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The Cathedral of Malaga or the Incarnation Cathedral

Diputación de Málaga
Catedral de Málaga 10

The Cathedral of Malaga or the Incarnation Cathedral

C/ Molina Lario 9
Zip Code 29015
Monuments and Art > Hermitage and Chapel

PERIOD 16th, 17th and 18th century


The Cathedral, or Catedral de la Encarnación, was erected on the site where the city's main mosque had stood during the eight centuries of Muslim domination.

Building on the cathedral began in the first half of the 16th century (1528) and continued throughout the 17th and 18th century, although it is still unfinished as it is missing the top part of the main faèade and the south tower is incomplete. Nevertheless, this fact has, over time, become an original feature that is the origin of its being nicknamed 'La Manquita' (one-armed).

One of its most outstanding features on the inside are the choir stalls, with 42 sculptures carried out by Pedro de Mena, Ortiz de Vargas and Giuseppe Micael Alfaro, and the two organs, magnificent musical instruments that are rare examples of 18th century pieces that have over 4,000 pipes and are still in good working condition. Inside there is also a Cathedral Museum.


Following the conquest of the city by the Catholic Monarch on 18th August 1487, they ordered the consecration and blessing of the former principal Muslim mosque so that it could be dedicated to Our Lady Santa Marîa de la Encarnación.

The mosque was a building made up of five naves and a hundred and thirteen columns, richly decorated and with a beautiful patio and orange grove, surrounded on three sides by galleries. Given that it was too small for Christian worship, it was decided that a newly designed temple would be constructed on the site of the mosque, which would be demolished.

In 1488 and by order of Pope Inocencio VII, Cardenal Mendoza went ahead with the construction of Malaga Cathedral. That same year, Pedro Dîaz de Toledo, first Bishop of Malaga, published the church's statutes (the same Bishop that ordered the Puerta del Perdón entrance, although the doors were not carved, it is said, until Bishop Cêsar Riario indicated the coats of arms to be included on the same).

The works began in 1518 - in the Gothic style of the Catholic Monarchs - however, due to economic problems, they were suspended in 1525. It was in this period that the floor plan of the building was decided and the entrance called Puerta del Sagrario was constructed.

The next step in the project, designed by the prestigious master architect, Diego de Siloê and directed by Enrique Egas, who was also the project manager for Toledo Cathedral, consisted in the foundations for the retro-choir, the construction of the apsidal pillars and the walls enclosing the chapels.

In 1549 the construction found itself without a master architect and so it was decided to request tenders to fill the post, which was finally awarded to Diego de Vergara who, in turn, adopted the solutions put forward by Andrês de Vandelvira. With this new architect the chapels that opened onto the retro-choir were finalised, the arms of the transept were built. His son would take charge of the finishing the transept and the tiers of the main altar.

Around 1588 it was decided to close off the already constructed part in order to open it for worship. In the 17th century work continued on the choir stalls and the transept portals. It was during this period that fears arose as to the building's stability and the works were accelerated under the orders of Josê de Bada Navajas. Direct taxation was used to finance the works, this consisting of a levy on all wine, raisins and oil shipped out of the city's port.

In 1764, the wall separating the old and newly constructed parts was demolished, a delicate operation that was done with great care in order not to damage the choir stalls already built. In 1782, with the disappearance of the authority that allowed the application of the tax to finance the works, these were suspended, reason for which Malaga Cathedral stands as it does today, 'Manquita', due to its unfinished right-hand tower.


