Due to the way in which it was built, the cathedral of Madrid, the Cathedral of La Almudena has received critics. Some claim it has no real style. This can be well true, but its dimensions and some of the things we find inside it make it with no doubt one of the top attractions in Madrid!
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Cathedral and Royal Palace Combo Tour
Unlike most cathedrals, the orientation of the Almudena is North-South (instead of East-West). The reason for this is connected to the Royal Palace. The temple was originally conceived as part of the Royal Palace complex. As a matter of fact, its main facade faces the southern facade of the Palace.
Besides the Cathedral, you can also pay a visit to its museum, access the dome to enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Madrid. Another “secret” thing to do is to visit the neo-romanesque crypt in the lower part of the cathedral.
The Marques de Cubas, a famous character in Spain´s history, designed and started building the cathedral in the late XIXth century, but his project was modified by the architects Fernando Chueca and Carlos Sidro in 1944 to accommodate the dimensions of the Royal Palace. You can find below the top suggestions to visit the Cathedral of Madrid and also anecdotes about is history and how it was finalised in only 10 years!
Best way to visit the Almudena Cathedral
There are many things to enjoy during a visit to Madrid and selecting what to visit becomes increasingly complex if you enjoy just a two-day trip to Madrid.
The Cathedral is located just next to the famous Royal Palace. This makes visiting the Cathedral very convinient indeed.
Our recommendation is to start the visit to the Cathedral with the museum. To access the museum you have to go to the main façade of the temple (the one that faces the Plaza de la Armeria at the Royal Palace. You will find the Sacristy, and then get to the upper terrace of the from where you will enjoy the best views of the Royal Palace! On this floor, there are two long galleries where the museum’s artworks are exhibited.
After having visited the museum it is time to get to the dome. On the way to the dome, you will admire an impressive model of the first project for the cathedral. The architect Francisco de Cubas was responsible for this initial project back in the late 19th century.
From its outdoor terrace, you will get a good perspective of different areas of Madrid.
The visit to the Cathedral of Madrid would follow. The Almudena Cathedral was built in the neo-Gothic style. It has a Latin cross plan with a central nave and two lateral naves. The transept is wide and it is topped on one side by the chapel of the Virgin. One of the most popular things amongst local visitors is a staircase to get a closer glimpse of the virgin.
Something we particularly enjoy most about La Almudena is the contrast (a very unusual one in Spain where most of the important cathedrals date back to Gothic times) between the neo-Gothic architectural style and the colorful decoration. The four most important elements inside the Cathedral are the Abside, the stained glass windows and especially the great Altar of the Virgen de la Almudena, and the chapel dedicated to San Isidro and his wife Santa María de la Cabeza. San Isidro is the patron of the city of Madrid. The city enjoys the traditional San Isidro festival during the month of May in honor of its patron.
The final step during your visit should be the crypt. To access the crypt you will need to access it through the entrance at Cuesta de la Vega. The crypt was the first element of the cathedral.
History and Anecdotes
Although the Almudena Cathedral that we find today is a very modern building for cathedral standards, its history is rooted deep in time. It dates back to no less than the year 711 when, due to the Muslim invasion, the legend says the few inhabitants that occupied the area (it was certainly not Madrid then!) hid in one of the stones of the city wall an image of the Virgin whom they called “Santa María de La Vega ”, or also“ La Concepción Admirable ”. It seems that this was made at a small old temple located where the cathedral stands today. During the Arab invasion, that temple became a mosque, and four long centuries had to pass before Alfonso VI reconquered the territory. According to legend, the King called a procession through the area where it was believed that the image of the Virgin had been hidden. Miraculously, stones collapsed and exposed the image.
The construction of the Cathedral began in 1883 (late when we compare this date with most Spanish cathedrals) At that time Alfonso XII was king. It took however 110 years to get it finished. The cathedral we find today is very different from the original project of Francisco de Cubas (his neogothic project can be enjoyed in the model exposed inside the cathedral) . The marquis of Cubas died in 1911 and a new project for the cathedral had to wait to 1944. The architects in charge designed a cathedral that would co-exist in better harmony with the neighboring Royal Palace. The height of the original plan was considerably reduced but construction did not start till 1950 (those were not easy times for Spain!) By 1983 there was still lots to do and at the time an effort was made with the creation of a consortium that gathered both private and public institutions. The cathedral of la Almudena was consecrated by Pope John Paul II during one of his trips to Spain. A statue of John Paul II is located next to the eastern entrance.
Almudena Cathedral- Video
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