In the heart of Málaga is the imposing and beautiful Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación – the Cathedral of Málaga. The church is one of the most important sights of the city.
There is a charge for visiting the cathedral. Tickets can be bought directly at the main entrance of the cathedral. We were very impressed by the tour.
Málaga Cathedral – the history
In 1487, Málaga was reconquered. The new rulers, the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, gradually began to displace the Islamic signs in the city. Thus, a mosque that stood on the site of the present cathedral was converted into a Christian church and consecrated as Santa María de la Encarnación (Holy Mary of the Incarnation).
Construction work on Malaga Cathedral began in 1528 and lasted for many years. One reason for the slow progress of construction was largely the lack of money, which finally led to the completion of the building work in 1782.
However, the church was not yet completed at that time. Originally, two church towers were planned. The south tower is still unfinished today and has given the cathedral the nickname “La Manquita” (the one-armed lady).
Due to the long construction period – 254 years – it is not surprising that many master builders were involved in the construction. For example, the great masters of the Andalusian Renaissance Hernán Ruiz II and Diego de Vergara. A wide variety of styles can also be seen in the construction of the church. The cathedral was mainly built in the Renaissance style, but there are also Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical elements.
The nave – from the outside
The dimensions of Málaga Cathedral are impressive: 117 m long, 72 m wide and 87 m high. It has the ground plan of a Latin cross.
If you walk around the building, you can admire the beautiful façades. Some purposefully used design elements make the church building not look too cluttered.
The main portal of the cathedral is divided by three archways. These are mainly made of reddish marble. Above the outer archways, the city’s saints are depicted on medallions. In the centre is a representation of the Annunciation created in 1743.
The north tower of the cathedral is 87 metres high and consists of four sections. The first two sections form a visual unit with the façade and the south tower. The next section is divided by open arcades that allow a view of the 14 bells. The fourth and last section of the tower has an octagonal shape. The clock is located there.
The Cathedral of Málaga- from inside
The church is divided into three imposing naves of equal height. The central nave, however, is wider than the side naves. When you step through the entrance, you are already in the middle of the huge church.
What I found particularly impressive, apart from the enormous height of the cathedral, is the vaulted ceiling. This consists of flat domes that are magnificently designed. A closer look at the beautiful windows of the church is not to be missed. Here, each window tells its own story and lets the light penetrate the nave in a colourful way. The windows are all recent and have been financed by numerous donations.
At first I could hardly decide how and where to start the tour. We had downloaded the free audio guide onto our mobile phones, but we didn’t really feel like being guided through the church with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any headphones with me either, and to be honest, I find it annoying when someone next to me is listening to the audio guide loudly. So I don’t have to “do that” to other visitors, especially because a church is still a place of prayer and devotion, despite the large number of visitors. So we let ourselves drift and enjoyed some beautiful elements in the nave very much.
In the centre of the church are two huge organs, 22 metres high and facing each other, which were built between 1781 and 1783. They each consist of around 4,500 pipes. I can imagine that an organ concert with both organs playing would certainly sound great.
Below the organs is the choir stalls. It dates from the 17th century and is made of mahogany and cedar. The choice of material makes the pews appear very dark, but they are skilfully illuminated. Special attention should be paid to the artistically carved figures. I think no two are alike and the additional lighting has left a lasting impression on me.
In the side aisles there are many chapels of different sizes, most of which impressed me. The chapels are decorated with numerous works of art that are said to be by well-known artists. You can’t enter them, but even through the barriers they look incredibly beautiful.
The semicircular main altar, created in 1541, was made by the Basque stonemason Diego de Vergara. An oversized crucified statue of Jesus magically attracts the eye and one almost overlooks the impressive pulpits at the edge of the altar area.
If you want to take a closer look at the numerous works of art or simply enjoy the atmosphere of the place in peace, you will need some time for the tour of Málaga Cathedral.
On the roof of Málaga Cathedral
After exploring the inside of Málaga Cathedral, we were drawn to the roof. It is best to buy the ticket for this directly with the entrance ticket to the cathedral. As a combination, it’s a bit cheaper and you automatically get the next available time slot for the climb. This is only possible with a tour on the hour and takes about 40 minutes.
The entrance is in the garden of the cathedral. On our tour, there were about 30 people who climbed the 200 steps after the ticket check. I missed the “guided tour” a bit. There was a woman from the staff, but she didn’t give more than introductory safety instructions. Perhaps it was also due to the language barrier, because she talked to Spanish-speaking participants all the time. Only the non-Spanish visitors were ignored.
Despite the lack of information, we very much enjoyed the climb, which partly led up a very narrow spiral staircase. At one point we could even catch a glimpse of Málaga Cathedral. On the roof there is a circular path with some larger platforms.
The view of the roof construction was very interesting. The ceiling domes of the cathedral are also clearly visible on the roof. The entire roof consists of small hemispheres, each representing a ceiling vault.
The view over the city is really great. I was particularly impressed by the view of the harbour and the Alcazaba. We had already seen the Alcazaba fortress in Málaga from below. But it doesn’t look nearly as big and powerful as it does from the roof of the cathedral. Only from this perspective can you really grasp its dimensions.
The time offered on the roof is easily enough to enjoy the view over the city and take many photos.
Calle Molina Lario, 9
29015 Málaga, (Spain)
1 April to 30 June and 1 to 31 October
Monday to Friday: 10 – 20 h
Saturday: 10 – 18:30 h
Sunday: 14 – 18:30 h
1 June – 30 September
Monday – Friday: 10 – 21 h
Saturday: 10 – 18:30 h
Sunday: 14 – 18:30 h
1 November – 31 March
Monday – Saturday: 10 – 18.30 h
Sunday: 14 – 18:30 h
Adults: 6,-€ (incl. audio guide)
Cathedral Roof Tour:
Discounts are offered.