Unlike most cathedrals in Spain, construction of this cathedral had to await the acquisition of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada from its Muslim rulers in 1492; while its very early plans had Gothic designs, such as are evident in the Royal Chapel of Granada by Enrique Egas, the construction of the church in the main occurred at a time when Spanish Renaissance designs were supplanting the Gothic regnant in Spanish architecture of prior centuries. Foundations for the church were laid by the architect Egas starting from 1518 to 1523 atop the site of the city's main mosque; by 1529, Egas was replaced by Diego de Siloé who labored for nearly four decades on the structure from ground to cornice, planning the triforium and five naves instead of the usual three. Most unusually, he created a circular capilla mayor rather than a semicircular apse, perhaps inspired by Italian ideas for circular 'perfect buildings' (e.g. in Alberti's works). Within its structure the cathedral combines other orders of architecture. It took 181 years for the cathedral to be built.
Subsequent architects included Juan de Maena (1563-1571), followed by Juan de Orea (1571-1590), and Ambrosio de Vico (1590-?). In 1667 Alonso Cano, working with Gaspar de la Peña, altered the initial plan for the main façade, introducing Baroque elements. The magnificence of the building would be even greater, if the two large 81 meter towers foreseen in the plans had been built; however the project remained incomplete for various reasons, among them, financial.
The Cathedral had been intended to become the royal mausoleum by Charles I of Spain of Spain, but Philip II of Spain moved the site for his father and subsequent kings to El Escorial outside of Madrid.
The main chapel contains two kneeling effigies of the Catholic King and Queen, Isabel and Ferdinand by Pedro de Mena y Medrano. The busts of Adam and Eve were made by Alonso Cano. The Chapel of the Trinity has a marvelous retablo with paintings by El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera and Alonso Cano.
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- Guide to monuments of Granada: the Cathedral (Spanish)
- Granada Pictures
- Del arte árabe en España By Rafael Contreras y Muñoz, pages 1–7.