I love cathedrals. There is just so much to see in every cathedral, that I gladly pay the upkeep fee and can spend hours wandering inside, gawking at the magnificent stained glass windows, the ornate ceilings, the embellishments of each nave or beautifully grand organ. I suppose it comes from a Protestant upbringing, spending each Sunday morning in church listening to the sermon with only white walls and unadorned windows to distract my attention. I suppose that’s the idea, but it has left me with a particular appreciation for the lavishness of Catholic churches.
So, whenever I find myself in a new town, a visit to their cathedral is mandatory, and Malaga’s was no exception. Built between 1528 and 1782 on the site of a former mosque, the cathedral is known locally as La Manquita, the one-armed, because it only has one tower. The interior is a mixture of Renaissance and Baroque opulence, with tall pillars leading the eyes heavenward to the colourful stained glass windows depicting further Biblical scenes.
In keeping with Spain’s theme of being a country under construction, I also noticed that a net spanned across the interior of the cathedral, just below ceiling level. Bits of rubble were caught in it and a sign advised that it was there for the protection of visitors, since the ceiling was starting to fall down in places. I understand the practical reason for the net, but it did make it a little awkward to appreciate the architecture fully.
We never bother to hire audio guides when visiting cathedrals. You spend ten minutes listening to the narrator drone on about the history of a particular painting in one nave, and by the time you’ve moved on to the next you’ve already forgotten everything you’d just learned. What I liked about the cathedral in Malaga is that each item of interest had a signboard next to it, briefly describing why it is important in various languages. This allowed us to read the detailed descriptions of the pieces we found interesting, while merely glancing at the ones we did not. We were especially intrigued by a painting of the beheading of St Paul (having seen a relic of his wrist bone in a church in Malta once, we have since often noticed artwork relating to this particular apostle).
Malaga’s cathedral is located in the centre of the historic area, only a five minute walk from the Picasso Museum. It’s definitely worth visiting if you are in the area, but if you find the €5 per person entrance fee a little too pricey, I would recommend holding out for Seville’s cathedral instead.
For more posts in the Spain 2010 series, click here.
Do you make a point of visiting cathedrals when travelling? Why? And which ones are your favourites?