Built on the clifftop where the Roman city was founded, the outline of the Cathedral stands out above the city walls, making it one of the distinguishing features of Palma’s seafront.
The Cathedral was built on a cliff rising out of the sea, making Majorca Cathedral the only Gothic cathedral to be reflected in the water. With the construction of the Parque del Mar this effect has been restored and so the outline of the Cathedral is again reflected in an artificial salt-water lake that echoes the sea that used to come up to the city walls. This exceptional location is one of the Cathedral’s most distinctive features.
Majorca Cathedral has a basilica plan comprising a central nave flanked by aisles ending in a large apse divided into three smaller ones. The nave is 43.30 metres high by 19.30 metres wide, and the two aisles are 29 metres tall by 10 metres wide. The inside of the Cathedral provides a great sensation of space and structural lightness, accentuated by the characteristics of the octagonal columns that divide the nave from the aisles, made out of sandstone from the quarries of Santanyí and Galdent (Llucmajor): just 14 columns divide the nave from the aisles, seven on each side. These divide the different sections. They are widely spaced (7.74 m.), are extremely slender and, above all, are very high (21.47 m). This sensation of lightness increases with the effects of the light that enters the Cathedral through the 7 rose windows and 83 windows – some installed during the last twenty years – and characterises the inside of the Cathedral. All of this has led to the Cathedral being known as “the Cathedral of light”.
All of this has led to the Cathedral being known as the Cathedral of light.
Main façadeThe Almudaina Façade Baptistery Chapel of the Holy Christ of the Souls
HeadboardCorpus Christi Chapel Main Sacristy Chapel of the Holy Trinity Royal Chapel External Sacristy Chapel of the Haly Eucharist The Crypt
South FaçadeChapel of Saint Anthony Chapel of the Mother of God of the Crown Chapel of Saint Martin Chapel of Saint Bernard Mirador Portal Chapel of the Virgin of the Step (or Chapel of the Assumption) Chapel of the Sacred Heart Chapel of Saint Benedict
North FaçadeChaepl of the Immaculate Conception Chapel of Saint Sebastian Chapel of Saint Joseph The "Almoina" Façade Chapel of the Ante-Saccristy (atrium of the Vermells Sacristy) Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel of the Deposition of Christ Chapel of Saint Jerome The Baroque cloister Baroque chapter House Gothic chapter House "Almoina" House Vermells sacristy The bell tower The graffiti in the bell tower
News and events
The Almudaina Façade
Construction of the main façade represented the end of the construction of the Cathedral. The façade we see today only conserves the Renaissance portal from the original façade.
This portal, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, dates from the first third of the 17th century. The Immaculate Conception is depicted on the tympanum surrounded by fifteen biblical symbols referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary “toda pulchra”.
An earthquake in 1851 left the façade in a perilous state. Its restoration was entrusted to the architect Juan Bautista Peyronnet of Madrid who chose not to construct the doors to the aisles and also blocked off the two upper rose windows. He also planned a neo-Gothic style pediment and two new buttresses. On the death of the architect, the work was left unfinished and so the restoration work was continued by the local architect Joaquim Pavía. The statue of the Virgin, the titular of the Cathedral, on the pediment, that crowns the façade, stands out from his contribution. Gaudí placed a stone stela in the floor adapting the words of Psalm 42 “let us go to the temple of God like the thirsty deer who seeks the spring”.
In the initial plan, the Cathedral was to have three entrances in the main façade, corresponding to the nave and the two aisles. However, eventually only the central door was constructed and the spaces inside corresponding to the aisles were turned into chapels. The baptistery is located in the right-hand aisle. It is worth noting that the Baptistery Chapel occupies one of the boundaries of the Cathedral’s old cloister that was constructed from the 14th century and gave way to the late-16th century façade. This chapel, planned by the architect Brother Miquel de Petra, a Capuchin monk, was built between 1790 and 1794 and stands out because of its style which is very different from the structural Gothic or the decorative Baroque. In the architectural ensemble of the baptistery the decoration is in the neo-Classical style, something that is rare within the Cathedral. Consequently, this monumental ensemble bears witness to the start of Academic classicism in the Cathedral.
The Chapel’s decoration is fundamentally architectural. The baptismal font is located in the centre of the Chapel raised on two steps. With an oval bell-shape, following the traditional shape of ancient sarcophagi, it is all made from a single piece of reddish marble.
