Granada Cathedral is one of the symbols of the Renaissance in Granada and along with the Palacio de Carlos V and the main Altar of San Jerónimo is one of its best examples in the city. The monument can be visited on our Guided Tour of the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel.
Inside the Granada Cathedral
Despite its initial design following a conventionally Gothic style, the inclusion of Diego de Siloé as the lead architect soon meant a major change in style for the project, moving towards a something completely renovated and new, both structurally and aesthetically.
Already considered an eighth wonder of the world in the 16th century, and with the site initially chosen to be Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s burial ground (despite not having happened eventually), it is particularly important as far as architecture in Granada and has a beauty and magnitude that no one visiting the city should miss out on experiencing.
The beginnings of the building the Cathedral date back to 1506, the year when the first project for it was conceived by architect Enrique de Egas. This already planned on the Royal Chapel being incorporated as an annex. As a result of the death of Queen Isabella in 1504, the building of the Royal Chapel had to be started first, so it would not be until 25 March 1523 when the first stone of the cathedral was set.
Just three years later, the arrival of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V brought about a new change in the building plans, since the Emperor wanted the Cathedral to be his burial site. Despite this decision being postponed, at the time it meant the dismissal of the original architect and the addition of Diego de Siloé as master builder.
Alonso Cano in Granada Cathedral
The new design had to combine the functions of the church and imperial pantheon in such a way that Siloé’s project ended up being much more structurally and aesthetically complex than his predecessor’s. However, we can say that he was truly the great architect of the Cathedral, with the help of course from other renowned artists such as Granada resident Alonso Cano.
The new project followed the classical Roman traditional style, adding a basilical ground plan with a circular apse as a mausoleum, far from the original Gothic-style design. Siloé worked consciously on the aesthetic additions to the cathedral. An example of them is the addition of important ornamental elements to its architectural structure such as the façade of the Ecce Homo, the fácade of San Jerónimo, the façade providing access to the Sacristy or the façade of the Perdón.
In 1563 Siloé died and his work was left to his beloved disciple: Juan de Maeda. However, twelve years later, Juan was required to stop construction because of the crisis resulting from the Morisco rebellion in 1568. Thirteen years would then go by until 1581 when Ambrosio de Vico took over construction. In 1667 the great façade was begun by Alonso Cano and in 1704 construction was finally finished.
However, its structure would undergo further changes later on. The most important of them took place in 1926, when chancel was eliminated and the later had its decorations moved to other areas of the Cathedral, which completely changed its spacial distribution, turning it into a great airy space.
Since the 16th century, and with the main chapel having just been finished, the Granada Cathedral has been considered an architectural benchmark, with many of its elements being prototypes for later construction projects and due to which numerous architects came to learn and perfect their knowledge and craft.
From the outside, the tower is worth mentioning, which (though incomplete) is one of its main elements due to its large scale. It takes up the corner between the north and main façade and is organised into floors following the traditional order, that is to say, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. It has three sections successively done by Siloé, Madea and Vico. The Cathedral Museum today is located in the lower one.
Its main entrance is especially important, work of the great Alonso Cano, designed as a great triumphant arch with three high arches and decorated with marble reliefs of a number of evangelist virgins and figures. Its main relief of the Encarnación (Incarnation) is the work of other local artists such as José Risueño. Inside, its main chapel is especially important even if the whole interior of the cathedral lets us appreciate the important and innovative contributions, especially by Siloé, which make the Cathedral such an important and significant building.
Main Grille of the main chapel of the Granada Cathedral
The main chapel stands out in particular due to its size and its amount of open space, with a diameter of 22 metres and an innovative arrangement in the form of broad circle, which meant being able to worship from many different parts of the building, while in the rest of medieval cathedrals there is an apse arrangement. A tabernacle dominates it, which was a gift from the duke of San Pedro de Galatino and the crown, a great vault representing the heavens, decorated with golden stars and resting upon a series of two-storey Corinthian columns.
On these floors a series of arched panels are divided which separates the paintings below from the stained glass above, becoming an enormous and magnificent iconographic medium where we can admire scenes from the Life of the Virgen, of the Birth of Christ and the Passion of Christ.
The main chapel also includes important sculptures such as the figures of the Apostles (also in gilded polychrome), the busts of Adam and Eve by Alonso Cano and the large figures of the Catholic Monarchs praying.
Despite how stunning the main chapel is, make sure to pay attention to the rest of the chapels in the ambulatory where you will find numerous pieces by Granada artists, such as Pedro Duque Cornejo; the chapel of Santa Lucía, with the sculpture of it by Alonso Mena; the chapel of San Cecilio, or the magnificent reredos of the Triunfo de Santiago, by Hurtado Izquierdo.
Other notable parts of the interior of the cathedral which are worth checking out include the paintings by Juan de Sevilla and Pedro Atansio Bocanegra located on the stone reredos of the decoration, on the transept, as well as the work on the side chapels (much of it also by local artists) such as the Cristo de la Esperanza by Pablo de Rojas or the old pulpitum, disassembled and housed in the chapel which has been home to the figure of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias since eliminating the chancel in 1926, designed by José de Bada and done with marble from local quarries.