in the cathedral is The Canopy. Hovering over the main altar, Gaudi added a hanging mobile of sorts. Topped by a sculpture of Christ crucified with the Virgin Mary and St. John in the scene, the canopy features 35 lamps hanging from it. The piece is truly something you don’t see everyday in a church and one of Gaudi’s strangest creations.
Fish and more from Miquel Barceló: The work of Mallorcan artist Miquel Barceló has found its way into the cathedral only recently. The addition was unveiled in 2007 in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, to the right of Gaudi’s hanging altarpiece. The parish was looking for a contemporary creation. Barceló gave the cathedral contemporary with 15 tons off ceramics in a piece that represents the miracle of the loaves and fish. It is the sort of work you don’t know where to look with fish and other marine creatures popping out of the walls and large windows colored to look like water.
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