Europe has many awe-inspiring cathedrals. But throughout most of the continent, there is a kind of sameness to their designs. That shouldn’t be surprising since architects readily borrowed ideas from one another, and building technology was limited in the periods they were built, from about 1200-1800AD. But it is possible to see some truly different styles, particularly in Andalucia, Spain.
One of the clearest examples is the Malaga Cathedral. The official name is the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
Built between 1528 and 1782 on a site that (like so many in the country) was formerly occupied by a mosque, the Malaga Cathedral isn’t merely a church. It is an architectural wonder of the region. Known as La Manquita (the ‘one-armed woman’) because the southernmost of its two towers is unfinished, it is a masterpiece of Renaissance-Baroque style.
That hyphenated phrase is rare because most churches in the area have a more uniform design. But because of the unique transition enjoyed by Spain during the late 16th to late 18th centuries, the cathedral is a slightly different mix. The highly ornate facade is hard to place in one category or the other. The swirling columns and decorative Rosetta above the entrance are only two examples showing why.
The interior provides many more.
The 17th-century choir stalls are made of mahogany and cedar, not unusual materials for the time and location. But their design is a unique blend of late Renaissance/early Baroque that is found in few other cathedrals.
Other examples abound. The cathedral holds 40 carved wooden statues of the saints behind each stall that are a rare accomplishment. Lining the area, these alone could offer an afternoon’s delight to an enthusiast of the art.
There are numerous marble sculptures, as well, including ones of the Annunciation and the patron saint of Malaga, sometimes known as the Virgin of Victory. Locals of the period thought her influence was critical in the Reconquest of Spain that drove the Moors from the rule. Nearby are the white marble mausoleums of Bishop Lario and the Dominican Bishop Fray Manrique.
Secular figures form part of the ‘collection’, as well. There are a number of statues known as the Pantheon of the Counts of Buenavista, sculptures honoring many of the patrons of the church down the years of the 15th through 17th centuries.
There are a number of fine paintings as well by masters of the Spanish Baroque, such as Alonso Cano and Claudio Coello. They are hung throughout the thirteen chapels, each of which is unique and dedicated to a different saint or holy event.
During the hot summers of Andalucia, the sun’s rays are at least partly appreciated for the effect they produce through the stained glass windows. They’re of more recent vintage, having begun in the 19th century and finished in the 1960s. Illuminating the interior with a profusion of color, the result produces a kind of visual hush over the crowd.