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Palma Cathedral (Exterior)

Palma Cathedral, or La Seu, is the Gothic jewel in Palma's crown. It serves as a tomb for the Kings of Majorca, a place of worship and a place of ceremony. It is also the Episcopal See of the diocese. The building is an important showpiece of Mallorcan art, from medieval to modern times and has been worked on by both local and foreign craftsmen.

The best place to appreciate the Cathedral and its setting, is to walk to the south side of the lake called the Parc de Mar, (by the Guinness Bar). From here you can see how the Cathedral sits comfortably between the Royal Palace to the left and the Bishop's Palace to the right. The sea came right up to the walls in front of the cathedral before the Paseo Maritimo was built in the middle of the 20th Century, and it could be seen from all over the bay.

The description that follows starts at the Bishop's Palace at the east end of the Cathedral and after visiting the Palace Gardens, it moves around the south wall and the west wall. It continues along the north wall to the cathedral entrance.

Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
Palma's Cathedral once stood at the water's edge.
Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The entrance to the Bishop's Palace.

The Bishop's Palace

The Bishop's Palace stands to the east of the Cathedral and it too looks out over the Bay of Palma. The first structure was built in 1238, just after the conquest in 1229, but it was extended and rebuilt over the years. The building we see today was completed in 1616 under Bishop Simó Bauça and it was reformed in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Before entering the Bishop's Palace look at the building on left of the entrance. On the right hand side, at first floor level, is a small statue of a crocodile. It was carved because of a famous Palma legend; that of Drac de Na Coca. During the 18th Century there were rumours of terrible dragon living in the sewers around the Cathedral. The stories said that it slept by day and emerged at night in search of victims. There were several sightings and the size of the reptile increased with each telling.

Legend has it that, Captain Bartholome Coc was on his way to court a beautiful lady one night when he saw the crocodile moving towards him through the shadows. After he killed the creature with his sword he threw it before the window of his loved one. He then embalmed it as a memento and locked away in a chest. The story goes that a servant opened the box and died of a heart attack when they saw the reptile inside. The stuffed crocodile can be seen in the Episcopal museum. A costume version of Drac de Na Coca plays a part in some of the Palma fiestas.

Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
Look out for the crocodile.
Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The courtyard of the Bishop's Palace.

There is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the centre of the courtyard while a large ornate sundial with Bishop Benito Panyella's coats of arms is on the wall above. A wide staircase to the left leads to the palace rooms where the Hall of Prelates is decorated with paintings of the Mallorcan bishops. The 1350 door to St. Paul Chapel also opens onto the courtyard. The entrance to the Episcopal Museum is to the right. The museum was founded by Bishop Campins in 1916 and it is filled with examples of religious art through the ages. There are also wonderful views over the bay from the museum windows.

The palace gardens are to the rear of the palace and to find the entrance head north along Calle Palau and turn right along Calle Sant Pere Nolasc; the ornate entrance is to the right. Pere Nolasc was Jaime I's tutor, teaching the young orphan King while he was cared for in the Knights Templar headquarters in Monzón, Catalonia.

Return to the entrance to the Bishop's Palace to begin your walk around the Cathedral.

Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The entrance to the Bishop's gardens.

The East Wall

A mosque stood on the site of the Cathedral during Moorish times but it was demolished not long after the conquest of Mallorca in 1229; only the minaret was left standing. While King Jaime I promised to build a huge cathedral to thank God for his victory over the Moors, his promise would not be fulfilled for nearly 400 years.

The foundation stone of the Trinity Chapel was laid in 1230 and the first small building was designed as a chapel for the tombs of the Mallorcan kings. While it was consecrated in 1269 it was not completed until 1329 and only King Jaime II and King Jaime III were buried inside.

Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The Cathedral was built from right to left.

The South Facade

The second part of the cathedral was the Royal Chapel and the master mason, James Mates, was appointed in 1352. He wanted columns as tall as 21 metres high (66 feet) and he hoped to make them as thin as possible so they that defied the eye. However, as soon as the first pair were ready it was clear that they could not support the roof and they had to be beefed up from 1.48 metres to 1.68 metres in diameter. Even then they were still some of the thinnest columns in a building of this size. The nave roof was held together by piling stones on top of each arch and double rows of arches carry the weight out to the eight pairs of buttresses. But the design was at the limits and construction works were set back several years when part of the ceiling collapsed at the end of the 15th century.

The huge ornate door in the middle of the south wall was designed by Salvator Mundi and the work was supervised by Pere Morey. It was originally called the Apostles Door because the main carving above the door is of the Last Supper and resembles Leonardo Da Vinci's famous picture. The door is now known as the Mirador Door.
Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The Mirador Door.
Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The original austere west wall.

The West Wall

The original west wall was completed in 1601 and it was a solid, blank wall with a large rose window flanked by two small round ones. The door design by Miquel Verger was also austere. However, there were problems with the west end of the cathedral and on several occasions roof sections collapsed as the west wall moved slowly away from the rest of the building. When an earthquake shook Palma in 1755 it only increased the problem. By middle of the 19th Century the cathedral authorities knew that the west wall was leaning out by 1.2 metres (four feet) but there was little they could do. A second earthquake in the spring of 1851 brought the upper part of the wall crashing down.

What we see today was designed by Architect Peyronnet and he used ideas from Orléans Cathedral in France and Orvieto Cathedral in Italy. The wall we see today has buttresses at the corners and two octagonal turrets. The huge double doors are surrounded by ornate neo-Gothic decoration which dates from 1884. If you look closely at the southwest corner you can see the join between the original building and the new west facade.
Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The ornate west wall.
Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)
The Souls Door.

The North Wall

The north facade of the Cathedral is skew to the rest of the building because it joins to the base of the bell tower, which was the original Moorish minaret. The Souls door opens into the nave and Francesc Sagrera began work on the decorated door in 1498. The short wall of the Chapter House dates from 1529 and it too was probably designed by Sagrera.

Before entering the cathedral through the Chapter House door , look up to see the 16th Century bell tower. The tower is skew to the rest of the cathedral and it is believed that it was built either on top of or around the minaret tower of the mosque. At 48 metres (150 feet) high it is much smaller than expected, compared to the rest of the cathedral. The nine bells are behind the top row of arched windows and the largest, known as, N'Eloi, was first documented in 1389.

For further details visit the official website of the Cathedral.

Palma Cathedral, Mallorca (majorca)


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