The Valencia Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in our city.
The impressive Valencia Cathedral, a lasting symbol of the city’s architectural and spiritual wealth, stands as a living testament to centuries of splendour and tradition. This magnificent edifice, blending various styles throughout the years, conceals captivating secrets and artistic treasures waiting to be uncovered. From the enigma of the Holy Grail, said to have been used by Jesus at the Last Supper, to the Renaissance frescoes hidden for decades, the cathedral unveils tales of faith, art, and legends. Join us on a journey through its corridors and narratives that have shaped this iconic place, where every stone tells its own story. Do you want to know more?
A blend of different architectural styles
The construction of Valencia Cathedral dates back to the 13th century. Specifically, the first stone was laid at the Almoina gate on June 22, 1262.
The building was erected on the site of the ancient Arab mosque of Balansiya (the name Muslims used for our city), which, in turn, was built over the ancient Visigothic cathedral and on top of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter or Diana.
In the 14th century, its three most important parts were completed: the Apostles’ Gate, the chapter hall, and the dome.
Almost a century later, its naves were expanded, and in 1425, the construction of the bell tower, known to Valencians as “El Micalet,” was completed.
This curious name comes from its largest bell, which marks the hours and was baptized on St. Michael’s Day. That’s why this tower is also popularly known as “el Miguelete.”
El Micalet has 207 steps arranged in a spiral staircase, and if you’re brave and in good shape, you can climb them during your stay in Valencia.
In the 18th century, the Valencian Cathedral underwent another major renovation.
That’s why its three main doors showcase three different artistic styles from three different periods: the Almoina gate is Romanesque, the Apostles’ gate is Gothic, and the Hierros gate is Baroque.
Significant events at Valencia Cathedral
As the spiritual and power center of the city, Valencia Cathedral has witnessed important historical events.
One of the most significant was the delivery of the Holy Grail by King Alfonso V of Aragon, known as the Magnanimous, on March 18, 1437.
This day marked its history forever.
In fact, according to tradition, the Holy Grail has been preserved here ever since, a religious object attributed with mystical powers and highly revered and coveted over the centuries.
The legend goes like this: supposedly, Saint Peter kept the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper and took it to Rome, where successive Popes safeguarded it until, in the 3rd century, Emperor Valerian began persecuting Christians.
Pope Sixtus III then entrusted the relic to his trusted deacon, a Spaniard (Saint Lawrence), who brought it to Huesca and hid it in a monastery in the Pyrenees.
The Holy Grail remained hidden there until, in the 14th century, it was handed over to the King of Aragon, who kept it in Zaragoza.
Later, one of his successors deposited it in Valencia Cathedral.
Other important events in this Cathedral include the papal appointments of Callixtus III and Alexander VI, Pope Borgia, and the marriage of the Spanish monarchs, Philip III and Margaret of Austria, on April 18, 1599, at its high altar.
What secrets does Valencia Cathedral hold?
We’ve talked a bit about its history, but would you like to learn about the true treasures hidden within Valencia Cathedral?
In addition to the Holy Grail, this building houses significant works of art.
The frescoes in the Main Altar stand out; they were hidden for many years behind marble plates and were “discovered” in 2004 during maintenance and cleaning tasks.
These frescoes, of Renaissance style, depict ten great angels with musical instruments that captivate with their vibrant colors.
Undoubtedly, these works were commissioned by Pope Borgia, of Valencian origin.
Francisco de Goya
Another artistic gem within this monument is two paintings by Francisco de Goya, a renowned Spanish painter.
The works explore the figure of Saint Francis of Borja: in one, the saint bids farewell to his family at the Ducal Palace of Gandía, and in the other, he attends an unrepentant dying man.
In addition to art, Valencia Cathedral is also the setting for stories and legends.
For example, inside an urn, they preserve what is said to be the incorrupt arm of Saint Vincent Martyr, the city’s patron saint who died tortured under the arrest of Roman Emperor Diocletian.
The Almoina or Arcos gate
Outside, there is a door that tells a curious local legend.
If you approach the main arch of the Almoina or Arcos gate, the oldest in the Cathedral, you’ll see seven pairs of heads.
These pairs represent the first settlers who came to Valencia from Lleida when the city was reconquered from the Muslims in the 13th century.
Pioneers in living in this land once again Christian, these fourteen nobles allegedly arrived with 300 maidens who married King James I’s soldiers, the city’s conqueror.
Beneath their sculpted stone heads, their names are inscribed.
One last fact?
Every Thursday, at the Apostles’ Gate of Valencia Cathedral, the Water Tribunal gathers, one of the oldest citizen councils in Europe.
In their sessions, eight men dressed in black discuss the issues related to Valencia’s eight water channels.
These channels are represented in the beautiful sculpture you’ll find in the center of the Virgin’s square, crowned by the Turia River, sculpted as a classical god.
As you can see, Valencia Cathedral is a must-visit when you come to Valencia. A place with history, art, and surrounded by legends.