The construction of Majorca Cathedral, often called La Seu, began in the 13th century. It is a Levantine Gothic-style cathedral (characterised by using a German-style hall layout) and it has one of the largest rose windows in the world, known as “the Gothic eye”. Its nave is also one of the highest in any European Gothic cathedral.
The Cathedral’s history is closely linked to the island’s monarchy. The origins of the most important example of Majorcan Gothic date back to the 13th century. After the conquest of Madina Mayurqa in 1229, James I, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, ordered the old main mosque to be consecrated to the Virgin Mary as a place for Christian worship, and also the construction of a new building, in line with the style of that period.
13th and 14th centuries
The earliest historical documents relating to the building of the Cathedral date from 1230 when Bishop Pere de Morella consecrated the altar stone of the main altar. Construction of the building that we know today began during the reign of James II (1276-1311).
In around 1300 the work on the Gothic cathedral began, starting with the Royal Chapel. The current apse retains the funeral chapel that was planned as a resting place for the monarchs of Majorca’s royal house.
In 1498 work ended on the bell tower, although it was left unfinished. This houses 9 bells, the largest of which is known as Eloi.
In 1400 Guillem Sagrera was put in charge of the building of the Cathedral. He built the Gothic chapter house and directed the work on the Mirador Portal. In 1490, Francesc Sagrera, Guillem’s nephew, designed the Almoina Portal.
The seats from the choir – currently comprising 110 walnut chairs – can be found by the main altar and in the Royal Chapel. Work on the choir started in 1514, and for centuries it occupied the centre of the nave of the basilica.
During the 16th century, a time when humanist spirituality was of great cultural and religious influence, the door in the main portal, the pediment and the two rose windows were installed. The Casa de la Almoina was also built in this period.
17th and 18th centuries
During the 17th and 18th centuries the Baroque started to fill the inside of the Cathedral in the form of altarpieces, paintings and sculptures shaped by the spirituality of the period following the Council of Trent. From this period it is worth noting such emblematic pieces as the Corpus Christi altarpiece by Jaume Blanquer, the cloister and the new chapter house.
After the earthquake of 1851, the main façade was left in a precarious condition and so Bishop Miquel Salvà Munar entrusted its restoration to the architect Juan Bautista Peyronet.
At the start of the 20th century, the architect Antoni Gaudí adapted the Cathedral to meet new liturgical and pastoral requirements. His work, requested by Bishop Pere Joan Campins, continued from 1904 to 1914. The changes involved moving the choir that had until then been located between the second and third sections of the nave, removing the Gothic main altarpiece, making the baldachin for the main altar, incorporating the bishop’s seat in the sanctuary, lighting the space with glazed windows, artificial light and candelabra and also making liturgical furnishings.
The Cathedral brings together the last eight centuries of Majorca’s history, and continues to be a living and constantly evolving thing. These different artistic styles have helped the Cathedral to fulfil one of its main purposes over different eras: to be a reflection of the Celestial Jerusalem.