The building's architecture is completely eclectic, due to the fact that its construction, for a number of reasons, lasted more than three centuries. In this respect, the main faèade is Late Baroque, whilst the building's floor plan is of Gothic style but the elevations are clearly of Renaissance inspiration and therefore it could be said that, based on its design, the Cathedral combined Gothic structures with the new Renaissance ideas

l. Main Altar
2. Choir
3. Saint Sebastián Chapel
4. Access to the Tabernacle
5. Saint Rafael Chapel
6. Saint Josê Chapel
7. North Transept
8. Saint Julián Chapel
9. Principal Vestry
10. Cristo del Amparo Chapel
11. Virgen del Pilar Chapel
12. La Encarnación Chapel
13. Saint Bárbara Chapel
14. Saint Francisco de Asîs Chapel
15. Virgen de los Reyes Chapel
16. South Transept
17. La Concepción Chapel
18. Virgen del Rosario Chapel
19. Sagrado Corazón Chapel
20. Los Caîdos Chapel
21. Chapter Room
22. Treasury or Ornament Room

Internally, the conceptual content is designed around the retro-choir and the Main Chapel (1) which, due to its shape (semi-circular) and iconographies, marks the axis of a circuit that expresses the idea of the Triumph of the Church through the cycle of Redemption, beginning with the Mystery of the Incarnation (to which this Cathedral is dedicated) and ending with Sacrifice through the exaltation of the Eucharist.

This basic axis is formed by the alignment of the central chapel of the retro-choir, dedicated to Our Lady La Encarnación, which is also the Cathedral's Tabernacle representing the beginning and the end, and the Main Chapel.

The axis is found in the semicircle of the retro-choir and the spatial centrality of the Main Chapel, which, through its iconographies (paintings by Cêsar Arbassia, sculptures, primitive tabernacle and the gilding on the structural elements) ratifies the idea of the cosmic and universality of the Church through the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This idea of triumph is emphasised in the triple arcade placed at the entrance to the retro-choir, which acts a triumphant arch of classic tradition adding to this space the concept of glorification.

Of particular interest in the interior of the temple are the Choir Stalls (2). Classified by Palomino in the 18th century as the 8th Wonder of the World, they are located in the central nave, following on from the transept.

Carried out by Luis Ortiz de Vargas (wooden architecture), Josê Micael Alfaro (Apostles and the Virgin) and Pedro de Mena (sculptures in the elevated stalls), they are of extreme artistic value and one of the most important Spanish works of art of the period. The images created by these artists, particularly those of Mena, contain all the spiritualism and mysticism of Spanish Baroque.

Over the choir stalls stands the architectural structure that houses the two organs that were built in 1773 and 1781 by Julián de la Orden, the housings decorated by Josê Martîn de Aldehuela and with sculptures by Juan de Salazar, carried out in the 18th century.

The whole of the Cathedral has been manipulated due to the distribution of a series of windows, placed within its architecture from the end of the 19th century up until the 1960s by the firms Mayer and Maumejean, these depicting, in general, the cycle of Christ's Redemption.

Together with its architectural elements, the Cathedral also holds an extremely interesting artistic heritage, distributed throughout its seventeen chapels.

Particularly outstanding are those of the Grand Masters of Baroque, Alonso Cano (Our Lady, Virgen del Rosario - Virgen del Rosario Chapel), Pedro de Mena (Choir stalls) or Claudio Coello (Our Lady, La Inmaculada - La Concepción Chapel (17), together with others of lesser category from the 16th to the 18th century, such as Cesar Arbassia (Triptych of the Annunciation - Saint Josê Chapel); Jacobo Palma (Saint Sebastián Altar - North Transept); Giulano della Porta (Sepulchre of Bishop Luis de Torres - Saint Francisco Chapel); Cristóbal Garcîa Salmerón (Appearance of the Virgin to Saint Julián-Saint Julián Chapel), and Antonio del Castillo (The Calvary - Cristo del Amparo Chapel).

