To this day Málaga Cathedral is unfinished giving rise to the cathedral’s nickname, La Manquita, one armed
Malaga Cathedral from the port
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. The mosque 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.
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.
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.
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 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
Finally, in 1783, Jose Martin de Aldehuela of Teruel added the entrance courtyard and railings.
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).
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.
The cathedral is open to the public. 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 and should be booked at the pay desk.
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.