The Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia is more commonly referred to as either Saint Mary’s Cathedral or Valencia Cathedral for obvious reasons.
A Roman Catholic parish church in Valencia, Spain, Valencia Cathedral was consecrated in 1238. It was dedicated to Saint Mary by order of King James I of Aragon. The cathedral was built on the site of a Visigothic cathedral that the conquering Moors had turned into a mosque.
Stones from quarries in nearby Burjassot and Godella were used to build the cathedral, but stone from the more distant quarries in Benidorm and Xàbia, was also used and brought to the site by boat.
Most of the Valencia Cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, which is why its style is predominantly Gothic. Since its construction went on for centuries though, there are early Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles incorporated into its construction as well.
One of the many supposed Holy Chalices in the world is a revered religious artifact housed in one of the Valencia Cathedral’s chapels. Most Christian historians admit that their research points to this chalice as being the most likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper. This chalice dates from the 1st century, and was given to the cathedral by King Alfonso V of Aragon in 1436.
The cathedral contains numerous 15th century paintings. Some are by local artists like Jacomart, while others are by artists from Rome that were engaged by the Valencian Pope Alexander VI.
It is said that the reason for the simplicity and sobriety of Valencia Cathedral is due to it being built quickly to mark the territory as Christian and deny the site to the Muslim Moors. Another theory is that since it was not a work by a King, but by local bourgeoisie, it was necessary that it be more humble in nature.
Excavations in the adjacent Almoina Archaeological Centre have unearthed the remains of the ancient Visigothic cathedral, which later became a mosque. There is documentary evidence that for decades after the Christian conquest of the city in 1238, the one time mosque and cathedral remained standing even through there were Koranic inscriptions on the walls. It wasn’t until 22 June 1262 that bishop Andreu d’Albalat ordered it knocked down and a new cathedral to be erected on the site.
Renewal of the cathedral was undertaken late in the 18th century. The intention was to give the structure a uniform neoclassical appearance to hide the original Gothic style that was then considered vulgar in comparison. Works started in 1774, directed by the architect Antoni Gilabert Fornés. The renovation affected both constructive and ornamental elements, with the outside pinnacles removed and Gothic structural elements concealed by stucco and other pseudo neoclassical elements.
In 1931 the church was declared a historic and artistic landmark by the Spanish government which should have protected it from further defacing by shortsightedness. However, during the Spanish Civil War it was burned and the building lost part of its decorative elements. The choir, located in the central part, was dismantled in 1940 and moved to the bottom of the high altar. The organs, which had suffered major damage during the war, were never rebuilt.
In 1970 the Houses of Canons building attached to the chapels facing Micalet street was demolished. The purpose was to give the cathedral back its previous appearance. At the same time elements that were of little or no architectural value were removed.
In 1972 work to remove the Neoclassical elements in order to recover the original Gothic aspects was undertaken. Neoclassical elements spared were much of the ambulatory chapels, and other isolated elements.
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