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Is Cuenca Cathedral in Spain worth visiting?

The short answer is yes. Cuenca Cathedral is amazing, and the inside is spectacular.

Halfway between Madrid and Valencia lies the city of Cuenca, with a new resonance to my ears until recently.

However, spending a few days there, I started exploring the small town whose historic part is under UNESCO protection. It was on the occasion that I discovered the wonderful Cuenca cathedral.

The facade of Cuenca Cathedral, Spain
The facade of Cuenca Cathedral, Spain

Travel to Cuenca! Tranquil town, Cuenca has some highlights for the curious traveller: the hanging houses (casas colgadas), the cathedral or the arcaded Town Hall.

Taste Cuenca! Spanish life is juicy and delicious. You can try interesting places, such as Parador de Cuenca, Trivio or Raff San Pedro! Taste the life and vibes this small town hides within its walls!

Feel Cuenca! The town is quiet and peaceful, filled mostly with Spanish tourists during the weekend. It is a spot easy to explore during the calm weekdays when you can sense Cuencan life at its true pace!

I admit I didn’t feel the urge to visit it. But then, my Spanish colleagues suggested that I should visit it, and they used the word surprising. And it is true, they were right. The cathedral will leave you speechless if you are an art lover.

Practical info: Check all tariffs on the Cathedral site. A single ticket costs 5,50 euros. We opted for the full one worth 10.50 euro (cathdral+tower+San Pedro church) because I absolutely wanted to climb up the tower. There is no need to book in advance. Upon entrance you’ll get an audio guide available in English which offers a good description of this fabulous sacred place.

The Cathedral seen from above
The Cathedral seen from above – inside

Content:

Short history of the cathedral
Best of Cuenca Cathedral

Short history of the cathedral

I don’t want to bore you with many details, so here are just some aspects that I consider crucial from a timeline and architectural point of view:

  • The construction of the cathedral started in the 12th century, and later, underwent many changes;
  • It was built on the site of the main Muslim mosque;
  • Eleanor Plantagenet of England, wife of King Alfonso VIII seems to have had a strong impact on this cathedral. She left her Norman origins on the architectural style of the building;
  • It is a perfect example of Gothic architecture; however, it contains Romanesque as well as Anglo-Norman architectural influences; marvel in front of the splendid Renaissance doorway;
  • In 1902, the bell tower collapsed after direct lightning which also destroyed much of the façade. The reconstruction process brought a neogothic façade, but the church was left unfinished.
Stained-glass window of Cuenca cathedral
Love the way light plays through the stained glass

Best of Cuenca Cathedral (my opinion)

The cathedral is beautiful, and its impressive height makes you feel dwarfed under the columns. However, I thought to myself, it looked like an actual church.

Why all those recommendations then?

Soon I realized the stained glass was special. Unlike the typical church, Cuenca cathedral had beautifully striking abstract stained-glass windows from the 20th century. And the reason behind it was a contest in Cuenca to find artists whose new works would be appropriate and add value to the city.

Ta-da-aa, there it was, the centuries old-cathedral with sharp colored abstract images that fit just fine! Totally loved the idea!

Cuenca and the stained-glass windows
Modern stained-glass windows complete the old cathedral

After I stopped spinning my head in all directions to observe the stained glass of Cuenca cathedral, slowly, surprise number two made room. The cathedral was filled with a huge number of chapels, larger or smaller, but all of them breathtaking.

Most of the artifacts here date from the 15-16th centuries. I couldn’t stop wondering how all these chapels had fit inside the cathedral that didn’t seem huge at first. It looked like a clever engineering trick that makes best use of the small space …proving once more the genius of constructors centuries ago. Cuenca Cathedral is a circular maze of chapels with various artifacts. Some of the chapels have masterpieces, paintings, or several sepulchers with statues of alabaster. They are constructed in various ways and each of them seems to be faithful to a particular theme.

There are some chapels that will attract your attention, such as Chapel of the Heart of Jesus. It is also called the Honda Chapel because it is located below the level of the cathedral floor and has a magnificent ceiling made of wood.

There is also an area of the bishop with huge closets which used to shelter the heavy bishop robes. Judging by the size of the closet, they must have been really heavy!

The cathedral abounds in marvelous details
The cathedral abounds in marvelous details

Take or not my word, if you happen to be in Cuenca, don’t miss out on the cathedral!

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