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Home  /  Religious Studies  /  Thomas Shoemaker  /  Courses & Programs  /  Study Abroad Spain  /  Excursions   /  Catedral

Excursion: Granada Cathedral and Capilla Real


You will come to know it well -- there will be many times we meet on the steps as we set out for other things. We need to get you inside, too.

Isabel la Católica (Queen Isabella) loved Granada, and stipulated that she be buried there. She, her husband King Ferdinand, and their daughter Juana ("la Loca") are all buried in the mausoleum of the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). The Capilla Real was built adjacent to the great mosque between 1507 and 1517 – but Isabel had died in 1516. She was first buried in the Alhambra. We'll save the story of how she was moved to the Capilla Real for the tour.

Shortly after Isabel was finally laid to rest, the foundations were laid for the Cathedral, following the footprint of the demolished mosque. It was envisioned in Gothic style, but largely built in Renaissance style, and it was not "completed" until 1704 – but "completed" is misleading. The project ran out of funding, and a second planned tower was never built.

You will see the art and craftwork of a number of famous local 16th and 17th century artists around the cathedral, including the somewhat disturbing statue of Santiago el Matamoros.

A couple of quick notes about cathedrals are in order here:

First, a church is designated as a cathedral if the bishop is assigned to that church, and from there oversees the other parishes in the diocese. There is thus only one cathedral in a diocese, and many major cities do not have a cathedral at all, since they are under the oversight of a bishop in another city.

Second, you will see that most of these cathedrals have a main altar area where mass is celebrated for the public, and any number of chapels around the perimeter with altars of their own. These chapels reflect the Roman Catholic practice, once especially common, of conducting a mass at the request (and contribution of) someone in the community for a family member who had died. You can imagine a large number of priests saying mass in the many chapels throughout every day -- potentially a hundred or more masses each day. This was a source of a great deal of income for the church. That practice is now largely gone.

And third, many cathedrals have a coro, a choral loft where those priests would gather apart from the public for communal prayer and chant very early in the morning (matins), late in the evening (vespers), and at other times during the day. The coro is a highlight of art and craftmanship.