Temple structure

The structure of the temple

One of the most attention-calling features of the Cathedral is its slenderness, which prevails in the segovian landscape.

With a sober style, the Cathedral is the materialization of the passage of time and the changes of style: it started by being Romanesque to end up by being a Gothic cathedral with some features of Renaissance influence.

Segovia Cathedral is composed of 3 naves which are arranged to form a Latin cross plant. It has, as well, side chapels and transept with a semicircular apse in the header, a header with ambulatory and radial chapels. The cloister and Tower make up other key parts of the temple, and emphasizes the latter by its beauty and slenderness.

The Cathedral measures, which give the temple a dimensional slenderness, are the following: 108,268 ft. high, 164,042 ft. wide and 344,488 ft. long. The covers are closed with ribbed vaults. The Cathedral of Segovia can be considered the younger sister of the Cathedral of Salamanca. Down below, there are presented some of the most important exterior and interior elements of this Cathedral, which closes the chapter of the Gothic in Spain.

The apse

It is one of the referring elements. This is spruced up by buttresses and pinnacles. The pinnacles correspond to the Florid Gothic style. Of limestone, these elements surround the great dome. The apse adjoins the Old Jewish Quarter, a neighbourhood that was inhabited by the Jewish community in the 12th century until 1492 with its expulsion.

The ambulatory

Externally, it is adorned with a large series of Gothic tracery pinnacles. In turn, in its interior, the ambulatory is flanked by seven chapels. The design of the ambulatory corresponds to Juan Gil de Hontañón (1480-1526) who proposed a head with ambulatory of five pentagonal radial chapels and two squared at the beginning.

Juan Gil de Hontañón was succeeded by his son, Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, who at his death, in 1577, had already completed the layout of the ambulatory with its chapels up to the cornice and the corbels. A new phase was initiated that consisted on closing the vaults and there were several contracted architects, among which Rodrigo del Solar (1590-1606) and Pedro de Brizuela (1607-1632) stand out.

The last sections of the ambulatory were covered as early as 1671, under the supervision of the master Francisco Viadero, while its chapels were closed with wooden grilles carved between 1684 and 1690. In the construction, the primitive traces were respected, so the imprint of the 17th century can be perceived in the keystones and in the profile of the rib.

Some varied Rococo designs, framed in golden ribs, completely cover the plementos -the space between the nerves filled with bricks- and give a cheerful, festive and light air to the ambulatory circuit. This favours a marked difference with architectural sobriety.

Doors

The Cathedral has 3 doors:

Saint Geroteo Door

Its name alludes to the first bishop of the Diocese of Segovia, Saint Geroteo, whose sculpture presides over the front. This sculpture was made by Manuel Pacheco, from the end of the 18th century. This gate is located on the South arm of the transept.

Saint Frutos Door

This front requires special attention, since, among other notable features, it is the usual entrance to the cathedral. It is also worth mentioning that it is dedicated to Saint Frutos, patron saint of the city. Located on the North side of the transept, it flows into the Plaza Mayor of Segovia.

We can define the history of the construction of this door as a "somewhat complicated issue" in the words of the master builder of the Cathedral, Martín Ruíz de Chertudi. It was the year 1579 when Chertudi will begin to build the door, thus beginning a creative process which could characterized mostly hard and long. The creation not only entailed the door but also the transept, had to pick up much of the Northern arm of the transept and vault it. This creative process involved 30 long years.

Chertudi dissociates himself from the construction of Saint Frutos Door in 1589, when he was dismissed. Then, continued as linked creators: Pedro de Bizuela, who focused his activity on the transept; Juan de Mugaguren and García Sánz, among others. This door is composed of two bodies. The upper body is adorned with two Corinthian-style columns, while the lower body is composed of four Doric-style columns. A triangular pediment stands on them. A statue of Saint Frutos crowns the central niche of the second body. It was designed by Pedro de Brizuela in 1611 and carved out of granite stone by Nicolás Gonzáles. At the same time, Juan de la Torre reproduced the mentioned front. In the ground-layout, the niches created for statues of Saint Valentine and Saint Engracia, -Saint Frutos’ siblings-, in darker and lower body.

Saint Mary or The Forgiveness Door

Surrounded by two side doors, on the main façade of the Cathedral -of a prevailing simplicity and oriented to the West- is the Puerta del Perdón (The Forgiveness Door) or Santa María (Saint Mary). The two smaller side doors that flank it have three-lobed arches. Three-lobed arch, also called arc Trifoliate, is characterized by three lobes in its intrados or its inner curve. At the same time, the sculpture of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, -work of Juan Guás- crowns the central door, on the outside. The stone image is placed under a canopy, on a pedestal. 

Towards the exterior, a courtyard surrounded with a fence is opened, in turn. Pinnacles, crowned lions or lions arranged with shields, shape the interior life of the mentioned courtyard where, especially, stand out the escutcheons of the Kings.

The Tower

It is the jewel in the crown, without a doubt, from the Cathedral of Segovia. With its 288,714 ft. high, it was, at the time, the highest in Spain with 354,331 ft. The history of its creation dates back to the 17th century and is linked to Juan de Mugaguren. The Tower underwent a remodel resulting from a fire caused by a thunderstorm in 1614. Originally, the Tower had a Gothic style. A spire of mahogany wood and a pyramidal structure of American origin crowned the top of the tower. Everything was destroyed by the strong fire, leading the architect Juan de Mugaguren to modify most of the original structure of the tower.

