Cathedrals in Spain are magnificent! It is not easy to draw up a list of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals we have visited in Spain. For some, the choice is clear: the great Spanish cathedrals classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, such as cathedrals of Burgo, Santiago de Compostela, or Córdoba. But for others, deciding which ones are “best” is more difficult.
Table of content
- Facts about churches and cathedrals in Spain
- Our list of the most interesting cathedrals in Spain you should visit
- Learn 5 easy words of Spanish
- Did you know this interesting fact?
1. Facts about churches and cathedrals in Spain
Churches and cathedrals are important part the country’s history and architectural heritage. They attract many tourists into the country on yearly basis.
There is no consensus on how to determine what is the oldest cathedral in Spain? The one in Jaca in the Pyrenees, with its Romanesque parts of the twelfth century? Or would it be the Basilica of Foz in Galicia, which is not really a cathedral, but was one in the past? Or is it the Córdoba Cathedral, which is probably the oldest, but not really a church, as it was a mosque up to the 13th century?
The oldest cathedrals in Spain are in the north, where the re-conquest began in the Middle Ages, baroque cathedrals further south are later.
The list below is our subjective choice of Spain’s most interesting cathedrals. And if my wife has an obsession to collect cookbooks, we share the passion for history & travel-related books. 😉 The pictures in them are great and it is fascinating to study about the history behind the sights.
2. Our list of the most interesting cathedrals in Spain you should visit
12. Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor
You can find “the Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” in Barcelona right at the peak of Mount Tibidabo. The cathedral is fairly new since it was consecrated in the 1950s.
The cathedral is made from stone in a Romanesque design with a combination of plenty add-ons and modern Gothic touches. Definitely worth your admiration!
11. Málaga Cathedral
Málaga Cathedral was built at around 16th and 18th centuries. It is located in what is now considered the central point of the city. Initially, the cathedral was located within the Moorish walls of Malaga. It is filled with an enchanting art collection. You can enter the cathedral via the Baroque façade.
When visiting the cathedral, you will have a chance to view and marvel medallions made of stone, massive Gothic altarpiece and countless statues and paintings. The south tower is still incomplete because the congregation used its funds to assist the United States in its war with the British back in the 18th century.
10. Plasencia Cathedral
Having two cathedrals in one, the Cathedral of Plasencia conveys an eccentric story of a Romanesque-Eerie church. The construction was only half finished. A change in plans, and the construction of a new late Gothic cathedral more or less on the same site was started.
As a result, there is a set of two incomplete cathedrals, one intertwined in the other. The Byzantine and Romanesque chapter house of the old cathedral is particularly interesting and unusual.
9. Cathedral of Santa Maria
The city of León was an important stopover on the pilgrimage route to Compostela. In the 13th century, the old Romanesque cathedral was replaced with a new Gothic cathedral Santa Maria.
With its rosette and flying buttresses, it is a large classical Gothic cathedral particularly known for its beautiful stained glass windows.
8. Zamora Cathedral
This is another great Romanesque cathedral in Spain dating back to the 12th century. This Zamora cathedral is particularly interesting for its Romanesque decoration and architecture.
In addition, it forms part of a protective area in the city. The transept is surmounted by a dome that was inspired by the Byzantine style cupolas of the Saint-Front Cathedral in Périgueux, France.
7. Cathedral Salamanca
Salamanca has two cathedrals one adjoining to the other. Over the centuries, medieval cathedrals and churches in many cities have been destroyed or largely altered to make room for new cathedrals in the style of the time.
Back in the 16th century, it was decided that they would build a new cathedral in Salamanca. They understood tough, that the work would last for many decades. Hence the old cathedral was preserved, and the new one built next door.
The Romanesque “cathedral”, which escaped demolition and major transformations, is a remarkable building. It has a magnificent 14th century golden and painted apse.
