The magnificent Cathedral of Cuenca!!!

Now this one need to update revise text and links, it is a masterpiece and not given the credit it deserves in monument loaded Spain. It was my main city base on several vacation trips to Spain with the family staying in the mountains off Cuenca, plenty of posts in my blog on that. Also, several on Cuenca too, but this is the magnificent Catedral de Santa María y San Julián ,and needs more. You can print and take with you as guide for the visit! Hope you enjoy as I.

I like to tell you about one Cathedral of Cuenca or the complete name in Spanish Catedral de Santa María y San Julián. Over the years upon  my requests for travel in the family, I have always tilted to Spain of course. Even if living as citizen now in another wonderful country of France, the blood calls. My family nicely has followed and onwards to Spain we went for many years for our long summer vacation.


This town of Cuenca up in the mountains of the Serrania of Cuenca we rented houses up 1400 meters, and use it as a base to travel all over the Castillas and Madrid and Valencia regions. It will always stay with me as right now they are sentimental souvenirs of our trip with my dear late wife Martine. She came to love it here, and always eager to go. This is the autonomouse region of Castilla La Mancha and the Cathedral of Cuenca is a mayor work, do not think will give justice to it in one post ,even if done some general briefings on my other area posts in my blog. I have decided to give you some description on the Cathedral alone here.


A bit of history of the Cathedral of Cuenca that I like

The city was conquered back from the Arabs in September 21 1177 and king Alfonso VIII of Castilla brings the bishop’s seat here in 1183. The Cathedral was one of his priorities and it begun construction in 1196.  In the year 1208 had already made an important part of the works because it was possible to consecrate the main altar. In the year 1257, a large part of the structures were completed and the Episcopal palace was built. The work continued throughout the 13C. In the year 1448 was modified its headboard, rising a giro similar to that of Toledo. It is known that the wife of King Alfonso VIII, Leonor Plantagenet was the inspiration of this majestic construction, advised by her Anglo-Norman advisors.  That is why the cathedral of Cuenca presents elements that differentiate it from the large number of Gothic cathedrals that exist in Spain-of French influence. The time when major modifications were introduced was in the fifteenth century.


A bit on the construction/architecture I like

The modifications both inside and outside have substantially changed their original architecture.  In the 16tC and 17C several works were carried out on the façade and several chapels and the cloister were built. In the 18C, renovations were made in the apse, pillars and in the interior decoration. In the year 1902, there was the collapse of the Giraldo or giro tower that caused huge damage to the facade so there was to rebuild it, in neo-Gothic style. The cathedral is a Latin cross plant and has three naves with a large headboard that ends in a polygonal apse with seven sides and flanked by two naves on each side that serve as entrance to the Giro, made in 1448. Right on the cruise, a central vault is erected. The central nave is separated from the sides by means of large pointed arches that support on solid pillars of different thickness. Its triforium is unique in Spain, product of Anglo-Norman influence and more than its ornamental function highlights its original solution to counteract the thrust of the vaults. On the transept of the cathedral stands the Angel Tower, conceived as a lantern to give light to the cathedral. It receives the influences of the lanterns of square plant of Laón, Braine and many Burgundian churches.  The triforium of the Cathedral of Cuenca is a false triforium, as its nave has been reduced to a narrow corridor and its gallery has been fused with high windows to create a unique structure in Spain that serves as a transmission of forces from the vaults to the buttresses.  

I will take you to a very brief description of the Chapels in this magnificent and seldom seen Cathedral but a must to visit. Couple pictures not to  overwhelmed the post you got the picture!



Our journey begins on the right side we can enter the Chapel of Pilar. This chapel was founded in the year 1769 ,it has a polychrome wood altar that imitates marble and Jasper. The gate is from the 17C. On the walls there are six reliefs of was representing Saint Julian and the Virgin, Apparition of the Virgin to Santiago, Virgin with the Child, miracle of calender and imposition of the chasuble to San Ildefonso. The Crown of the Virgin is painted in the vault of the lantern. Inside it is preserved the burial of Bishop Wenceslas of Sigüensa.

The Chapel of the Apostles It was founded in the 16C. The work of the chapel began in 1528 the cover is organized in the purest Renaissance style. Its entrance portico is majestic and is made of carved stone with plateresque style grille. The main altar has a central altarpiece with sculptures of polychrome carving and paintings, from the 16C .

The Chapel of San Antolin ,it was made at the beginning of the 16C and is located at the angle of the nave with the cruise. It has a wooden gate and a decorative frieze of full mudejar style. It has a baptismal font located in the centre, also made in the 16C. On an altar appear paintings on another altar appears a sculpture of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the altar of St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist comes from the chapel called the Annunciation with two paintings from the 16C.

