The cathedral was built between 1722 and 1838, and was known as “The Cathedral of the Americas,” because it was funded by the trade across the Atlantic. The lengthy time of construction, and the mixture of styles reflect the ups and downs of that trade. The most obvious example is the change in color from the tan colored Baroque at the bottom to the Neoclassical white above.
Many architects and artists contributed, each with their own vision. In addition, the cathedral houses art works dating from about 1621 to the present.
Rather than the usual tour, let’s start in the crypt, below the main church, and work our way up to the bells in the tower. Down we go…
It’s a large space, and one of the first things to notice is that the acoustics are strange here. There are echos, and in some places it seems that the sound is transmitted and amplified from other places far across the crypt.
There are paintings on the wall, various saints, I would guess.
Around the perimeter are smaller spaces, rooms, or chapels, some containing statues.
There are some other, more interesting things, like the “uncorruptable” remains of Saint Victoria.
Despite the remains, I’d say this crypt is not particularly creepy.
Back upstairs, take an overall look around.
Obviously, the cathedral is huge, and instead of trying to describe lots of different things, I’m going to choose just one of the chapels, the “Capilla de San Sebastian.”
The painting is the oldest in the cathedral, dating from 1621, by Andrea Ansaldi. It depicts the first martyrdom of St. Sebastian. The first, because this saint was said to be doubly martyred, first by arrows, from which he was healed by Saint Irene, only to be clubbed to death at a later date. (Some guys just can’t catch a break.).
St. Sebastian can be found in many medieval churches, as he was the protector against the plague. He was often depicted as a young man sans clothing, until the Church discouraged that practice, suspicious that it might be provoking the wrong kind of adoration among female worshipers. Ansaldi’s version seems modest in this respect.
The statue in front of the painting below is an “Ecce Homo,” by Luisa Roldán, also known as La Roldana, the first female sculptor on record in Spain.
The statue is of a scene that’s often been portrayed in Christian art. Jesus has just been whipped, bound, and crowned with thorns, and Pilate brings him before a hostile crowd, saying, “Ecce homo,” meaning “Behold the man.” You can see many examples of this art at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecce_homo. I think La Roldana’s version is among the best.
Over time, the statue’s provenance was lost. The sculptor was unknown. Eventually, the statue was refurbished, and during this process, a note was found hidden in the head that established Roldán as the artist. Actually, it was a family affair. She did the sculpting, and her husband painted her work.
Roldán also has two other sculptures in the cathedral, both patron saints of Cadiz.
Do you notice anything odd about these saints? By the way they’re dressed, they’re both more likely to be killers of Christians. They’re Roman soldiers named Servandus and Cermanus. Both converted to Christianity, and were thrown in prison where they continued making new converts. Eventually they were beheaded in Cadiz.
One other interesting point: in the face of the statue on the right, you can see Louisa Roldán herself.
You have to exit the main church to find the door to the left bell tower. From there, it’s a long spiral ramp.
On the way, there are occasional windows where you can rest and peer out to see how high you’ve climbed.
There’s an ancient clock work.
And eventually you reach the narrower, marble spiral to the bells.
Finally, you reach the top, surrounded by bells and panoramas of the city, but that’s not the concern at the moment. It’s windy! You pass immediately from the calm inside the tower to the howling wind outside. Grip your camera tightly or it might be ripped out of your hand.
The bells are within reach, and the mechanism for ringing them in plain sight.
Suddenly there’s a new concern: what if they start ringing all those bells?
As you gradually become accustomed to the conditions, you can appreciate the great views.
Thankful that the bells are still quiet, you start your descent…
…and the bells start ringing. It’s ok, though, because you’re safely away, and making progress toward ground level.
The climb down is far easier.
As you leave the church, look up at the tower once again.
Then enjoy coffee and croissants in the cathedral square.