6. Cathedral Barcelona
The Gaudí’s remarkable 20th-century cathedral in Barcelona was built in concrete. Later in 2010, it was dedicated as a basilica, not a cathedral. It is still under construction but has already been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is an art-nouveau interpretation of the classical Gothic cathedral – definitely one of the main sights of Catalonia. Completion is scheduled for the year 2026.
5. Ávila Cathedral
Ávila cathedral is the oldest gothic cathedral in Spain that was built between the 11th and 14th centuries. The cathedral is also part of the city walls and has a fascinating 16th-century convent.
One of the ravishing details is the altarpiece in the main chapel. The stained-glass windows from the 15th century are interesting. For many reasons, this cathedral was designated a National Monument in 1949.
4. Seville Cathedral
The cathedral in Seville is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the second largest cathedral in Europe after Saint Peter in Rome. Initially, it was built in the 15th century after the Reconquest and was destroyed partially four years after being completed by the collapse of the dome.
After the rebuilt, the new dome lived longer. Unfortunately, it did not survive an earthquake in 1888. The dome collapsed but fortunately, the rest of the cathedral survived and is a testimony to the prosperity of this great Andalusian city.
The cathedral has remarkable and rich Baroque and Gothic decorations both inside and outside. The Cathedral of Seville is also famous for its bell tower called the Giralda. It is thus older than the cathedral, having served from minaret to the mosque that preceded the cathedral.
Did you know that the cathedral also contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus?
Interested about Seville? Read more about our tips what to do in Seville!
3. Cathedral Santa María
The cathedral in Burgos is the most European Gothic cathedral, built from the 13th to the 16th centuries. It is a cathedral that would be as good in its place in France or in Germany, even in England. Its construction was launched by Bishop Maurice of England and King Ferdinand III.
The two main architects were over the years a Frenchman and later a German architect, who came up with the Gothic high design to Spain.
2. The Mezquita of Córdoba Cathedral – Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
Have you ever seen a church inside a church? The Gothic cathedral stands in the middle of the building. It is truly a fine example of religious architecture. The most exceptional feature of Córdoba Cathedral is that the larger part of the structure was originally a mosque.
The Great Mosque of Córdoba was built between the 8th and the 10th centuries. It was once the second largest mosque of Islam after Mecca. For three centuries after the Reconquest, the mosque served as a cathedral.
It was only in the sixteenth century that part of the centre was demolished to make room for a more traditional cathedral. Fortunately, most of the old mosque is still there. The architectural complex remains a must step of any visit to Andalucia, Spain.
1. Santiago de Compostela – UNESCO World Heritage Site
If you are interested in the historical heritage of Europe – you should definitely visit this cathedral! It is the most famous pilgrimage church in Europe since the Middle Ages.
Not surprisingly, having been a major European landmark for more than 9 centuries, this cathedral has been the subject of many beautification works.
This unique building tells the story of Spanish and European architecture from the 11th to the 18th centuries. Originally Romanesque cathedral, it is also a jewel of Spanish Gothic and Baroque architecture.
Spain is known for many things like beaches, bullfighting and flamenco dancing. But it is also a country that is known for its strong Catholic background, and some of its churches are ranked among the best in the world.
Whether or not you are a religious person, ensure that you visit one of them during your visit to Spain. They are truly awesome and amazing to see.
Print here your list of cathedrals in Spain to see before you book yourself a dream holiday in Spain! 😉
4. Learn 5 easy words of Spanish
¿Dónde está el banco? (dohn days tah ayl bahn coh)? – Where is the bank?
A la derecha ( a lah day ray chah) – on the right
A la izquierda (ah lah eez kee ayr dah) – on the left
Derecho – straight ahead
La calle – street
5. Did you know this interesting fact about cathedrals in Spain?
If the La Sagrada Familia will be finished in 2026, the construction has taken 150 years to build. That is only 50 years less than the Great Wall of China but more than what it took to build the Egyptian Pyramids.