Chapel of the Holy Christ of the Souls
The small Chapel of the Holy Christ of the Souls is raised above the level of the aisle by three steps. It is built into the wall by the main portal where, according to the original plan, the left-hand door should have been. Blocked up during the refurbishment (1852-1887) by the architect Juan Bautista Peyronnet, it was opened for worship in 1894 during the refurbishment work on the main façade. It is enclosed by a pointed vault with lunettes it is enclosed by an iron grille, in imitation of the one in the Chapel of the Holy Eucharist.
The old altarpiece of the Holy Christ of the Souls by the Majorcan Tomàs Torres depicted the image of the Christ of the Souls in its central niche. This altarpiece was moved to the chapel of Saint Joseph where it remained until 1886 when it was placed in the chapel of the “Vermells” ante-sacristy, hiding that Gothic portal until 1894.
This chapel currently houses the fragments of the old altarpiece of Saint Peter that used to decorate the chapel now known as the Chapel of the Eucharist, following the intervention of Miquel Barceló.
Corpus Christi Chapel
This apse chapel, along with that of the Holy Eucharist, occupies the left apse of the chevet. There is a rose window above its triumphal arch that was opened at the end of the 19th century. This chapel, built in the 14th century, was initially dedicated to Saint Matthew and subsequently to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the Latin name “Corpus Christi”, a dedication that it still maintains. The magnificent Baroque altarpiece in gilded and polychromed wood was probably completed in 1641. It is by the Majorcan sculptor Jaume Blanquer who was buried behind the altarpiece where his gravestone was uncovered during the last restoration of the work. The medieval tomb of Ramón Torrella, the first bishop of Majorca after the conquest by James I was placed under an arcosolium built into the left wall of the chapel in the middle of the 14th century that is decorated with paintings.
The Main Sacristy is located in the lower part of the Chapel of the Trinity. This was planned as a single space but was later split into two: the relic room on the ground floor and the charcoal store on the first floor.
The positioning of the reliquary and the coffered ceiling divided this zone into two floors.
This space, that is not accessible to the public, has been the object of archaeological study to reclaim spaces that had, over time, become storerooms. The works have superficially affected the subsoil and have essentially involved removing the existing paving, in preparation for new paving and mechanical cleaning of the walls.
Chapel of the Holy Trinity
Behind the Royal Chapel, and at a higher level, is the Chapel of the Trinity. This is the oldest part of the Cathedral and is where its construction began. Documentary references to Majorca Cathedral properly begin in 1306, when King James II added a codicil to his will ordering a chapel to be built as a resting place for him and his descendants, dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
Since 1904 the chapel has been overlooked by the gilded wood statue of Our Lady of la Seu, located at the back, a marvellous 14th-century example of what are known as tabernacle Virgins. Three windows, a symbolic number, illuminate the chapel from the back. At the sides two niches house the tombs of the kings of Majorca, James II and James III.
Gaudí started to refurbish this chapel in 1904, removing the large old Baroque altarpiece that occupied the main altar and that blocked the chapel off, separating it from the rest of the Cathedral. In 1905 the remains of James III were returned to Majorca from Valencia where they had previously been. The final restoration of the chapel was carried out by the architect Gabriel Alomar between 1946 and 1947, inspired by the inauguration of the two neo-Gothic alabaster royal sarcophagi.
The sanctuary or Royal Chapel, started in the 14th century, was the second phase of construction of the Cathedral. In the overview of the nave, the Royal Chapel forms a second church, in the same way in which the raised Chapel of the Trinity in the chevet at the back marks the beginning of a third.
This was named the Royal Chapel because of the continuous patronage of the royal house of Majorca and the coats of arms of its members appear here, repeated 16 times. The funeral rites of James II (1311) and the coronations of King Sancho (1311), James III (1324) and Peter the Ceremonious (1343) were held in this chapel. The coats of arms of the king and of the kingdom of Majorca appear on the keystones of the vaults.
The Gothic white marble bishop’s seat overlooks the chapel. From this seat the bishop would preside over the ceremonies. It was concealed until 1904 by the old Baroque main altarpiece that also covered the arch of the Chapel of the Trinity. During Antoni Gaudí’s restoration, that primarily affected the area of the sanctuary, this altarpiece was dismantled, part of the choir that had been located in the nave was moved and the candelabra-baldachin, the work of Antoni Gaudí, was installed over the main altar among other interventions.