The Bishop’s Chapel , This stay owes its name to the function it represents. It serves as a private residence of the prelate and was founded by Cardinal and Bishop of Cuenca Jacobo de Veneris at the end of the 15C. It has a beautiful grille of the middle of the 16C, in which the Baptism of Christ is represented, the altar is of wood and alabaster polychrome The paintings of the altarpiece of the main altar are dedicated to San Julián, patron of the city. The altar of Santa Ana has an altarpiece made in the 17C and comes from the hermitage of Santa Ana.

Saint Martin Chapel was done in the middle of the 16C. It has a forged grille and made in 1548. The altarpiece of this chapel is dedicated to San Martín in Plateresque style with medallions made in alabaster, which combines polychrome wood, painting on board and Alabaster. Under the Arcosolio are the graves of the Montemayor that present statues of naturalistic style and a more evolved Gothic. The altar of the Angel of the guard is circumscribed to the Baroque style and has a Calvary made at the end of the 15C and early 16C, on a beam carved with plateresque motifs. Right on the chamfer of the wall lies the altar of the Immaculate. In front of these two altars is the altarpiece of San Fabián and San Sebastián, in Polychrome wood and with a varied iconography.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Tabernacle , It was founded by the Cabildo in the year 1629  The works continued in the 17th century. It has three altarpieces-reliquary. The central dedicated on the right to San Julian and the left to the birth of the Virgin.

The Chapel of St. Helena ,It was founded as seen in the stone façade from the 16C and its grating dates from the year 1572. The altarpiece of its interior is made in the 16C  It is wood without polychrome. It emphasizes its predela by the deep animalistic study of the same one.

The Chapel of the Heart of Jesus or Capilla Honda , according to the chronicles this chapel was consecrated to the Virgin who carried Alfonso VIII when entering the city of Cuenca, where he was named Chapel of the Virgin of the Battles. It is also called the Honda Chapel because it is located well below the level of the cathedral floor. The current construction dates from the beginning of the 16C, although it still has magnificent mudejar doors made between the 12C and 13C . At the altar are two tables of the 16C and a copy of the table of the Savior, Gossaert. He has undergone several constructive modifications over time. The altarpiece of María Auxiliadora highlights the painting of the Virgin of Milk that dates from 1600 and is preserved in the auction. The main altarpiece is the work of the 18C and is dedicated to the heart of Jesus.

The Relief or help (Socorro) Chapel; was founded in 1486 and reformed in the 19C. It currently has three altarpieces, Our Lady of Socorro, San Antonio de Padua and Santa Maria. The Gothic altar is from the 15C and is clearly influenced by the Anglo-Norman style. In nine niches with Gothic background we see seventeen carvings in Polychrome wood.

The Chapel of the Assumption , it was founded in the year 1511. It has a magnificent grille, especially in the upright, made in the year 1571. At its main altar is the altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin,  from the end of the 16C.

The Chapel of St James or Santiago, this chapel was founded by Bishop Alvaro Martínez, Maestro and counselor of Henri III. It has several bars, the Communion rail and the choir are from the 16C and the entrance is from the 17C. On the side of the gospel contains two sepulchers of the late 14C, with sculptures of Toledo style, in honor of its founding bishop. Next to it is the Gothic style tombstone of the conquest of Cuenca by Alfonso VIII. The main altarpiece dates back to 1547. There is a minor altarpiece that combines the carving of Christ with images of the Virgin and oil-painted saints from the late 16C.

The Knights ‘ Chapel ,It was founded in the 13C and was restored between the years 1520 and 1531, in its current location. The chapel has two real masterpieces, from the previous chapel, the tombstone of Mrs. Teresa de Luna and several sepulchres with statues of alabaster, the father and brother of Cardinal García Alvarez de Albornoz and Alvar García de Albornoz, carried out in the 16C during the renovations of the chapel, were preserved. This one has three altarpieces called of the Crucifixion, the piety and the Adoration of the Kings, in which it emphasizes the Italianate influence of Leonardo Da Vinci; There are also several paintings of Orrente. The Calvary that crowns the altarpiece of the altar of the assumption from the 16C.

The Muñoz Chapel was founded in the 16C. It has one of the most beautiful stone façades of the cathedral The columns are formed by the overlap of two different shafts in which one can guess in the stone, the face and the arms of a man terrified and supported in a corbel in whose interior there is a deformed telamon distressed by the pressure of the cartouches Side. The sculptures represent San Juan Bautista and San Jerónimo with very marked traits; Two serene caryatids; San Roque and the Virgin with the Child and a San Rafael added to the work at the end of the 15C.

