Tarragona Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Mary
Catedral Basílica Metropolitana y Primada de Santa María
Catedral Basílica Metropolitana i Primada de Santa Maria

The main façade
Basic information
Location Tarragona, Spain
Geographic coordinates 41°07′09″N 1°15′29″E / 41.11917°N 1.25806°E / 41.11917; 1.25806Coordinates: 41°07′09″N 1°15′29″E / 41.11917°N 1.25806°E / 41.11917; 1.25806
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Rite Roman
District Archdiocese of Tarragona
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Cathedral
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Romanesque-Gothic

The Cathedral of Tarragona is a Roman Catholic church in Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain. Located in a site previously occupied by a Roman temple dating to the time of Tiberius, a Visigothic cathedral and a Moorish mosque, it was declared a national monument in 1905.


There is little information about the origins of the church. A chapter is known to have existed in Tarragona in the late 11th century, but the current edifice was built only from 1154 by order of archbishop Bernat Tort, according to the Augustinian rule, to be entrusted to monks from the monastery of St. Rufus in Avignon.

Plan of the church.

The original, early-12th-century cathedral had perhaps a single nave and a large apse, and was in Romanesque style. At the time attention was posed to defensive elements, such as the massive bell tower, annexed to the sacristy. A new project was launched in 1195, changing the church's plan to a basilica one, adding two aisles and a transept with four new secondary apses, covered by cross vaults in Gothic style. The construction benefited of donations from bishops and kings Alfonso II and Peter IV of Aragon.

Part of the new edifice was opened to worship under bishop Aspàreg de la Barca (1215–1234). In 1250 Pedro de Albalat ordered the construction of a tower-dome over the transept and in 1277 Bartolomeu de Girona was commissioned the realization of the main portal. The tympanum and the apostles figures of the latter are however were executed by Jaume Cascalls and his workshop (including Jordi de Déu) around 1375. The new cathedral was consecrated by archbishop Juan of Aragon and Anjou, son of king James II, in 1331.

Works of restorations of the cathedral were carried on in 1999–2001. During them, traces of a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Augustus were found, situated under the nave.


Adam and Eve, in the portal decoration.


The cathedral is in transitional style from the Romanesque to the Gothic one. It has a basilica plan with a nave and two aisles, a transept with unequal arms, three semicircular apses with deep presbyteries. The apse has three windows in the lower part, and other seven in the upper one, of ogival shape.

The nave has a height of 26 metres at the dome, a length and a width of 16.5 m, while the aisles are 13 m height and 8.25 m wide. The length of the main axle is 101 metres. The nave and the aisles are covered by cross vaults whose ribs are supported by cruciform pilasters annexed to columns; the capitals of the latter feature Moorish motifs. The windows are of two main type: Romanesque, with archivolts, and Gothic, with stained glasses.

The octagonal tower-dome was built in the mid-13th century, and is cross-vaulted. The presbytery and the apse have kept a notable Romanesque pavement, formed by plaques of stone and marble of different colors in geometrical patterns.

Roof of the Cathedral

The stalls of the choir were made by the Zaragozan artist Francisco Gomar in the 15th century, in oak wood. The western side was dismantled and is now in a museum. The organ is from the late 16th century, designed by the architect Jaume Amigó.


The church includes the following chapels, starting from to the right of the entrance towards the choir:


Figures of apostles in the main portal.

The unfinished main façade has three portals, corresponding to the nave and the aisles; the central one is in a Gothic style with similarities to that in the Cathedrals of Amiens and Reims, with ogival arcades, while the other two are in Romanesque style. The main gate is surmounted by a large rose window, similar to that in the Monastery of Sant Cugat or in the Cathedral of Majorca. The twelve spokes represent the twelve tribes of Israel, or the apostles. It has a diameter of 11 meters. The two lateral portal have also smaller rose windows.

The main gate, executed by master Bartolomeu from 1277 to c. 1291, features ogival arches of decreasing size enclosed in a square-like tympanum. Below each archivolt, and in the lower section of the side pilasters, are figures with saints and prophets, by Jaume Cascalls and his workshop. Another statue, depicting the Virgin Mary, divides the entrance in two. Its pedestal shows scenes of the Genesis, with the creation of Adam and Eve and the Original Sin. Over the door is an ogival tympanum with the Final Judgement, presided by Christ and Angels, over which is a Gothic window executed by Jaume Cascalls and his workshop in 1375. In the interior, in correspondence to this tympanum, are representations of the Virgin with Saints and two angels. The doors, in cast iron, date to the 15th century.


View of the cloister.

The construction of the cloister began perhaps around 1194, although other scholars assign it from 1214 onwards. Located northeast to the cathedral, it has a rectangular plan, measuring 47 by 46 meters. It has a large central courtyard and four galleries divide by pilasters. Some of them include gutters discharging rainwater to the Roman sewer, which was still in use. The vault covering of the galleries follows the model of the monasteries of Poblet and Vallbona de les Monges.

The arcades of the galleries are organized in groups of three smaller circular arches, surmounted by couples of small rose windows and, above them, a large ogival arch. Above the latter is in turn a frieze in Moorish style. The capitals of the columns are sculpted with religious scenes, such as the visit of the angels to Abraham, Cain and Abel an others. At the corner of the northern gallery are scenes from the Genesis and the New Testament, St. Thomas' incredulity and the legend of St. Nicholas. The wall of the eastern gallery includes an Arab inscription from the year 960, belonging to the former mosque.

The cloister is accessed through a Romanesque gate from the 13th century. It has a tympanum with the Majesty of God and the Tetramorph. The columns supporting the archivolts have capitals with vegetable elements and scenes of the visit of the three Mary to Christ's sepulchre. The column of the mullion is also decorated with a reptile and with scenes of the life of Jesus.

The tradition of the dancing egg is held at the cloister fountain since 1933.

Chapel of Corpus Christi

The Capitular Hall, dating to the mid-12th century, could be accessed from the cloister or the church. In 1330 it was converted into the Chapel of Corpus Christi It has a square plan and is covered by barrel vault. The entrance has a central door sided by windows. The keystone of the apse (added in the 14th-century) shows a Christ in Majesty, while in the arch are symbols of the Tetramorph. The apse has also a sculpture group of the Annunciation and the decorated tombstone of Alemanda de Rocabertí (died 1373).

The walls of the Hall features several 14th-century sculptures of saints, some with traces of polychrome paint.

Chapel of Santa Tecla la Antigua

Inside the cathedral's garden is the chapel of santa Tecla la Antigua ("St. Tecla the Ancient"), built in the 13th century in a transitional Romanesque-Gothic style. It houses the tomb of Bernat de Olivella (1287), by the master Bartolomeu of Girona.

View of the bell tower.

Bell tower

The Gothic bell tower is located over the southern smaller apse, and was commissioned by bishop Roderic Tello (1289–1308). It has a prism plan enclosed in an octagonal one. The upper part (14th century) is composed of two floors, the first featuring pinnacles and windows. Over the latter is a small temple, realized in 1511, housing the bells.

The bell tower has a total height of 70 meters.


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