Journal

Palma´s Captivating Cathedral of Light


The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly known as La Seu, is truly magnificent.

Begun by King James I of Aragon in 1230 in thanksgiving for the conquest of Mallorca and built on the site of a former mosque, King James inadvertently created an all-time historical paradox; anyone kneeling at the altar in Mallorca’s cathedral does so in the direction of Mecca rather than Jerusalem.

Palma Cathedral - Steve CapturesPalma Cathedral is the second largest of all Gothic cathedrals in the world. Taking almost four centuries ( opening in 1601) to complete, it has become one of the most architecturally renowned buildings in Europe as it encompasses almost all artistic styles since the Middle Ages.

Constructed using the famous marés sandstone of Mallorca, pale golden in the sunshine, it dominates the Palma skyline and presides over the city.

Palma Cathedral Mallorca - Rose WindowAt the turn of the 20th century, the Bishop of Mallorca invited Antoni Gaudi to work on Palma Cathedral and while some of Gaudi´s ideas were adopted, it was Joan Rubio ( a pupil of Gaudi) and Gillem Reynes a colleague who completed this latest phase of work.

The most spectacular of the three facades is the southern that looks out on to the Bay of Palma where you can clearly appreciate the Gothic style with decorative features such as the gargoyles, railings and spires.

But is it the Rose Window that is the true miracle and draws in the crowds. It is the largest window of Gothic design (known as the Gothic Eye) anywhere in the world at 14 metres in diameter and holding 1236 pieces of glass.

On just two days a year, before and after the Winter Solstice, the positioning of the window allows morning sunlight to pass through the giant eastern window and form a reflection below its smaller western counterpart.

Rose Window at Palma CathedralOn the winter solstice itself, the alignment of the two windows allows the sun to enter the eastern window and pass through the western window forming an impression of the Cathedral being lit from inside. This amazing phenomenon is no trick of light of course but the result of a mathematical genius hundreds of years ago.

It well deserves its reputation as the `Cathedral of Light ´and must be top of every visitor´s `to see`´ list in Palma.

For those with a head for heights there is a one hour tour of the Terraces of the Cathedral which can be booked up to two months ahead.

Terrace view from Palma CathedralBut for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground its many peaks and spires are most striking when seen from the waterside or at night when the cathedral is reflected in the waters of Parc de Mar.

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