The Surprising Cathedral of Santander

With its lower church in the Transition Style and its upper church in a magnificent Gothic Style with star-shaped vaults and an elegant cupola, the Cathedal of the Ascension of Our Lady in Santander is a very quite surprising edifice. It gives a true less

It is only in 1752 that Santander, in the beautiful Spanish Region of Cantabria, became a Bishopric. This cathedral first was an abbey church, then a collegiate church. The Abbey of San-Emeterio y Celedonio was constructed on a hill, and so that the church could be erected on the side opposite to the ocean, one had to first build a crypt. This is the pantheon of the abbots and the cathedral itself was built upon it. 

The lower church has a mysterious and archaic character with cross-shaped massive pillars on which robust columns are resting, two on each face and one in each angle. They support ribbed vaults with the same height in the three naves. These are ending in polygonal chapels including columns in the angles; they are of a lighter construction but do belong to the same period as the rest of the edifice. The whole is in the Transition Style and dates back to the end of the 12th century or early 13th century. The capitals are adorned with foliage and volutes, some of them are carved with figures, and the arches are simply roughly hewn. 

The upper church is in the Gothic Style, rectangular and without a transept. It has three naves of five bays and three apsidal chapels modified in the 16th century and the Capilla Mayor was extended. But one remained faithful to the Gothic Style however and the magnificent vaults are star-shaped, like in the elegant cupola. There is a lack of unity between the three naves with the massive pillars presenting an unequal height, without triforium, with vaults on simple ribs, which are much thinner and lighter. The church whose works started at the end of the 13th century certainly had to be achieved in the 14th century by a different architect. Side chapels were added at a later date. 

The main portal (1230) is historically quite important. It shows the very first coat of arms with lions and castles together after  Castille and Leon were unified, in the reign of Ferdinando III of Castille. 

The trapezoidal shape cloisters, which were those of the abbey, are quite large and illuminated, in the Gothic Style of the first half of the 14th century. They are reminiscent of Cistercian Cloisters with their their typical wide arches framing smaller ones. Very much damaged during the Spanish Civil War, the cathedral also suffered huge damages in the fire of Santander in 1941.The cathedral has been carefully and respectfully restored from 1942 to 1953 by the architects José Manuel Bringas and Juan José Resines.

Main entrance of the Santander Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2d/Santander.Conjunto.Historico.jpg?uselang=eu

Access to the lower church or crypt, Santander Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Acceso_a_la_Iglesia_Baja_de_la_Catedral_de_Santander.JPG?uselang=eu

Cloisters of the Santander Cathedral, reminiscent of the Cistercian Style. 

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/85/Santander_-_Catedral%2C_claustro_10.jpg?uselang=eu

Star-shaped vaults of the cupola, Santander Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Santander_-_Catedral%2C_interior_04.jpg?uselang=eu

The nave, pendentives of the cupola and main Baroque altar.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Catedral_de_Nuestra_Se%C3%B1ora_de_la_Asunci%C3%B3n._Interior.jpg?uselang=eu

The lower church (crypt)  at Santander Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/Iglesia_Baja_o_del_Cristo.jpg?uselang=eu

Main portal (1230) with the Coat of Arms of unified Castille and Leon.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/Catedral_de_Santander._Portada_%281225-1230%29.jpg?uselang=eu

Baroque Grand Altar in the choir, Santander Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/58/Santander_-_Catedral%2C_interior_03.jpg?uselang=eu

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