LA SEU – PALMA’S CATHEDRAL
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Visit Palma’s cathedral of La Seu
The amazing cathedral of La Seu measures 135 meters in length and is 44 meters tall, which makes among the biggest Gothic cathedrals in the world. The cathedral carries a long history that goes back to the Catalan conquest of the island, and has been modified multiple times throughout the centuries by famous architects and artists such as Gaudí, Guillem Segradà, Jaume Fabre and Miquel Barceló.
Brief introduction to La Seu
Almost immediately after the conquest of Madina Mayurqua (Palma) by the Catalan-Aragonese troops led by King Jaume I of Aragón, the orders to construct the cathedral was given. It was the king himself and the count of Barcelona who gave the orders to replace the former great mosque with a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary for Christian worship.
The first documentation of the construction works dates from around 1230, even though the first bishop of Mallorca (Ramon de Torrella) was not proclaimed until 1237. The first works of the temple were carried out in the years between 1230 and 1256.
In 1269, Bishop Pere de Morella consecrated the main altar of La Seu.
During the reign of Jaume II (1276-1311), succeeder of Jaume I, the works on the current cathedral began and lasted for more than three centuries until it was finished in the 1630’s. The last remains of the Moorish mosques disappeared with the progress of La Seu around 1386.
The first part that was constructed was the royal chapel, also known as the ”Chapel of Trinity”, located on the eastern side, which was reserved for the tombs of the monarchs. It was built in the years between 1314 and 1327. The first architect was most likely Ponç des Coll, while the second architect was Jaume Fabre, a theologian and confessor of King Jaume I, whom was also the architect behind the Sant Domingo monastery (now demolished) and the cathedral of Barcelona.
From 1330, the floor plan changed to include three ships according to the architecture of the cathedral of Barcelona and the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar.
From 1368 architects Jaume Mates and Llorenç Sosquela was in charge of the project, they built with stoneware made in Santanyí.
The massive Gothic rose window above the main apse was built in 1370, and closed with 1,200 pieces of stained glass in 1599. The window covers an area of 97,5 m2 and is the largest Gothic rose window in the world along with the cathedral of Strabourg.
Two times a year, on February 2nd and November 11, a big event happens in La Seu called ‘Light of God’. Light of God, is a phenomenon created when the sun beams enters through the massive rose window, creating a reflection on the opposite end wall just under the corresponding rose window, making it look like the number “8”.
The number ‘8’ has a biblical value as it is believed that this number is the number of eternity. The number has more meanings and values in the Christian faith, which is why the massive columns inside the cathedral are made octangular like the baptistery.
Between 1389 and 1397, the works were directed by Guillem Oliveres, while Pere Morei, Jean de Valenciennes, Henry l’Alemany and Guillem Sagrera sculpted the beautiful Portal del Mirador.
In 1498, both the Portal de Almonia and the bell-tower was completed. The bell tower consist of nine bells, whereof the largest of these is known as ”Eloi”.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the construction of the choir hall began in the center of the main nave. And between 1592 and 1601 Miquel Verger built the main portal.
It was during the 17th and 18th centuries when the Baroque began to permeate the interior of the Cathedral, in the form of altarpieces, paintings and sculptures marked by post-Tridentine spirituality. Examples of this is seen in such emblematic pieces as the Corpus Christi altarpiece, the cloister and the new chapter room stand out.
In the mid-19th century (1851), the entire main facade was severely damaged due to an earthquake and had to be replaced. The restoration was directed by Madrid architect Juan Bautista Payronnet.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the architect Antoni Gaudí adapted the interior space of the Cathedral to the new liturgical and pastoral requirements. His intervention, promoted by Bishop Pere Joan Campins, was carried out between the years 1904 and 1915. The liturgical restoration recovered the space of the faithful, the visibility of the choral presbytery, the episcopal chair and the Chapel of the Trinity.
Gaudí also left multiple other marks in the cathedral such as the beautiful iron lights attached to the imposing columns, the crown of thorns hanging in front of the altar and the fence that closes the main apse.
Gaudí collaborated with other great architects of the time such as his partner Joan Rubió i Bellver, Josep Maria Jujol, Guillem Reynés Font and Joaquim Torres-Garcia.
The last major renovation of La Seu was the Capella del Santísimo (Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament) between 2001 and 2006 by Mallorcan artist Miquel Barceló. Barceló’s work represents the Eucharist through the multiplication of breads and fish, which allows him to show the marine life, and the wedding of Cana around Christ.
The walls are covered by painted ceramics made by potter Vincenzo Santoriello in Vietri sul Mare, Italy. Barceló is also the artist of the liturgical furnishings; the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and two stones. Another element that stands out in Barceló’s work, is the 12 meter high stained glass window that is meant to recreate underwater light.
In front of the cathedral, you will find a park with a lake called ‘Parc de la Mar’ (Park of the Sea). This was planned in a such way, that lights from the sun and moonlight, would reflect directly on the walls of the cathedral making it visible from far out.
1st of April – 31st of May / October: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5:15 pm
2nd of November – 31st of March: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 3:15 pm
1st of June – 30th of September: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6:15 pm
All year round: Saturdays between 10 am and 2:15 pm
During festivities and special holidays
Open 10 am to 2:15 pm
March 1st, Balearic Islands Day
May 1st, Labor Day
June 24th, Sant Joan
October 12th, National Holiday
How to get to La Seu
Palma's other main tourist attractions
PALAU DE L’ALMUDAINA
The Almudaina palace is the most historical building in all of Mallorca. It was originally built as the seat of the governor back in Moorish times and has ever since been a place of royal affairs. The Almudaina palace is an interesting attraction with a lot of history to tell.
CASTELL DE BELLVER
The Bellver castle is the crown of Palma. This unique round shaped fortress overlooks the entire bay of Palma from its hilltop position, which itself makes it attractive to visit. There is a lot of interesting things to this medieval fortress and, the historical museum of Palma is also found here.
Santa Eulàlia is the parish church of Palma and, was actually one of the four first churches established in the city post the Catalan conquest in the 13th century. Enjoy the amazing detailed artwork that adorns the exterior before entering the church where a world of religious arts awaits.
Enter this grandiose mansion in the heart of Palma full of detailed architecture evidencing the wealth of the families that have lived here. Casal Solleric is a free to enter public exhibition space, the rooms beautifully combines original furniture and contemporary arts, making it a dynamic and interesting place to visit.
Palma Aquarium is an attraction for the entire family to enjoy. The aquarium houses the largest shark tank in Europe, and you can even swim with the sharks if you have a PADI license, or sail in a little boat on top of the tank. There are many fun and interesting activities to do in Palma Aquarium, along with numerous event throughout the day, making it a dynamic and entertaining visit for all ages.
FERROCARRIL DE SÓLLER
Get on board on this antique train departing from Placa Espanya, and wait for the whistle to blow and the engine to start pulling the old wooden cars out of Palma and towards the beautiful mountains to reach the picturesque town of Sóller.
REIAL CONVENT DE SANT FRANCESC
Visit one of Palma’s most historical convents, the Sant Francesc located in the old city. Inside, you can enjoy some of the most unique Gothic architecture, a heavenly courtyard surrounded by a beautiful cloister, and, the tomb of one of the most famous Mallorcans, Ramon Llull.