Friday, 13 May 2016

Cádiz Cathedral - Grand Designs project that took six architects and 116 years to finish

Churches are impossible to avoid in Spain - they dominate the Old Towns everywhere you go. You could easily spend an entire trip just touring them. Many probably do. I, however, have always rather satisfied my hunger for culture somewhere else. Such as... at the markets, tapas bars and queuing for churros... 

Swiftly approaching middle age (oh, the things I'll be pinning on that one...!) has clearly piqued my interest in architecture and these days even churches have found their way onto my itineraries. Most memorable ones have, without a doubt, been the cathedrals of Cordoba and Seville

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Sure, they're impressive sights that boast an impressive history, but especially the latter is - simply aesthetically speaking - an incredible work of art (and climbing up those stairs certainly helped to burn some calories and thus make room for the next tapas bars..!) 

The majestic sight of Cadiz Cathedral made an impression on me already my first evening in the city and I couldn't wait to get to explore her.

Built next to the old Santiago church, commissioned by the Kind Alfonso X The Wise in 1635, the building work for the New Cathedral started in 1722 and went on for over a century. It  finally ended in 1838, though the cathedral itself is still not quite finished. 

It might seem humble at first (not a ostentatiously gilded dome in sight!) but they really didn't scrimp on the marble (from Carrera, daahling, claro que si). 

During the many, many long years it took to build the cathedral, the city also went through some not so prosperous years and this is reflected on the materials chosen for the church, too. 

The exterior combines marble with oyster stone, yellow brownish stone typical for Cadiz region, and, as the name suggests, sourced from the sea. 

Another thing that reflects the protracted building work is the cheerful mix of different styles. 

Initially the cathedral was designed to follow the Baroque style, but it now also boasts Rococo and Neo-Classical features.

The drawn-out process clearly became too much even for its architect: the original one (Vicente Acero, who also designed the cathedral in Granada) abandoned the project only 16 years into it. 

In the 100 years that it took to finish what he'd started, the project was taken over by further five architects.

Despite the challenges, the final result is rather magnificent. And worth every penny of the €4 admission.

The net that is visible in the photos, too, draped around the pillars and covering the ceiling does add certain romance to the Gothic mystique of the place, but it does serve a real purpose, too. Not to prevent birds from flying around, though, as I (and many others) speculated. 

Much like the old church that fell into disrepair, the ceiling of the new one was built using limestone, which doesn't fare too well in the seaside climate and keeps tragically deteriorating. Without the net, the chunks would fall right onto the church-goers.

The cathedral and its proportions are massive. Even the choir section houses 2 organs. You should also make time to check out the crypt under the cathedral, both because of its unusually large size and bewildering acoustics.

Their Corpus Christi is nothing short of impressive, too: it's made of solid silver and weighs a whopping ton. When it wheeled out for the processions during Easter's Santa Semana and later for Feast of Ascension, it takes 12 men to manoeuvre it. 

The cathedral fascinates with its millions of enchanting details. 

The way lights and shadows play under its vaults is a feast for eyes. Even the most cynical of pagans falls quiet before such beauty...

...and almost forgets all the other things those huge amounts of money building of this must have cost could have been used for. All the poor it would have helped; all the dying it could have saved...

So, were you equally impressed by it? What do you think now - shall we continue our tour of the city or is it time for some food?

* The trip was organized in collaboration with Cadiz Tourism *





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