We know that the external sacristy of the Cathedral had already been built in 1327, between the walls of the Royal Chapel, the exterior apse of the chapel of Saint Peter (the current Chapel of the Holy Eucharist) and the cliff overlooking the sea. Seven years later the so-called house of the hosts, that is no-longer in existence, was built above the sacristy where an oven was installed for making the communion wafers used during the Eucharist.
This room was accessed by a spiral staircase built in the interior walls of the sacristy that partially disappeared during Antoni Gaudí’s refurbishment.
Chapel of the Holy Eucharist
The chapel of the Holy Eucharist of Majorca Cathedral occupies the right-hand apse of its chevet. It is in a Gothic style and belongs to the oldest part of the fabric of the Cathedral, dating from the 14th century. When built it was dedicated to Saint Vincent Martyr, and a century later we find it dedicated to Saint Peter. Two royal princes, Peter of Portugal (died 1256) and Pagano of Majorca (1349), both benefactors of the Cathedral, were buried in this chapel. This area underwent various modifications as a result of restorations carried out in the 16th and 17th centuries and because of the accidental fire that affected this chapel on 15 September 1819, destroying the Baroque gilded wood altarpiece (16th c.) and the tabernacle and also threatening all of the fabric of the chapel. Restoration work lasted twenty years, during which time a new altarpiece was built to replace the previous one. This was completed in 1839 and is of a neo-Classical style in sandstone and marble-effect plaster with polychromed wood decoration. This chapel was the object of work by the Majorcan artist Miquel Barceló between 2001 and 2006, following which the chapel was rededicated to the Holy Eucharist.
This space was recently the subject of a study that looked into its origin and possible uses.
It is an underground space, 2.65 metres below the ground floor, covered by a vault and hydraulic tile paving, and physically resembles a cistern. In the entrance area where the passageway and stairway are located, two openings in the ceiling have been preserved.
Several hypotheses have been raised about the use of this space. According to the archaeologist Francisca Torres, it was initially thought that it might be a cistern that was reused as a crypt; however, later on, and, bearing in mind the central position of this space in the Cathedral, located almost under the centre of the Royal chapel, the possibility was raised that this place might have been planned from the very start as a crypt, although, building techniques more typical of a cistern were used in its construction.
Chapel of Saint Anthony
This chapel is located next to the Chapel of the Holy Eucharist. It was built during the 14th century and is one of the last recorded works of Guillem Sagrera who was the Cathedral’s proto-maestro at that time. The altarpiece of Saint Anthony of Padua was made between 1714 and 1720 and paid for by Canon Antoni Figuera (1667-1747) to replace an earlier Gothic one dedicated to Saint William that was removed from this chapel in 1716. The gilded wood altarpiece is the work of the architect, sculptor and decorator from Navarra, Francisco Herrera. The central niche contains a depiction of the image of the chapel’s titular saint preaching. The pinnacle of the altarpiece features a high relief of Saint Rosalia, to whom the chapel has been dedicated since 1720.
Chapel of the Mother of God of the Crown
Built in the 14th century, this chapel was originally dedicated to the Saviour or Passio Imaginis and it had another two altars dedicated to Saint Alexius and Saint Clement. It later became the chapel of the Rosary. Its name, however, derives from the crown of thorns of the Redeemer that attained great devotion from the faithful. The Baroque altarpiece is made of gilded wood with a marble base. One corner of the chapel contains the Gothic tomb of Antoni Galiana, the eighth Bishop of Majorca (1363-1375) and the first to be born on the island, who was a great promoter of the Cathedral works. This chapel also contains the 15th-century sculptural ensemble of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.
Chapel of Saint Martin
The chapel of Saint Martin of Tours dates from the 14th century and originally contained two more altars dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Honoratus. The Baroque altarpiece in gilded wood is by Francisco de Herrera and dates from 1723. A sculptural ensemble of Saint Martin on horseback and a pilgrim to whom he generously gives half of his cape stands out in the central niche, with a backdrop of scenic canvasses.
