History of Almudena Cathedral, Madrid

To read the Tourist Guide to the Cathedral

The interior of Madrid’s cathedral maybe considered bland but the history of its construction is rich with intrigue. The cathedral is positioned upon an ancient Moorish Mosque. With the arrival and conquest of Christianity in 1083, lead by Alfonso VI, a church was rapidly constructed on the ruined mosque to stamp authority on the new religion to the region.

The interior of Madrid’s cathedral maybe considered bland but the history of its construction is rich with intrigue. The cathedral is positioned upon an ancient Moorish Mosque. With the arrival and conquest of Christianity in 1083, lead by Alfonso VI, a church was rapidly constructed on the ruined mosque to stamp authority on the new religion to the region.

 

The original plans for a grand cathedral for Madrid were devised by King Philip II during the 16th century, but encounter the same problem which would prevent construction until the 20th century. The diocese that incorporates Madrid was not centre in the Spanish capital but in the town of Toledo. The bishops of Toledo, which were historically very powerful, were reluctant to allow Madrid’s riches be controlled by a newly created diocese which would have close alignment to the Spanish nobility, so Madrid was kept as a religious subservient to Toledo.

 

This royalty / religious standoff prevented a cathedral being constructed in Madrid, until 1882 when Pope Leo XIII decreed that Madrid may form its own diocese outside of the control of Toledo. The temporary cathedral in the old Jesuit church part of the Imperial College was unbefitting of the important religious and political centre Madrid was transforming into. Designs were produced to create a magnificent cathedral that would complement the splendour of the Royal Palace. The first stages of the cathedral were construction in a Gothic revival style under the direction of Francisco de Cubas, the Marquis of Cubas.

The first of the three stages of construction was the excavation of the crypts which lie to the south side of the Cathedral complex. These were built in the Romanesque style but the project was halted during the Spanish civil war and the cathedral was left with half constructed central pillars and low-level walls. The crypts of the Almudena Cathedral were opened before the civil war in 1911 but the reminder of the grand cathedral was left to decay until the 1950s.

 

The second stage of the cathedral construction project, almost 60 years after the first stage, was initiated and funded by both the council and diocese of Madrid. The joint political and religious sponsors selected Fernando Chueca Goitia and Carlos Sidro to re-design cathedral. This building stage encountered public opposition as the original plans were gothic and at stark contrast to the neo-classical styling of the Royal Palace. The political wangling and consultations drained much of the initial energy and enthusiasm from the project and eventually Madrid council withdrew its funding in 1965.

 

It took a further 20 years before more backing was secured from both private and public institutions which created a trust fund to finish the cathedral. The third and final stage of the construction started in 1985 and by 1993 the cathedral was suitable to be consecrated by John Paul II. The Almudena Cathedral is the only Spanish cathedral to be consecrated by a Pope and on the 15th June 1993 the cathedral became the primary religious centre replaced the old church of Colegiata de san Isidro. The first wedding to held in the cathedral was between the heir to the Spanish throne Prince of Asturias Felipe de Borbon with his wife Letizia Ortiz, the wedding was held on the 22nd May 2004.

pena palace

The main gateway to Madrid

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The cathedral of Madrid was impressive x

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All that fantastic food...

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The Fountains of Cibeles

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The old centre of Madrid

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Dancing the night away in that cool club, my head the next day though....