With one of the largest Stained Glass Windows in the World, the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca is not just a spectacular sight but rich in history.
The story of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Palma, more commonly referred to as Le Seu, begins in 1229 when King James I and his men sailed to Mallorca to defeat
the Moors who were ruling the island.
According to legend, the invasion fleet was caught in a violent storm, and the young king prayed to God, promising that should they arrive safely and successfully conquer the Moors, he would build
a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Construction began a year later, with the foundation being laid on the remains of what used to be the city's Mosque, and even though this was doubtless
intended to symbolise the victory of Christianity over Islam, the paradox remains that anyone kneeling to pray at the altar does so in the direction of Mecca, rather than towards Jerusalem.
The old mosque continued to be used, ironically as a Christian place of worship, until around 1300 when construction of the current Palma Cathedral began under the reign of James
II - son of James I and the first monarch of the island's dynasty. Work continued for several centuries and by the beginning of the seventeenth century - the height of the Renaissance
period - the main facade was completed.
A major reform had to be undertaken in 1851 following an earthquake which destroyed the west front, and the chief architect, Peyronnet, decided to adopt the Catalan Gothic style
that we all associate with Palma Cathedral today.
The second major reform took place at the end of the nineteenth century when the then Bishop of Mallorca, Joan Campins i Barcelo decided the interior of Le Seu was in need of refurbishment. The
famous Modernismo (the Spanish equivalent of Art Noveau), Antonio Gaudi, was entrusted with the task of adapting the original plans to more contemporary trends.
For thirteen years, Gaudi worked on the Cathedral of Palma until he suddenly abandoned the project in 1914 following a disagreement with the contractor. His pupils, Joan Rubio and Gillem Reynes
completed the work and their contribution was immense… including the recovery of the nave and The Chapel Royal, the construction of a Baldachin over the altar and restoration of the Bishop's
Throne, and the creation of more stained glass windows and installation of lamps. Still these renovations are often attributed to Gaudi himself and it is considered that Rubio and Reynes
have been denied the recognition they truly deserve.
In spite of any controversy, Le Seu is undoubtedly "the glory of Palma". Built from the best Mallorcan sandstone, this magnificent Cathedral dominates the bay of Palma and actually
seems to rise right out of the sea. A glimpse of it from the air whilst approaching Palma de Mallorca Airport is bound to take your breath away. Reaching a height of forty-four
metres and covering an area of almost seven thousand square metres (about the size of Wembley football pitch), its flying buttresses, pillars, spires, arches, towers and
vertical lines are awe-inspiring to say the least.
Arguably more impressive from the outside, the interior of Palma Cathedral offers one of the world's largest stained-glass windows - The Rose Window - at 12 metres across and
studded with 1,236 pieces of stained glass, its columns ringed with an 18th-century Baroque-style candelabra designed by Gaudi. When the sun shines through this window on a bright morning, every
nook and cranny in Le Seu lights up like a rainbow, hence the name "The Cathedral of Light".
The Bell Tower holds nine bells, including the famous "N'Eloi" which is two metres in diameter and weighs over five and a half tonnes.
Palma Cathedral is dedicated to San Sebastian, the Patron Saint of Palma, and it contains the tombs of King James I and King James II of Mallorca, and also allegedly relics of the
Le Seu is, of course, a place of Catholic worship, but is open to the public as follows:-
Saturday from 10:00 to 14:15
1st April - 31 May:
Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 17:15
1st June - 30th September:
Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:15
Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 17:15
2nd November - 31st March:
Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 15:15
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