|Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona
Santa Maria de Girona
The cathedral with the lower Tower of Charlemagne, characterized by mullioned windows.
|Location||Girona, Catalonia, Spain|
|Region||Roman Catholic Diocese of Girona|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Cathedral|
|Leadership||Msg. Francesc Pardo i Artigas|
|Architectural style||Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque|
|Direction of façade||W|
|Length||85 metres (279 ft)|
|Width||90 metres (300 ft)|
|Width (nave)||22.98 metres (75.4 ft)|
|Height (max)||45 metres (148 ft)|
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Girona, located in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Its interior includes the widest Gothic nave in the world, with a width of 22 metres (72 ft), and the second widest overall after that of St. Peter's Basilica, just for comparison, the width of the nave of Reims is 14.65 m, Saint-Étienne de Sens, 15.25 m and 12 m, in Notre Dame de Paris. Its construction was first started in the 11th century in Romanesque style, and later continued in the 13th century in Gothic style. Of the original Romanesque edifice only the 12th century cloister and the bell tower remain. The bell tower was completed in the 18th century.
A primitive Christian church existed here before the Islamic conquest of Iberia, after which it was converted into a mosque in 717. The Franks reconquered the city in 785 under Charlemagne, and the church was reconsecrated in 908.
In 1015, the church was in poor condition. Bishop Peter Roger, son of count Roger I of Carcassonne, restored it with the money obtained by selling the church of St. Daniel to his brother-in-law, count Ramon Borrell of Barcelona. The church and its cloister were built until 1064, in Romanesque style. The bell tower was completed in 1117.
The complex was redesigned by Pere Sacoma in 1312. After a few years of dubitation, Guillem Bofill and Antoni Canet started the project in 1416. The new design consisted of a big Gothic nave, the widest Gothic nave in the world — 22.98 m — and the second widest nave of all styles after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The elevation is 35 metres (115 ft).
The church has a Baroque façade (begun in 1606, finished in 1961 in the upper part), preceded by a staircase completed in 1607. The sculptures decorating the three orders of the façade were executed by local sculptors in the 1960s. Other exterior features include the Gothic portal of St. Michael, in the northern side, and the southern portico of the Apostles, from the 14th century: it originally featured sculptures of the Twelve Apostles, executed by Antoni Claperós in the 1460 and now disappeared aside from two, depicting St. Peter and St. Paul, now in the church's capitular halls.
The church has two bell towers. The oldest one, entitled to Charlemagne, is the surviving one of the two once featured by the first Romanesque church (the other disappeared in the 14th century). Begun in the early 11th century, it has a square plan with six levels separated by friezes with Lombard bands, and with double mullioned windows. The new bell tower, begun in 1590 and completed (with a changed design) in the 18th century, has an octagonal plan. It houses six bells, the oldest one dating to 1574.
The interior's single nave is surmounted by cross vaults, supported by Gothic buttresses. The side walls feature a triforium with stained glass ogival windows. The apse is separated by the nave by a large wall, characterized by a large central rose window (1705, dedicated to St. Michael Archangel) flanked by two smaller ones at the sides. The polygonal apse is in turn flanked by two short galleries, with ogival arches as entrances, which correspond to the original aisles of the Romanesque edifice and introduce to the ambulatory. The latter is divided by piers with trapezoidal vaults, aligned with the ray of the apse's trapezoidal vaults, and which form ten radial chapels.
The high altar, in white marble, dates to the 11th century. Other artworks include the Gothic sarcophagus of Berenguer d'Anglesola (died 1418), by Pere Oller, in the chapel of Isabella of Portugal, the Chapel of All Saints (1376)
The Romanesque cloister is notable, featuring a series of columns with sculpted capitals: they depict fantastic figures and animals, and vegetable motifs. The frieze has instead scenes from the New Testament. Among the sculptors who worked at the cloister is Arnau Cadell, also author of the cloister of the Monastery of Sant Cugat. Also in the cloister is the Chapel of Our Lady of Gràcia i de Bell-Ull, which was originally a gate to the cloister, renovated in the Gothic period; its tympanum has an image of the Virgin by Master Bartomeu (13th century). The cloister's galleries are home to numerous tombs of rich members of the monastery, dating to the 14th-18th centuries, one also by Master Bartomeu (1273).
The museum's main attraction is the Tapestry of Creation, a 11th (or 12th) century textile considered amongst the masterwork of Romanesque tapestry. Other artworks include:
- the Pietà Retablo, by Jaume Cabrera
- a "Charlemagne" sculpture by Jaume Cascalls (1345), believed to portray King Peter IV of Aragon
- the Girona Beatus, a 10th-century illuminated manuscript
- the Chest of caliph al-Hakam II (10th century), known to be a gift to his son Hisham II
- Retablo of St. Magdalene (16th century), by Pere Mates
Christ recumbent, sculptured by Domènec Fita i Molat.
Tapestry of Creation. At Tresury of Cathedral Museum.
- Official website (Catalan) (Spanish) (English) (French)
- The Art of medieval Spain, A.D. 500-1200, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on this cathedral (see index) (English)
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