Malaga Cathedral

In 1487 the Catholic Kings dedicated the Cathedral of Malaga in a building that was a mosque. In 1528 construction was started on the present Cathedral and it became known as the Cathedral of the Encarnacion, because it was dedicated to the Virgen de la Encarnacion. The architect was Diego de Siloe, and the style was to be late Gothic. The building was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 1680. Building was resumed in 1719 and construction was officially stopped in 1783, although the right tower was not finished, for lack of money. The Cathedral is called “La Manquita” (one armed woman) because the right tower is missing.

Bernardo de Galvez was a brave soldier from Macharaviaya, who became the governor of Louisiana, before the territory became French. During the American War of Independence, Galvez convinced the Spanish King Carlos III to divert the money that was going to be spent to complete the second tower of the Cathedral to help the Americans against the British. The money was spent for arms, food, medicine, and blankets. They did not send any men because they wanted the help to the Americans to be hidden from the British. This information is a result of the investigations of Marion Reder, a lady professor at the University of Malaga, who teaches Modern and Contemporary History.

Because construction took so long with many different architects, the Cathedral has three different architectural styles. The interior is Gothic, the head of the church and naves are Renaissance, and the entrance and tower are Baroque. The church is 115 meters long. The choir has stalls with carved wooden statues of saints and other figures, which number 42. These were carved by Pedro de Mena, one of Spain‘s best wood carvers of his time.

There is a new altar table in the main altar of the Cathedral. It used to be stored in the Cathedral Museum, but now has been transferred to the main altar. The altar table has a Baroque design and simulates a piece of cloth that is used to dress an altar table. Luis Fernandez was the bishop at the Cathedral between 1615 and 1623. He ordered the altar from a silversmith from Seville by the name of Juan de Ledesma. The design of the front is made of silver and gilded bronze. There is a diamond shaped repeating pattern, and in each partition there is a flower design. In the middle of the front, there is a large oval panel that shows the Annunciation. There are also designs that show the martyrdom of Saints Ciriaco and Paula, and San Luis de Tolosa, the patron saints of Malaga. The magnificent design of the altar table makes it one of the most beautiful in Spain.


Behind the choir is a marble statue of a Pieta, done by the Pissani Brothers in Italy in 1803. There are two sculptures in wood that have been polychromed to look like marble, done by Salvador Gutierrez de Leon in 1838. They represent St. Mary Magdalene and St. John the Baptist.

There is a chapel, Capilla del Rosario, there is a statue of the Virgin with Saints done by Alonso Cano. There is another chapel, Capilla de los Reyes, that has a statue depicting the kneeling figures of the Catholic Kings, done by Pedro de Mena. There is also a statuette of the Virgin that the Catholic Kings always took with them on their crusades. The main chapel has a modern altar with scenes from the Passion.

One of the important chapels is the Chapel of Santa Barbara. The retable was done by the artist Nicolas Tiller in 1524 and is in the Gothic style. It shows the Crucifixion, Santa Apolonia, Santa Catalina, San Roque, Santa Ana with the Virgin and Child, Fathers of the Church, and the Four Evangelists. There are small paintings of the Annunciation, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, Santo Tome, San Damian, San ciriaco, and Santa Paula. This chapel also has a painting of the Assumption by Juan Niño de Guevara. There is a painting of the Ascension by the same artist.

The ceiling is very unusual because it has 23 cupolas, the only church in Spain with this feature. These cupolas have very beautiful designs of keys. Outside, the cupolas can be seen extending on the roof of the cathedral.

The Cathedral has two organs from the 18th century and these have over 4,000 pipes and are still in good working condition. The church also has a fabulous domed ceiling.

The church has a museum which contains many treasures that have been donated, such as gold and silverware used in the ceremonies, as well as vestments used by the priests, and a lot of artwork.

Today some citizens of Malaga want to finish the construction of the second tower for aesthetic reasons, but there is plenty of inertia and others want to leave the unfinished tower as it is.

Beside the Cathedral there is a smaller church called the Iglesia del Sagrario. This was constructed in the 15th century on a site of a mosque. The portal has the Isabeline Gothic style and this is the only part of the original building, which was rebuilt in 1714.