Another particularity of this artistic content is the fact that it is one of the best collections of religious art by local artists, especially of the Modern Era of which the main exponents represented are: Miguel Manrique (Invitation of the Pharisee - Saint Julián Chapel); Juan Niño de Guevara (side altars in the Cristo del Amparo and Santa Bárbara Chapels); Diego de la Cerda (side altars in the Virgen del Pilar Chapel), Fernando Ortîz (Our Lady, la Dolorosa - Saint Sebastián Chapel, Saint Josê - Saint Josê Chapel, Saint Blas - Virgen del Rosario Chapel), and Jerónimo Gómez de Hermosilla (Saint Sebastián - Saint Sebastián Chapel, Saint Luis the Bishop - Virgen del Rosario Chapel).

Touring round the interior, visitors can see: the Christ of Pardon (3) (San Sebastián Chapel), one of the few images of Christ Crucified that remain from the workshop of the eminent Granada sculptor Pedro de Mena (1628- 1688), in which through the modelling of the head the artist transmits all the transcendence of the martyrdom of the Calvary. The figure of Christ Cristo del Amparo (10) (Cristo del Amparo Chapel) by Antonio Gómez (first part of 17th century), which shows the strong influence Pablo de Rojas and the Granada school of sculpture.

La Encarnación Chapel (12) was originally adorned by a Proto-Renaissance style altarpiece by Pedro de Meras, which no longer exists, and a triptych of The Annunciation by Cêsar Arbassia. In the 18th century it was redecorated under the sponsorship of Bishop Molina Lario (1776-1783), who commissioned its design to Ventura Rodrîguez, the works being executed by Antonio Ramos (1703-1782) and Josê Martîn de Aldehuela (1719-1802). The sculptures of the group of the Annunciation and of the patron saints of Malaga, Saint Ciriaco and Saint Paula were the work of Juan Salazar Palomino (18th century).

This area is completed with the mausoleum of Bishop Molina Larios and Bishop Friar Bernardo Manrique, the first by Juan de Salazar, the second attributed to Gregorio Vigarny (16th century), dated at 1565, and which is the only element of the old altarpiece still conserved.

The altarpiece dedicated to Saint Bárbara (13) (Saint Bárbara Chapel) was commissioned in the year 1524 to the sculptor Nicolás Tiller and the painter Francisco Ledesma for the Old Cathedral. In a later intervention, the section representing Saint Gregorio's Mass was added, traditionally attributed to the artist Fernando de Coca and held to be part of the Saint Gregorio altarpiece in the old mosque - Virgen de los Reyes Cathedral (15), (Virgen de los Reyes Chapel). The Catholic Monarchs donated this image to the city once the Castilian forces had taken the city. It is a sculpture with Renaissance lines from the end of the 15th century, although it has been remodelled on several occasions, its initial stylistic seal being modified particularly during the 16th century.

Other interesting elements are, the Praying statues of the Catholic Monarchs (Virgen de los Reyes Chapel), carved, together with the original altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin, by Pedro de Mena; The Beheading of Saint Paul (Virgen de los Reyes Chapel) painted by Enrique Simonet during his stay in Rome in 1887, and an altarpiece depicting Saint Pelayo (19), (Sagrado Corazón Chapel), that dates back to the 16th century. This altarpiece, which has twelve sections of great artistic quality, shows scenes from the martyrdom of Saint Pelayo, and has been attributed to the 'Master of Becerril'.
The figure of Christ Crucified (20) (Los Caîdos Chapel) is a sculpture by Alonso de Mena, father of Pedro de Mena and is representative of the model of Christ Crucified that came out of the Granada school. The image of Our Lady, La Dolorosa (Los Caîdos Chapel), by Pedro de Mena, repeats the model at which this artist became a master, expressing the restrained pain of the Virgin for the death of her Son, heart-broken, but accepting His Martrydom for the salvation of Mankind. This Chapel-Mausoleum contains the remains of the Malaga people assassinated during the 1936 Spanish Civil War.

Francisco Garcîa Mota-Alberto Huertas Mamely-Teresa Sauret Guerrero.


Address: CL MOLINA LARIO 9,  29015  Málaga
Telephones:      Centralita: 952220345

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