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Málaga Cathedral: The 'One Armed' Cathedral

Once a mosque in Malaga, the Málaga Cathedral stands tall over the city as one of its top attractions. Discover its rich history and how to visit this iconic monument in Malaga.

By Nick Nutter | Updated 1 Apr 2024 | Málaga | Places To Go | Login to add to YOUR Favourites Favourites Icon or Read Later

This article has been visited 3,965 times Malaga Cathedral from the port Malaga Cathedral from the port

Malaga Cathedral from the port

Mosque in Malaga Turned Cathedral

The Moors occupied Málaga in 711 and the town soon became a major port. As befitted its status, Malaqah as it was known then, had a large mosque, built in 1360.

Malaqah was reconquered in 1487 and renamed Málaga. And it had the same fate as most mosques in Andalucia during the reconquest: the mosque in Malaga was converted into a cathedral. It was not until 1524 that the decision was made to build a new cathedral just to the south of the old cathedral.

Gothic Design by Diego de Siloé

Malaga Cathedral from the city Malaga Cathedral from the city

Malaga Cathedral from the city

The design of the original Gothic style cathedral is attributed to Diego de Siloé. The foundations were laid in 1528. It is possible to see, from a drawing of the city made by one Anton Van der Wyngaerde in 1542, that the four semi-circular towers and the bases of the columns for the ambulatory and crossing were in place.

Malaga Cathedral Construction Halted in 1588

Malaga Cathedral Malaga Cathedral

Malaga Cathedral

In 1588, Bishop Luis Garcia de Haro stopped further construction due to a lack of funds. The transept was enclosed with a stone wall reinforced with four buttresses and the cathedral as it stood was consecrated. Over the following hundred years, only the choir and the four columns flanking it were built.

Construction Resumes After 1680 Earthquake

Malaga Cathedral south tower Malaga Cathedral south tower

Malaga Cathedral south tower

In 1680, an earthquake weakened the outer wall and construction had to resume to prevent further deterioration. In 1720, José de Bada started work on the new façade.

Malaga Cathedral in the 17th and 18th Centuries

Malaga Cathedral unfinished north tower Malaga Cathedral unfinished north tower

Malaga Cathedral unfinished north tower

Bada was followed by Master Builder, Antonio Ramos, who, by 1768, had roofed the choir and connected the nave with the transept. He also constructed stone chains around the roof to stabilise the entire building.

Ramos also completed the north tower that rises to 84 meters in height, being the second highest cathedral in Andalusia, after the Giralda in Seville. The south tower remained unfinished and a roof, designed by Ventura Rodriguez, was never added.

Virgen Dolorosa XVIII century Virgen Dolorosa XVIII century

Virgen Dolorosa XVIII century

Finally, in 1783, Jose Martin de Aldehuela of Teruel added the entrance courtyard and railings.

Nicknamed La Manquita

Soon after, any further work was banned by Royal Decree. To this day Málaga Cathedral is unfinished.

Visitors to the roof terrace can still see the worked stone that would have been used for the south tower and the columns rising like fingers from the outer walls.

It’s unfinished state gave rise to the cathedral’s nickname, ‘La Manquita’ (one armed).

Visiting Malaga Cathedral

Málaga Cathedral combines a number of architectural styles, Gothic on the lower parts, Renaissance in its upper parts and Baroque in the main façade and roof decorations. Today, this beautiful cathedral is one of the top sites in the city.

The cathedral is open to the public, with the following opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 6.30pm
  • Saturday: 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Sunday: 2:00pm – 16.00pm

Do note that the last entry is 45 minutes before closing. Free entry for tourists is available 8:30am to 9:00am (Monday to Saturday) and 8:30am to 9:30am (Sunday).

Tickets are available at the door or on their official website.

In 2016, access was made, via over 200 steps within one of the towers, to the roof terrace that affords magnificent views over the city and allows visitors to see the unfinished south tower. This part of the tour is guided and runs at set times. From 1 April 2024 onwards, visits to the roof will be stopped as there are works being carried out on the area. This is expected to last 3 years.

Cathedral Museum

The cathedral museum is on the first floor, accessed by a staircase just outside the cathedral shop. It contains an interesting selection of chalices and religious monstrance dating back to the 16th century. Permission to visit the museum should be sought from the attendant in the shop.

Malaga Cathedral Tours

If you're keen to learn more about the cathedral's history and architecture, then taking a guided tour is the way to go.

More on Malaga

While Malaga Cathedral is undoubtedly one of the top attractions in the city, there's so much more to see and discover. Check out our other Malaga articles:

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