Sa Seu: Palma Cathedral
The 14th-century cathedral is an imposing pile, with its Gothic buttresses, finials and bosses softly glowing in the
sun. Legend has it that King Jaume I ordered it built in 1230, though in fact he merely modified an existing mosque. Work began in 1306 and has continued to this day. The western façade was rebuilt after an earthquake
in 1851. Controversial touches were added in the 20th century by Antonio Gaudí.
For the Palau de l’Almudaina, which stands opposite Sa Seu, see Palau de l’Almudaina
Looking up from the old wall on the seafront, Sa Seu seems to have more in common with a craggy Mallorcan mountain than it does with any other European cathedral. It represents the might of the island’s Christian conquerors.
Portal del Mirador
The seaward, Gothic façade is the most spectacular side. Rows of ornate buttresses surround an elaborate door, which was formerly called the Door of the Apostles but is now known as the Mirador (vantage point).
Although it is Gothic in overall style, the main door is mainly the product of Renaissance workmanship.
A figure of Mary is surrounded by objects pertaining to her immaculate nature.
Portal de l’Almoina
This doorway is the humblest of them all; its name refers to the distribution of alms to the poor. It was the last Gothic contribution to the building’s exterior, built in the last decade of the 15th century. The rectangular surround and the pointed arch have been finely carved, but the doorway itself has very little embellishment.
This bell is set within a three-storey-high tower surmounted with a “crown of lace” – a perforated parapet with small pinnacles. The structure is probably of Islamic origin.
Sa Seu is one of Europe’s tallest Gothic structures, and the sense of space in the interior is enhanced by graceful, elongated pillars that seem almost to melt away in the upper reaches of the nave.
A vibrant rose window at the end of the nave is the main one of seven (a few are blocked up). Some say that
the 20th-century “restoration” of the window’s colours was too strong.
In 1904–14, the great Modernista architect set about improving Sa Seu’s interior, removing mediocre altars
and changing the lighting effects. The controversial baldachin is actually only a mock-up – he never finished
the final canopy.
In all, there are 20 chapels, though some are now part of the chancel, with their altarpieces displayed in the museum. The tombs of Jaume II and Jaume III are in the Trinity Chapel.
The collection includes some of Sa Seu’s earliest altar panels, a polychrome wood sarcophagus, ornate reliquaries and furniture. Most mind-boggling are the pair of 18th-century Baroque-style candelabra, each as tall as a person.