La Seu, Mallorca’s Cathedral

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La Seu is Mallorca´s most emblematic building. It lies on the top of a hill, above the city walls and the sea, and it is at the centre of the harbour side of the old quarter in Palma de Mallorca. The building is a tribute to man and his Christian faith, which is expressed in the magnificent beauty of this architectural structure, which was built over centuries; inside the building, lights bursts through the darkness via the windows. It is a work of art which impresses all who come to admire it.

In the 13th century, Jaume I ordained the main mosque, which had been purified, as a temple for Christian worship, dedicated to Santa Maria. This is where La Seu was to be constructed. Mallorca´s cathedral, which was designed for Catholic worship, is connected to the Catalan conquest, and its political links are demonstrated by the fact that it houses the pantheon of Mallorcan kings and that is was the scene for their coronations. The building of the mosque was used until the 14th century while the cathedral was being built, and it is from the mosque that the cathedral has inherited its orientation. When the building had reached the height of the side portal, the mosque was knocked down. In this period the construction design was changed, with the height of the building being raised, which explains the disunity between the east end and the nave of this Gothic building. In 1601 the building was finished and consecrated, though it has subsequently undergone many reforms, the last of which was directed by the architect Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1914.

The main façade was reconstructed after the serious damage caused by an earthquake in 1851. It has four large towers and a pediment which includes a relief of the Dormition of the Mother of God, crowned by an image of the Assumption of Mary. Halfway up the façade are four sculptures which represent Ramon Llull, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Catalina Tomàs. The Portal Major (Great Portal), which blends renaissance and mannerist styles, is presided over by an image of the Immaculate Conception which is surrounded by the 15 symbols of the Marian Litany. Above this there is a large rose window, which, at almost 100m2, is the largest Gothic rose window in the world; it is divided into 24 triangles, half of which form the Star of David. The Portal del Mirador (Lookout Portal), next to the sea, is an example of Gothic sculpture, with a bas-relief representing the Final Supper, with God and six angels in the upper part. There are no statues in the empty recesses, which should have been filled when works finished in 1401. The Almoina façade, on the northern side, has large windows which are blocked out by the baroque altarpieces of the interior chapels. The gargoyles here, which represent mythical animals, are remarkable. On this same façade is the bell tower; this is 48 metres high and houses La Seu´s nine bells, including the 4,517 kg bell of Eloi, which has a diameter of 2 metres and which was cast in 1593. Next we see La Casa de l´Almoina (Alms House), which is a rare example of civil Gothic architecture on Mallorca. Its name comes from the alms which were given to the poor here when people came out of mass, and it currently serves as the entrance to the cathedral´s museum.

The layout of La Seu is rectangular and covers an area of approximately 6,600m2, with space for 18,000 people. It is divided into three naves with eight sections, and the east end has an apse for each nave. The central apse contains the high Chapel of Trinity, where the tombs of the Kings of Mallorca Jaume II and Jaume III are found, and the presbytery (also known as the Royal Chapel) where the great altar is housed, above which is a baldachin created by Antoni Gaudí. The lateral sections, between buttresses, are occupied by 16 chapels. The roof is made of ogival or crossed vaults which are supported by 14 impressive octagonal pillars with a height of 21.47 metres, as well as by the lateral walls, which are propped up by buttresses and flying buttresses outside. The stained-glass windows offer an impressive play of light and colour, though many have been covered or are blocked out by altarpieces. Inside the building there are numerous religious paintings and sculptures from many different styles and periods, though the majority are Gothic or baroque. A vast ceramic mural has been recently installed in one of the lateral apses; this is the work of Miquel Barceló – the most renowned contemporary plastic artist in Mallorca. On leaving La Seu visitors can enjoy the baroque 18th century cloister, where it is possible to view Roman remains through a window set into the ground.

Web of the Cathedral:

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