Madrid’s Cathedral, the Catedral de la Almudena, took more than one hundred years to complete. The cathedral looks much older than it actually is: it was consecrated as recently as in 1993.
A Cathedral for the Capital
Soon after King Philips II made Madrid the capital of Spain in 1561, he wanted a cathedral for his new capital. Partly due to political turbulence and strong opposition by the powerful archdiocese of the then larger city of Toledo, the construction was constantly postponed.
Finally, in 1868 a congregation devoted to Virgin Almudena (the female patron saint of Madrid) received permission from the archdiocese of Toledo to construct a new church dedicated to the patron saint.
In 1883 construction finally starts and one year later, Madrid becomes a diocese thanks to Pope Leo XIII. This made it possible to build a cathedral instead of a church. Consequently, the project is updated to reflect the higher status of the building. The new design by Marqués de Cubas called for a Neo-Gothic cathedral building with a ground plan in the form of a Latin cross.
Construction progressed slowly and even came to a complete halt during the civil war in the 1930s. In 1944 the design of the cathedral comes under fire since its neo-Gothic style would contrast with the neoclassical style of the cathedral’s famous neighbor, the Royal Palace. A commission chose a new design by architects Fernando Chueca Goitia and Carlos Sidro. They proposed a design that included more classical elements.
While works would continue until 1999, the Almudena cathedral was officially declared complete in 1993. That same year, Pope John-Paul II consecrated the new cathedral. A statue of the pope can be seen in front of the cathedral’s east façade.
The cathedral is 104 meters long and 76 meters wide (341 x 249 ft.). The central dome has a diameter of 20 meters. The interior of the Almudena Cathedral is more modern and much more modest than that of its larger counterpart in Toledo.
The building, situated adjacent to the Royal Palace, is nevertheless worth a visit, if only for its sheer size. Inside, don’t miss the richly decorated statue of Our Lady of Almudena, set in front of a magnificent altarpiece. And don’t forget to visit the impressive crypt, with its Neo-Romanesque vaulting.