Spain's picture-perfect island of Mallorca draws beach lovers from all over the world, but it offers so much more than just fun in the sun on the Mediterranean Sea and a hopping nightlife scene when the day turns to night. Exceptionally rich in history, Mallorca is also home to many Moorish and Roman ruins as well as standing structures that date back several centuries. Just one of the many popular historic sites is the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, which is also simply referred to as La Seu. This magnificent token of the past appears to rise straight up out of the Mediterranean Sea, and it's a must-see landmark if you're interested in old churches, history or amazing architecture.
About La Seu
This Gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral came into existence over an extensive period of time that began in 1229 and ran all the way to 1601, and it stands today at an impressive 396 feet long, 180 feet wide and 144 feet tall. In addition to boasting one of the highest naves in all of Europe, it also has 83 windows and seven rose windows. One of these is among the largest rose windows in the entire world and is known as the the Gothic Eye. King James I of Aragon first made the order to build the cathedral in the 13th century on the site of a Moorish mosque, and many changes and additions were made throughout the years.
For example, the expansive bell tower was finally completed in 1498 with a full nine bells in varying sizes, and each bell was assigned a special name. The largest is known as N'Eloi, and the smallest is known as Na Picarol. In 1901, the great artistic architect Antoni Gaudi was asked to begin some new cosmetic work on the seemingly never-ending cathedral project, and he incorporated several changes that involved adding an immense canopy and arranging the choir stalls closer to the altar. He also designed a few signature pieces that you'll immediately identify as Gaudi originals as soon as you see them. However, when Gaudi's creative genius was challenged by the contractor in 1914, he walked out and refused to continue work on the cathedral. The work was never reassigned to anyone else, and the La Seu has stayed much the same since that time.
Attend Religious Services
Visitors are welcome to attend any of the scheduled religious services, and it's not necessary to be Catholic to enjoy the experience in this historic cathedral. Mass and worship services are held each day, and there are very special services held during religious holidays throughout the year. You may even choose to be baptized in the cathedral, have your child's first communion or be married to the love of your life with a bit of advance notice.
Take a Tour
Everyone is welcome to take a tour of La Seu, and you may feel free to explore at your own pace. While regular tours are offered every day of the year except on Sundays and major holidays, the lovely cathedral rooftop tour is suspended during the winter months. Those touring Le Seu will find the Diocese Museum attached to the cathedral, and you'll definitely want to stop in to have a look. This museum boasts some 200 religious works that thoroughly depict the history of Christianity on the island and includes an excellent Antoni Gaudi exhibit as well.
Catch a Special Event
La Seu hosts a variety of special events throughout the year that include concerts, choir performances from many of the best choirs in the world, symphonies, special religious programs and hands-on workshops and a variety of significant celebrations. Those visiting during these special events are welcome to attend.
When a structure is as old as the magnificent La Seu, there's always a lot of interesting facts that surround its existence. These are just a few facts that you might not already know.
- The biggest bell in the tower weighs a whopping 9,220 pounds.
- The cathedral was officially consecrated by Bishop Vic I Manrique in 1601.
- As of 1931, the cathedral became protected as a National Historical Monument.
- In the 20th century, Antoni Gaudi decided all of those windows didn't provide enough light, so he added 14 spectacular candelabras to the existing columns.
- Beautiful music often emanates throughout Le Seu thanks to the talent of the organ player and the main organ that boasts four manual keyboards with a total of 224 accessible notes and a 30-note pedal.
- Legend has it that Le Seu was built after a devastating storm threatened to destroy a fleet of Catalan ships as the crew prepared to take Mallorca. They prayed and promised to build a church if they were allowed to live, and the rest is history.