The Mayor Chapel , has three bars. The largest of these was made at the beginning of the 16C and is located on the main Altar. It is the most monumental of the bars that this cathedral contains. The other two side bars were made in Vizcaya in the year 1740. Its main altar is bronze and marble, according to Ventura Rodríguez project in the second half of the 18C.

The Covarrubias Chapel  was founded in 1611  The construction was started in 1613 in the Escorial style. It has a Renaissance altarpiece with a table of Jesus attached to the column.

The weight Chapel or de los Peso, was founded in 1524 . The gate is considered one of the most beautiful in the cathedral. The altarpiece depicting in its central scene “The Adoration of the Shepherds” In the upright stands the representation of the Visitation of the Virgin.

The new Chapel of San Julian , the Altar of St Julian’s, also called Transparent, was design in the 18C. The altar is made of marble, Jasper and bronze, with medallions in high relief and allegorical statues,, from the second half of the 18C, Baroque. In the year 1760 the remains of St. Julian were moved to the new altar. In 1936 was burned the body in one of the courtyards of the episcopal palace and was also stolen the silver urn where the saint rested.

The Chapel of Pozo or San Roque was founded in 1503, in the contiguous place of the transparent and moved to its current location in the 18C. It has a grille and a Gothic-style altar done  in 1511. The altarpiece is  from the beginning of the 16C. The central size of the altarpiece representing the Assumption of the Virgin was transferred to the Diocesan museum and was replaced by the San Roque. The altarpiece contains numerous oil paintings.

The Beard Chapel, was founded in the year 1967 .The gate and altarpiece was made in 1569 and restored in 1795. It contains several paintings.

The Chapel of Santa Catalina is located next to the so-called Arco de Jamete. It was built in the mid-15C and modified at the beginning of the 16C. There is an altarpiece in the interior with the martyrdom of the saint and an ordeal, from the second half of the 16C. Highlights the Plateresque framework of the altarpiece, refurbished and expanded in 1598.

The Chapel of St. Bartholomew, was founded at the end of the 15C. It has a magnificent altarpiece called the Christ of the Sacristans of the mid- 16C. It has a plateresque altar and a Gothic alabaster piety in a niche that is currently preserved in the museum.

The Chapel of Santa Barbara, was founded in the early 18C. It contains a baroque-style altarpiece that is surrounded by mural paintings with false architectures. In the center of the altarpiece there is a polychrome wood carving of the Saint and on the upper part a canvas allusive to the doubt of Saint Thomas. The whole of the eternal Father  finished it.

Other rooms of the Cathedral of Cuenca

The main sacristy ,It is of Gothic style and is located behind a very large canvas of the wall in which the burials of two bishops are found. The works were completed in the year 1509. On its cover there are blasons and religious images. The drawer for ritual robes, made in walnut . La Dolorosa and a Virgin of Bethlehem are inserted. There are also several 17C  paintings made by Bocanegra and Sebastián Conca, representing the doctors of the Western Church.

The Chapter Room, It was built at the beginning of the 16C. It has magnificent doors made of carved walnut wood of plateresque style that contain several circular medallions and panels decorated with renaissance motifs. The coffered ceiling of the room is in Renaissance style with tints of the first Plateresque. It is separated from the cathedral by a small enclosure that was open until the 18C. In the second half of the 18C was added the painting that today covers it, of clear French influence. The Twelve apostles of the sides  done in 1649 for the Sala de los Reyes (kings room), transferred to the chapter house in the year 1779. On the current chorus are preserved, in the warheads, paintings of prophets who were part of that ensemble. Especially the pictorial ensemble with the figures of Christ and St. Matthias.

The Arch of Jamete is of Renaissance style with the influences of the first  Plateresque and was probably done between 1545 and 1550. It is a monumental door that accesses the cloister and is considered one of the jewels of the cathedral and perhaps the most monumental of all the Spanish Renaissance in an interior.

The old chapel of San Julian is located next to the epistle and has a fence. In the second half of the 17C the door was closed inside, becoming a chapel. It highlights the fine work of rockery of the frontal of the altar. The door gate has an exceptional finish in embossed gold plate with the same scene of the altarpiece, anonymous work of the first half of the 16C.

The official webpage of the Catedral de Santa María y San Julián in English:

The official tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on the Catedral de Santa María y San Julián in English:

Ok a bit long but I think worth it. This is a jewel that needs to be seen and has direct train and bus from Madrid as well as only 2h30 by car along the A40/A3 expressways toll free. Enjoy the post and the Cathedral and Cuenca!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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2 Comments to “The magnificent Cathedral of Cuenca!!!”

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