All of Spain is famous for its imposing churches, which are among the oldest in the world and some of them were built over several centuries.
Many of Spain's churches have been designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. All of them represent fantastic examples of sacred architecture and are definitely worth a visit.
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Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
The famous Sagrada Familia is one of the top 10 sights in Barcelona and is often called the most beautiful church in the world. Antonio Gaudi's masterpiece has been in the making for over 100 years. The ornate and detailed architecture was worthy of an entry on UNESCO 's World Heritage List.
With its 18 monumental bell towers, the Sagrada Familia can be seen from afar. At 172 meters, it will be the tallest church in the world when completed.
Gaudi wanted his church to be more massive and innovative than any before. Symbolic messages and scenes from the Bible were to explain the church's teachings. And so almost every stained glass window, every column, every arch and every statue counts its own story.
Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede in Seville
The magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede in Seville holds the title of the largest Gothic church in the world and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Inside you can find ornate frescoes and paintings, masterful carvings and the largest altarpiece in the world. The tomb of a world-famous navigator and explorer can also be found here. In a magnificent coffin, which is carried by four statues, rests (allegedly) Christopher Columbus.
Curious: The 100-meter-high bell tower was once the minaret of a magnificent Almohadean mosque. It was built in the 12th century, when the Moors ruled Spain. Today it offers a fantastic view over the Andalusian capital.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
After the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is probably the most popular church in Spain. Thousands of pilgrims every year are especially happy to see it, because it marks the long-awaited destination of an arduous journey: the Way of St. James.
The entire old town of Santiago de Compostela, and with it the Cathedral, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its origins can be found in the 1st century AD, when in a pagan mausoleum were buried the martyr and apostle James. The official start of construction is the year 830, and the small church of that time has become the most important Romanesque building in Spain to this day.
The atmosphere in the cathedral is overwhelming! Exhausted but happy people show up everywhere. Relief and pride about the completed journey are clearly visible to the praying pilgrims. And from the roof of the cathedral, the 2 meter tall botafumeiro swings back and forth at a breathtaking pace, exuding much needed incense smell....
Toledo Cathedral impresses with its size and the magnificent decoration of its interior. As early as the 6th century, a church stood here, which suffered the fate of almost all churches in Spain under Arab rule and became a mosque.
However, after the reconquest of Spain, a cathedral of immense artistic and architectural value grew in height from the year 1227. The magnificent portals, the more than 750 leaded glass windows, the ornate chapels, the grandiose chancel and a richly decorated treasury leave no visitor unimpressed.
Cathedral la Seu in Palma de Mallorca, Spain
The gigantic cathedral La Seu is enthroned in the picturesque old town of Palma de Mallorca directly at the harbor. Amid palm trees and other impressive buildings, it immediately catches the eye with its ornate facade and the largest rose window in the world. As with the Sagrada Familia, Antonio Gaudi was also significantly involved here as an architect.
Standing in front of one of the cathedral's imposing entrance gates, one suddenly feels small and insignificant. The Porta Major, the main portal on the west side, is probably the most impressive, but you enter La Seu Cathedral through the Porta de Almoina (alms portal).
Basilica del Pilar in Zaragoza
According to legend, the Basilica del Pilar in Zaragoza was built by John the Elder by direct order of the Virgin Mary. Supposedly, this was the only apparition of the Blessed Mother before her Ascension.
The current building was built from the 17th to the 20th century. Picturesquely located on the Ebro River, it dominates the cityscape of Zaragoza. Among the most important art treasures inside is the 40-centimeter-high statue of Mary, which the Virgin Mary is said to have once presented to John the Elder.
After the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the Basilica del Pilar is the most important pilgrimage site in Spain. Many Roman Catholic children in particular come here to celebrate their First Communion. On the Saturday before October 12, the nine-day El Pilar festival is held annually, which is one of the most famous festivals in Spain.
Cathedral of Léon
The Cathedral of Leon is located on the Way of St. James and dates back to the year 254. The current construction began in 1205 and lasted until the 19th century.
The architecture of the magnificent church impresses above all with its dimensions and masterful execution. The choir stalls date from the 15th century and are one of the oldest in all of Spain. Also impressive are the 125 medieval stained glass windows, which gave the Basilica del Pilar its nickname "House of Light".
Some Spanish kings and queens are buried here, as well as Saint San Froilán, a patron saint of León. In the museum you can admire manuscripts, statues and paintings from prehistoric times to the 18th century.
Burgos Cathedral is also an important stop on the Way of St. James. It was built from the 13th to the 16th century and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Spanish national hero of the Reconquista, El Cid, and his wife are buried here. Their bones were laid to rest here only some time after their death.
Mezquita in Cordoba
The Mezquita was built in the 8th century as a mosque. In the course of the Reconquista it was consecrated as a Christian church, but was not destroyed, but only rebuilt and just extended by the cathedral.
Thus, many components of that time are still preserved, including the ornate mihrab (prayer niche), which completely uncharacteristically does not point directly to Mecca, and the "palm grove" consisting of 800 stone columns. The "Holy Cathedral" is one of the most important sights of Cordoba.
Even though we have already been to the wonderful city on the Mediterranean thanks to the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Cathedral is also one of our top 10 churches in Spain. Although it is somewhat overshadowed by its "big sister", it should not be missed.
The construction of the magnificent cathedral took almost an entire millennium. Started in the 11th century, its facade was even completed only in the 20th century. An elevator leads to the roof of the cathedral - with a sensational view over the city.
Barcelona Cathedral impresses with its enormous size, with 29 side chapels and a beautiful cloister. A flock of geese still lives here, a custom from the Middle Ages when their chattering kept burglars away.