Chapel of Saint Bernard
The fabric of the chapel of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux dates from the 14th century. On 30 August 1912 there was a serious fire in this Chapel that scorched the walls, the vault and the tombs, as well as completely destroying the altarpiece by Francisco de Herrera. Only the grille that encloses the chapel and the lamp were saved from the flames. The restoration work lasted nine years, from 1913 to 1921, led by the Catalan architect Joan Rubió y Bellver, who designed the new altarpiece of Saint Bernard, in a neo-Gothic style, made from alabaster by Tomás Vila. On 19 August 1921, the vigil of the festival of the chapel’s titular, the restored chapel was inaugurated. At the suggestion of Antoni Gaudí statues were placed at the base of the arches depicting three Doctors of the Latin Church: Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Great and Saint Ambrose, and of three from the Eastern Church: Saint Cyril, Saint Basil and Saint John Chrysostom. Furthermore, in 1916 three stained-glass windows were installed, designed by Darius Vilar, showing three scenes that relate to the titular saint: the entry of Saint Bernard into the Cistercian Order, his ministry and his glorification.
In the fifth section of the nave, in the Cathedral’s south façade, we find the Mirador Portal. Its construction began in around 1389, during the bishopric of Pere de Cima. Work was initially directed by the master Pere Morey, and Jean de Valenciennes and Rich Alamant worked on it. Following the death of the master in 1394, we know that Pere de Sant Joan and Antoni Canet became involved, as well as Guillem Sagrera who would oversee the work for two decades.
On the outside, the portal extends up to the level of the buttresses, creating a space in the form of a large rectangular atrium covered by a rib vault. There are two doors on the back face, separated by a mullion. The outside face opens into a large pointed arch with its profile flanked by fleurons. This is laterally framed by two slender pinnacles and features a blind arcade in the upper part. Its inner face is decorated with a large gable over the pointed archivolts of the door that frame the tympanum.
Chapel of the Virgin of the Step (or Chapel of the Assumption)
Construction started in 1402 on the site of the old cloister, and the keystone was placed in July 1404. In around 1407 this chapel was already known as the chapel of the Eleven Thousand Virgins or of Our Lady of the Step as it contained a 13th-century wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, known as the Virgin Mary of the Step because of the step that gave access to the chapel negotiating the difference in height with the original floor of the old cloister. This difference in height was levelled off in 1736. This is the only cloister chapel dating from the 14th century. The statue is currently located in an 18th-century niche.
Since 1574 this chapel has been dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. From 1890 it has also been known as the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, because of the new canvas that replaced an older one dedicated to the Assumption. The Baroque wooden altarpiece was gilded in 1665 by Damián Cremades. The artistic wrought iron grille from the late 16th century is an important example of this medium.
Chapel of the Sacred Heart
This was second chapel to be built on the site of the old cloister. On 4 April 1407 the Jurats de Mallorca, the executive branch of the old Kingdom of Majorca, who sponsored the chapel. They laid the first stone and dedicated the chapel to the Guardian Angel of the Kingdom of Majorca, in honour of whom they would hold a solemn celebration with a double ritual and a procession every October. The old altarpiece was dedicated to the Holy Guardian Angel (the canvas depicting him is currently in the second section of the altarpiece). In 1680 the chapel was dedicated to Saint Vincent Ferrer, co-patron of the kingdom, and in the same year a canvas with an image of the new titular was temporarily hung while waiting for a new altarpiece. Six years later, an altarpiece dedicated to the saint was made that, in its second section, houses a canvas with the image of the Guardian Angel, taken from the old altarpiece. In 1890 the new statue of the Sacred Heart, to which the chapel was dedicated, was blessed. Carved by Guillem Galmés, it replaced the old painting of Saint Vincent Ferrer. The altarpiece of the Sacred Heart, built between the 18th and 19th centuries, and the paintings at the sides are by Ricardo Ankerman.
Chapel of Saint Benedict
This is the first chapel in the aisle on the Epistle side and was the third one to be built on the plot of the old cloister. It was the old chapel of Saint Magdalene. On 10 October 1586 it was granted to Canon Antoni Garau who dedicated it to Saint Jerome. Two years later in 1588 the chapel was given to the Armengol family who had the current altarpiece made and dedicated the chapel to Our Lady of Navigators, whose image can be seen in the upper part of the altarpiece. In 1738 the chapel was dedicated to Saint Benedict. The whole of the back of the chapel is filled by the altarpiece of Saint Benedict, a Baroque gilded wood piece topped by a wooden sculpture depicting Our Lady of Navigators carrying the Christ child in her left hand and a boat in her other hand. This piece is attributed to Andreu Carbonell. An artistic wrought iron grille encloses the chapel. The walls feature stucco decoration that has been attributed to Antonio Soldatti.
Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
This is last chapel of the old cloister. Its construction ended in 1574 with the placing of the keystone of the vault. It is the first chapel on the Gospel side and features a baroque altarpiece dedicated to the Immaculate Conception that has been attributed to Juan de Aragón. The image of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, declared Patron of Majorca in 1643, stands out in the central compartment. The third section has a central low relief of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The walls of the chapel were later painted in white and blue to give the chapel a Greco-Roman aspect.
Chapel of Saint Sebastian
This chapel is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, who was made Patron of the city of Palma in 1634. On 16 September 1518 the Jurats de Mallorca, the executive branch of the old Kingdom of Majorca, were granted this chapel by the Cathedral Chapter. Almost two centuries later in 1711 the space suffered from a fire after being hit by lightning, and so the Jurats offered to help with the repairs to the chapel and to pay for a new altarpiece. The Baroque altarpiece of Saint Sebastian, in gilded wood on a stone base, was designed by Francisco Herrera (1711), and the process of making it continued throughout first half of the 18th century. The altarpiece is presided over by a statue of the titular saint, tied to a tree and shot with arrows, and other statues of Majorcan saints and of various co-patrons of the city and of the old Kingdom of Majorca are also depicted. The chapel was gilded in 1755.
Chapel of Saint Joseph
Adjoining the interior space corresponding to the Almoina Portal, is the chapel of Saint Joseph, formerly dedicated to the Holy Souls. This chapel, the first cloister chapel in the Almoina aisle, was fully renovated between 1885 and 1886, a process that, in general terms, involved removing the stucco from the vaults and walls, restoring the general aspect of the Cathedral’s fabric, opening up the pointed arch of the window and paving the floor with marble flagstones. The gilded wood neo-Gothic style altarpiece by the sculptor Guillem Galmés was blessed in March 1886. The central statue of Saint Joseph is revered in its main section. The old altarpiece was moved to the chapel in the Vermells ante-sacristy in 1886, after the change in titular saint, where it remained until 1896 when it was finally moved to the current Chapel of the Holy Souls. This space is enclosed by a delightful Gothic-style wrought iron grille that originated in the chapel of Saint Peter from where it was moved following the fire of 1819. The previous grille was moved in 1886 to the chapel of Saint Martin.
The “Almoina” Façade
Construction of the “Almoina” façade began in 1498, once work on the neighbouring bell tower had ended.
This is the shortest of the façades because of the adjoining bell tower and a group of other adjacent structures. The façade is named after the neighbouring house, built in 1529 to distribute the alms (“almoina” in Catalan) administered by the Chapter.
The portal, designed in 1498 by Francesc Sagrera, and built in Santanyí stone, has a simpler outline than the other portals and is notable for the purity of its lines. A large pointed arch, supported by jambs and topped by an ogee fleuron, frames a tympanum containing a single statue depicting the Virgin, carved in the 16th century. We should recall that the tympana of the Almudaina Portal and the Mirador Portal also contain images of the titular of the Cathedral. Gargoyles were fitted on the drainage spouts of the buttresses to decorate the façade.
Chapel of the Ante-Sacristy (atrium of the Vermells Sacristy)
This chapel, the first of the cloister chapels, was built by Pere de Morella, the second bishop of Majorca (1266-1282), in the Cathedral’s cemetery. The first stone for the foundations of this chapel was laid on 30 August 1404; at that time it was known as the chapel of Saint Catherine and later on it was known as the Chapel of Saint Praxedes and Saint Anthony. In 1886 it was renamed as the chapel of the Holy Souls as it contained an altarpiece dedicated to this title. Nowadays it is simply the atrium to the Vermells sacristy, and is without dedication and has no altar. In the entrance to the chapel, since 1904, it has been possible to see the Renaissance door to the old choir by Juan de Salas that formerly occupied the middle of the nave.
The portal that leads to the Vermells sacristy is in the Gothic style and passes through the wall at the base of the bell tower. Its only sculptural decoration is a border running along the impost line under the tympanum, where a polychromed sculptural ensemble that represents the Virgin Mary with the child seated on a throne flanked by two angels holding candles can be seen.
Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows
The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, covered with a low radial vault, stands out because of the large segmental arch from 1478 with sculptural decoration in its entrance. The organ, built in 1795 by Gabriel Tomás, an organ builder from Llucmajor, according to a plan by Pedro José Bosch, is located above this arch. The walls of the chapel are decorated with thirty-three religious paintings, some of which adorn the extrados and intrados of the arch. Originally dedicated (1399) to Saint Anne, Saint James and subsequently, to the doctor saints Cosmas and Damian, it was also named the chapel of Saint Simon and Saint Jude in 1622. It was later called the chapel of Saint Cabrit and Saint Bassa and of Saint Stephen. The Chapel is presided over by a Baroque altarpiece depicting Our Lady of Sorrows that was made in 1689. In the late 15th century, the chapel had a double access to the Gothic chapter house through two richly decorated portals. For unknown reasons, one of these portals was removed and the space left was covered. This chapel also contains one of the steps designed by Gaudí.
Chapel of the Deposition of Christ
This chapel was built in the 14th century. In 1399 it had three altars, dedicated to Saint Cecilia (in the centre), Saint Blaise and all of the Martyrs. It is currently dedicated to the Deposition of Christ, the life-size image of which was transferred from the chapel of the Virgin of the Step on 1 November 1742. Since then, the statue has been located at the back of the altarpiece of the Deposition of Christ, hidden by a painting representing the Deposition from the Cross by the Majorcan painter Ricardo Ankerman. This sculpture is the one used in the ceremony of the Deposition from the Cross on Good Friday. The current ungilded wood Baroque altarpiece was completed in 1729. The chapel was rebuilt in 1739 as it threatened to collapse. Since December 1974 the chapel has been enclosed by the delightful original grille by the architect Guillem Reinés that came from the church of the Sisters of Maria Reparatorum.
Chapel of Saint Jerome
This is the first of the left-hand aisle’s chapels. During the 14th century, it was dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. In the late 16th century it was dedicated to Saint Jerome by Canon Jerónimo Garau, whose coat of arms is carved at both ends of the base of the altarpiece. The altarpiece of Saint Jerome is thought to be the work of Gaspar Homs, from between 1593 and 1600. The central niche contains a statue depicting the titular saint. The chapel was renovated in 1759. The marble mausoleum of the Marquis of la Romana stands against its right wall, a piece by José Antonio Folch that was originally located in the church of the convent of Santo Domingo in Palma until its demolition. This piece is the most important example of Neoclassicism in Majorca Cathedral.
The Baroque cloister
To the east of the belfry is the baroque cloister (1709-1710), built on the old plot of the chapter kitchen garden and on an adjacent plot.
Built entirely from Santanyí stone, it was constructed around a rectangular patio in the centre of which there is a cistern with a well. The patio is surrounded by four passages, covered with groin vaults made up of twenty rounded arches, six on the long sides and four on the short sides, supported by columns with composite capitals. The arches for entering the patio at this point are flat and each of them features a decorated shield; those on the east show the image of Mary, while the ones on the west show the emblem of her name.
The old medieval cloister, from the 14th century, was not located on the same plot but rather was between the church and the Almudaina Palace and was demolished to provide space for building the church in the 16th century.
The current cloister was not built to replace the medieval one, but was dedicated to the bureaucratic and social activities of the Chapter and, so, it was located next to the library, the archive and other offices.
The cloister was restored between 2013 and 2014.
Baroque chapter house
Along with the cloister, the Baroque chapter house, planned in 1696 and finished in 1701, forms part of the programme of Baroque architecture implemented by the Chapter in the late 17th and early 18th century.
It is built in an elliptical plan and is the earliest example of this type of plan in insular Baroque. It has been attributed to Francisco Herrera and is a precursor to the one made by him in Palma’s Church of Socorro in 1707.
The entablature is supported on eight columns with shafts with spiral fluting, from which the ribs start that divide the cupula into eight parts, each of which has an ox-eye window. The ribs meet at the cupula’s central keystone which has a medallion depicting the Virgin Mary and the Child seated on a throne, surrounded by eight angels. The cupula is totally covered by plant motifs in relief.
The monumental entrance door to the chapter house is located at one end of its long axis. Crowned by three figures that represent the three theological virtues, the tympanum features the Virgin under a shell, surrounded by naked angels and with two dolphins at the sides.
