La Seu: the Cathedral of Palma

Cathedral in Palma

Palma Cathedral
Pixabay / Thomas H.

James I of Aragon found himself in grave peril during his journey to conquer the Balearic Islands in December 1229. A violent storm overtook his fleet of ships, endangering their survival. In his moment of desperation, young James made a solemn vow to God that if he survived the tempest and successfully conquered Mallorca, he would erect a magnificent cathedral on the island.

James’s vow was not in vain. Construction of the Palma Cathedral, popularly known as La Seu, commenced in 1230 and continued for 350 years. The project reached its culmination with the completion of the nave and the main portal. James had faithfully kept his promise. The cathedral boasts grand dimensions, with a width of 108 feet, a height of 145 feet, and a length of 361 feet.

The nave, which was the final element to be finished, ranks among the largest in Europe. A commanding Gothic rose window graces the eastern wall, measuring 41 feet in diameter and composed of approximately 1200 stained glass pieces. Every sunrise bathes the cathedral’s interior in a dazzling array of colors as the morning light filters through the stained glass. However, there is an even more captivating phenomenon associated with this light.

Known as the “Light Game of the Eight,” this rare event occurs only twice a year, on February 2nd and November 11th. At 8 am, sunlight passes through the rosette window on the eastern wall, projecting the image of the window precisely onto the opposite wall beneath the rosette of the main facade.

But there is an additional dimension to this play of light. Around the winter solstice, for approximately twenty days on each side, the sunrise aligns with both massive rosette windows.

The cathedral exhibits a diverse range of architectural styles. The seaward-facing portal, dating from the 13th century, showcases clear Gothic influences. Conversely, the portal on the opposite side reflects late Gothic design from the 16th century. The transition from Gothic to Renaissance is evident, and Baroque styling characterizes the chapels. Classicism is evident in the Baptistry.

Within the Trinity Chapel, two kings, James II and James III, have found their final resting place.


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Visiting La Seu: the Cathedral of Palma

Hours:

Mondays to Fridays from 10.00 hrs (closing times depend on the time of year).

Saturdays from 10.00h to 14.15 hrs.


Price:

Adults €9 Guided Tours from €25

Address: Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca, Plaça de la Seu, Palma, Spain
Duration: 1 hours

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