The cathedral of Santa Maria in Murcia was founded in 1394 above the remains of a Mosque and was consecrated in 1465. It was restored and extended in the 16th Century. During the 18th Century the large Gothic church was so badly damaged by the flooding of the Río Seguro that it was virtually rebuilt in baroque style (1737-92). This is probably the top highlight of the city of Murcia.

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The façade was designed by Jaime Bort y Melía of Valencia and it is one of the finest architectural expressions of the Spanish baroque.

Bort used a design that had been previously rejected for the construction of the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. To this design, he added a surfeit of ornamentation in accordance with the Spanish taste. The effect of the façade relies on strong light and shade. Pilasters were replaced by columns to form an aedicule, and from the customary concluding entablature, an enormous round niche was created, which vaults the whole middle section.

The carved decorations represent a piece of paradise. The exaggerated gestures of the Bainio (most of which are by Salzillo and his son Francisco, Juan de Egea, Martínez de Teina, and others) standing in the aedicules or niches, give them the appearance of players in some eternal drama. This animation is also reflected in the building itself, the architectural elements of which are contorted to varying degrees.

Thus, for example, the customary side volutes have become slanting ovals and the Churrigueresque ledges have breaks in unusual places. Also of interest are the side portals. On the Southern Front of the cathedral the 15C Gothic Portada de los Apóstoles, an imitation of the Apostle Gate of the Cathedral of in Valencia, is attributed to Antonio Gil.

The Capilla de Los Junterones, (1515-29) on the right side, has lavish Plateresque ornamentation. In the North transept, the octagonal Capilla de Los Vélez is from the 15th Century and has late-Gothic architectural carving, in which Mudéjar influence is also apparent (late 15th Century). This chapel also has an excellent late Gothic stellar vault. The massive escutcheons on the exterior are reminiscent of the Capilla del Condestable in the cathedral of Burgos. The entrance, the 16C Portade de las Cadenas (cadenas = chains), is attributed to Francisco  Florentín.

Behind the Puerta del Pozo on the Northern part of the cathedral stands the massive bell tower. With over 300 feet, its construction was initiated in 1521 by Francesco l’Indaco of Florence tower and continued its development in the most varied of styles (Renaissance, Herrera, baroque); finally, the tower was crowned with a classical steeple by Ventura Rodríguez.

In spite of this mixture of building styles, the whole tower presents a harmonious unity. The Plateresque gate leading to the sacristy on the ground floor of the tower is reputed to be the work of Juan de Léon, but it was embellished with baroque decorations in 18C. The vault in the sacristy is decorated with charming garlands of fruit, flowers, and leaves.

The original Gothic style still dominates the domed interior. The fourth chapel in the right aisle-the previously mentioned Capilla de los Junterones has a bas-relief

of the Nativity from the early 16th Century by the brothers Francesco and Jacopo l’Indaco. In the Capilla de los Velez, also mentioned above, the model for which was the sepulchral chapel of Alvaro de Luna in Toledo, there is an altar with a Virgin by Salzillo

In front of the Capilla Mayor is a 15C reja. The late Gothic Coro has a Plateresque screen and stalls by Rafael de Léon (1567);

The Capilla de San Andrés, in front of the ambulatory in the left aisle, leads to the Bishop’s oratory (with a medallion of the Holy Family by Salzillo). Next to the North transept, there is a Plateresque door, through which you can get to the sacristy, which has beautiful 16C panelling. Here there is a monstrance by Pérez de Montalto from 1667.

The Gothic cloister dates from the 15C. The Diocesan Museum, housed here and in the chapterhouse, has a 14th Century altar with the portrait of the Infante Don Manuel and his wife, and other figures attributed to Francisco Salzillo, including the Virgen de la Leche (Milk), there are also Romanesque and Gothic sculptures, among which a Mater Dolorosa deserves particular attention, as well as various reliefs by Rafael de Léon.

Particularly good paintings include the work of Fernando de Llanos (Adoration of the Shepherds), Pedro Orrente (The Good Shepherd), and a winged altar by Barnabas Modena. The Cathedral´s treasure also includes crosses, statuettes, chalices, monstrances, manuscripts, etc.

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