Founded in the 13th century on the site of a mosque, the unusual Valencia Cathedral incorporates a number of architectural styles and artistic treasures - including the Holy Grail! The city of Valencia is located near the east coast of Spain, in a fertile region known for oranges and rice.
Valencia Cathedral was built between 1252 and 1482 on the site of an earlier mosque and perhaps a Roman temple of Diana. It was originally dedicated to the Holy Saviour; El Cid dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. King Jaime the Conqueror did likewise, leaving in the main chapel the image of the Blessed Virgin which he carried with him (now preserved in the sacristy).
In 1262, Bishop Andrés de Albalat laid the cornerstone of the Gothic building. It had three naves, which reach only to the choir of the present building. Bishop Vidal de Blanes built the magnificent chapter hall, and Jaime de Aragón added the famous tower ("La Miguelete") in 1418.
Also in the 15th century the dome was added and the naves extended back of the choir, uniting the building to the tower and forming a main entrance. Archbishop Luis Alfonso de los Cameros began the building of the main chapel in 1674, decorated with marbles and bronzes in the ornate style of the period.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the German Conrad Rudolphus added the opulent Baroque façade of the main entrance. A restoration in the same century rounded the pointed arches, covered the Gothic columns with Corinthian pillars, and redecorated the walls. Tragically, in the war of 1808, a magnificent silver reredos was carried away and melted into coins to meet the expenses of the campaign.
What to See
The exterior of Valencia Cathedral is mostly Gothic. The unusual open arcades around the northeast-oriented apse recall the Roman Colosseum. The portal on the north transept, Puerta de los Apóstoles, is richly decorated with Gothic sculpture and a 14th-century rose window, while the entrance portal is lavishly Baroque.
The predominantly Gothic interior contains numerous religious and artistic treasures. Among the notable sights are two Goya paintings in the San Francesco chapel, one of which depicts an exorcism and the tube-like 14th-century lantern over the crossing. The soaring windows are glazed with thin sheets of alabaster that filter the strong sunlight.
The octagonal tower, La Miguelete (or Micalet), has 207 steps that can be climbed for spectacular views over the cathedral and the city, which is dotted with blue-domed churches. The tower is named for its consecration on St. Michael's Day in 1418.
The cathedral's museum contains a good collection of paintings and a 2300-kg monstrance made of gold, silver and jewels donated by Valencians. It is carried through the streets on festival days.
The most celebrated treasure in Valencia Cathedral is a chalice known as the Santo Caliz, which is said to be the famous Holy Grail. Whether or not this is so, it is certainly an intriguing artifact. It is of ancient date and was hidden in a monastery in northern Aragon throughout the Dark Ages, where it inspired many Grail legends. It has been enshrined in the cathedral since 1437, and can be seen in a dark, simple stone chapel in the corner of the cathedral.
The Santo Caliz is made of two parts: an ancient stone cup attached to a medieval stem and base. Fashioned out of dark brown agate, the main cup is 6.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide. Experts have dated it to the 1st century BC with a provenance of Antioch or Alexandria.3 The medieval stem and handles are made of gold; the alabaster base is decorated with pearls and precious stones.
The curator of the Santo Caliz has asserted the relic's authenticity as the very cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, but the Vatican has not officially agreed. Although both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVII used the revered chalice for Mass during their visits to Valencia, the head of the Vatican Museums' department of Early Christian Art, Umberto Utro, has stated that it cannot be the cup used by Christ - primarily because it is much too fancy for a poor man and there was no tradition of saving relics in Judaism.
Quick Facts on Valencia Cathedral
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|Coordinates:||39.475643° N, 0.375043° W (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Valencia Cathedral
Below is a location map and aerial view of Valencia Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- The cathedral and around - Rough Guide to Spain
- Valencia - Wikipedia
- Carol Glatz, "At Mass in Valencia, pope uses what tradition says is Holy Grail." Catholic News Service, July 10, 2006.
- Catedral (Seu) - Frommer's Spain
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