This room forms part of the Chapter Museum and was restored in 2001.
Gothic chapter house
In Western Christian cathedrals, the chapter house was the official meeting place for the cathedral chapter, that is, the group of the cathedral’s canons who are responsible for celebrating the most solemn liturgical services at the cathedral and are entrusted with managing it. Majorca Cathedral has two chapter houses: the Gothic chapter house and the Baroque chapter house.
The old Gothic chapter house was built next to the east façade of the bell tower. This structure was initially separate from the Cathedral until it was connected to the back part of the chapel of Saint Anne (nowadays the chapel of Our Lady of Piety).
Attributed to Pere Morey, its construction began in the late 14th century. Later on Guillem Sagrera contributed, with work being completed during the bishopric of Lluís de Prades, between 1407 and 1429, who at least partially sponsored it as his coat of arms appears on the keystone of one of the vaults.
In the middle of the room we find the gravestone of the bishop Gil Sánchez Muñoz. The Baroque doorways to the cloister and the Baroque chapter house are also located here.
The “Almoina” house was built alongside the bell tower in 1529, as stated on the keystone of the arch that forms its entrance. Its name derives from the alms (almoina in Catalan) that were distributed here to the poor and the sick after they had heard Holy Mass. It was also known as the “Casa de las Escuelas” (House of Schools) because of the classes that were delivered here for years, and it was also used as an oratory. The house gave its name to the adjoining façade and also, until 2010, to the square in front, now called “Plaça de la Seu”.
The design of this building, a fine example of Majorcan civic Gothic architecture, is attributed to a follower of Guillem Sagrera, probably his son Francesc.
The interior is divided into two rectangular floors enclosed by a spectacular wooden coffered ceiling. The ground floor, which is entered through a door with a pointed arch flanked by two square flared windows, shows traces of geometric wall decoration. Formerly occupied by a chapel, the ground floor is now the entrance to the Chapter Museum. A narrow spiral staircase provides access to the first floor which houses the Chapter Archive and the researchers’ room.
The Vermells sacristy, formerly the Chapel of All Saints, was built in the ground floor of the belfry in 1633, and subsequently restored in 1721.
The room takes its name from the colour of the habits of the twelve young singers who formerly put their red cassocks on and took them off in here. It is now one of the rooms of the Chapter Museum and houses pieces dating from the medieval period.
Several traces of polychroming can still be seen in the rib vault that covers this space.
The bell tower
Built on a different alignment to the Cathedral in the late 15th century, the bell tower is 47.80 metres high. The Cathedral’s bell tower is broad, and has a solid appearance and square floor plan. It comprises three superimposed bodies separated by a cornice. The tower is crowned by an unfinished star-shaped structure of buttresses that corresponds to the planned octagonal roof lantern that was left unbuilt in 1498.
As for the interior of the bell tower, the first level comprises the Vermells sacristy, covered by a rib vault. The upper floor, accessed by a spiral staircase with 215 steps, houses the Cathedral’s exceptional set of bells, considered to be one of Western Europe’s most comprehensive sets of medieval bells. An important collection of graffiti is also preserved inside the belfry. Study of this has confirmed that it was used as a place of sanctuary between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Between 2013 and 2015 the Cathedral’s bell tower and bells were refurbished and restored.
The graffiti in the bell tower
The Cathedral is full of graffiti, but the bell tower is where we find the most numerous and important collection, in particular in the belfry.
These graffiti, made with scratches or with pigments, include inscriptions and drawings. Their chronological framework runs from the 15th to the 18th centuries, although they are predominantly from the 17th century.
A first group of inscriptions is attributed to the staff connected to the service of the Cathedral, people linked to the construction and worship (bell ringers, clerics, sacristans, stonemasons, etc.) while a second more numerous group is the work of the asylum seekers who, pursued by justice, fled and sought sanctuary in a holy place.
These inscriptions, framed in the context of the climate of violence and instability of Palma de Mallorca in the 17th century, follow a common pattern: they show the name and surname, some mention the author’s craft and, finally, the date on which they were made .
As for the drawings, these generally accompany the inscriptions or can appear on their own. They are simple designs among which we find anthropomorphic representations, records of accounts, representations of crosses and coats of arms, and even complicated depictions of boats.