The Cathedral of Huesca and Its Uncommon Adornment
In Visigothic times, there were bishops in Huesca as from 553 but when the Arabs invaded the Iberian Peninsula, they demolished the Christian basilica. With the materials, they built a mosque that had the reputation of being the most beautiful in Spain. King Pedro I used to say it but he probably did not know the mosque in Cordova. So, when he reconquered Huesca, at the end of the 11th century, the mosque remained unchanged and consecrated to the Christian Faith in December 1096.
It was only at the end of the 13th century that one thought of erecting a new cathedral. And one probably wished to use the foundations of the mosque, thus explaining why it is on a square plan. The edifice has three naves with side chapels incorporated in the buttresses, a wide transept and five polygonal apses. The pillars are massive and the vaults of the lateral naves are low and dark. The central nave was then covered with a wooden ceiling.
At the beginning of the 14th century, the magnificent main portal was constructed by Bishop Martin Lopez de Azla. It is flanked by the statues of the Apostles surmounted, in the seven rows of the archivolt, by statuettes of the blest resting on consoles. The tympanum is adorned with the Virgin and Child surrounded by angels, the Magi and the resurrected Christ with Mary Magdalene. The extremely elegant gable is crowned by a typically Aragonese porch roof.
At the end of the 15th century, Bishop Juan de Aragon, deemed the edifice was too small. After consulting a lot of architects from Navarre and Aragon, in 1497, he entrusted Juan de Olotzaga with the task of giving more splendour to the central nave. Juan opened windows, built beautiful star-shaped vaults, reinforced the buttresses and raised a finely carved façade with pinnacles above the main portal. The façade also presents a tower which is first on a square basis, then octagonal for the upper storeys. It dates back to the 14th century. The "Capilla Mayor", main altar in the choir, presents a superb alabaster reredos. This is a masterpiece by the great sculptor from Valencia, Damian Forment who sculpted this reredos from 1520 to 1533 representing various scenes of the Christ's Passion. The choir occupies two bays like in most Spanish cathedrals and the wainscots were sculpted by Nicolas de Berastegui as from 1578 and finally completed by Verruetta in 1594.
Among the chapels, we shall notice: the Santo Orencio Chapel, in alabaster and green jasper with the pantheon of the Lastanosa Family (1665); the Santa Ana Chapel with an altar of 1522 in the Style of Berruguete and a railing by Arnau Guillen (1525). The vestry, an annexe to the cathedral hosts a remarkable reredos of the early 16th century attributed to Gil Morlanes. It comes from the Monastery of Monte Aragon. The cloisters were built for the major part in the Early Gothic Style with a wing erected later in 1453. A horseshoe arch can still be seen, from the former mosque.
Main portal and tower of the Huesca Cathedral, Spain.
Main portal of the Huesca Cathedral. Details of doorway with Apostles, archivolts, tympanum and gable.
Main portal of Huesca Cathedral, with its uncommon porch roof and finely carved façade above.
Detail of porch roof at Huesca Cathedral main portal.
Doorway scuptures of the Apostles, Huesca Cathedral.
Cathedral of Huesca at night.
Star-shaped vaults in the Cathedral of Huesca, Spain.
Altar in the Cathedral of Huesca.
Alabaster reredos, in the choir of the Cathedral, Huesca.
"Capilla del Sagrario", Huesca Cathedral.