The builder placed a Herrerian style dome and a stone spire, which is the current one. As a curious fact, there are great similarities between this dome of the Tower and the dome of the transept. The architect finished the work in 1615.

The slender Tower levitates between the rest of the churches that make up the skyline of segovian heaven. It is supposed, for all visitors, a superb visual spectacle which is complemented with the tapestry collection found inside, with images of the life of the Roman general Pompeius Magnus. It is worth remembering that it can be visited after its opening in October 2014.

Continuing our walk through the most important parts of the temple, we reach its interior. There is a convergence of a series of chapels, the Main Altar, a choir, a retrochoir, a cloister and Via Sacra, among others, highlighting for its artistic beauty some artistic and ornamental elements such as the stained glass and the Tower tapestries.

Retrochoir and Major Chapel

The Major Chapel, with its subsequent altarpiece, as well as the Choir, constitutes one of the noblest parts of the Cathedral of Segovia. These are united by the Via Sacra, enclosed by a fence, work of Antonio de Elorza. On the floor of this unitive space we can find different burials of the different bishops of Segovia. Also worth noting in this space is a marble pulpit that has images as reliefs of the four evangelists and the Immaculate Conception. The Baroque pulpit is erected on a pedestal where, in turn, are the flowers which were the flagship of the Duke of Albuquerque.

The Choir of the Cathedral of Segovia is located opposite the Main Altar and occupies the third and fourth sections respectively. It comes, for the most part, from the old cathedral and was the work of the carvers San Pedro de Palencia and Master Juan, his companion.

Carving works began in 1458 and extended until September, 1462, with the laying of the chairs destined for the Kings and for the Bishop. The choir of the Cathedral is provided at present days with a whole of 116 chairs organized in two levels. The engravers Juan Gil and Jerome of Antwerp were the managers of placing these chairs in the year 1558, after the relocation realized from the ancient cathedral, in addition to carving eight new high and low chairs.

The seating are Gothic. The decoration is geometric in the backrests. The arms include natural themes. The high seating is ornate by canopies arranged on thin columns and with openwork tracery. The backrests are ogee arches which enclose arches over very long columns.

In the Episcopal chair stands the backrest, adorned with the coat of arms of Juan Arias Dávila, Bishop of Segovia between 1461 and 1497. It should be noticed that the canopy that covers this chair was redone by Huici in 1789. This cabinetmaker, a resident of La Granja, was in charge of finishing the chairs, in the year 1790.

The chairs destined for the kings are next to the Episcopal chair. These possess eight shields, all of them polychrome: four of them with the shield of Castile and Portugal; other four with the shield of Castile. Also sharp crowned canopies possess these real chairs, respectively, for a herald who supports the escutcheon of Castile and for a lion standard-bearer. The relevancy deposited in the construction of these chairs comes given by the tradition of Enrique IV of being present at the divine offices in the choir. Coming to the center of the choir we find the lectern attributed to Vasco de la Zarza in the 16th century. This is settled on a beautiful Renaissance foot. The sumptuous organs complete the choir. In them, there are two golden boxes adorned with angels that, filling completely the hollow of the arcade, come up to the keystone.

The design and confection of the organ of the Epistle is the work of Pedro de Liborna Echevarría, built in 1702, it was subsidized by D. Bartolomé de Ocampo y Mata, Bishop of Segovia between 1694 and 1699. In 1766 the gilder Santiago Casado gilded the box, made years ago by the carver Juan Maurat, for what had remained 'blank' until its settlement. In 1795, Manuel Sanz changed the original keyboard for one of its authorship, as well as the composition and arrangement of mixtures and registers.

The organ of the Gospel was raised years later, in 1771, by José de Echevarría, grandson of Pedro de Liborna Echevarría, a family of vital importance for the development and maintenance of the organs in the Royal Court during the 18th century. José de Echevarría was also responsible for renewing in 1799 the organ of the Epistle after several changes made in its structure and gear. This organ was a gift from D. Juan José Martínez Escalzo, Bishop of Segovia between 1765 and 1773.

Already in 1847, José Marigómez de Echevarría, nephew of José de Echevarría and 'Organero del Rey' (the King’s Organist), raised the diapason of the organ of the Epistle to match it with the organ of the Gospel. In 2011, the workshop of Desmottes Brothers ends, after two years, the restoration of the organ of the Epistle.

These two organs reach almost 62,336 ft. high and lodge, each one, about 2600 pipes in addition to other elements that make possible his functioning, like bellows or beams, forming an exceptional set for its stylistic and historical quality, in addition to being considered fundamental pieces to understand the evolution of the baroque Spanish music.

The organ of the Epistle and the organ of the Gospel reveal us the splendour of which the music in the Cathedral enjoys, and that so close it is to the liturgical solemnity.

A baroque fence, which was forged in Elgoibar (Guipúzcoa) and placed in 1729, closes the choir. This was built by Antonio de Elorza, who also took charge of the construction of the fence in the Via Sacra. He came from an illustrious family of fence-makers to whom the authorship of much of the rest of the fences of the temple is owed.

The end of the Via Sacra gives way to the main Chapel, space reserved for the Council. Charles III (1759-1788) was who ordered the construction of the current altarpiece, designed by Francisco Sabatini (1722-1795). Its construction dates from the 1768 and was completed in the year 1775 in the workshops of the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The altarpiece

It is devoted to the Virgin, the traditional segovian saints and the first bishop of the Diocese of Segovia. Its structure consists in a predella, a central panel arranged with four Corinthian columns and an attic, as well, in which there is represented the anagram of the Virgin surrounded by clouds and angels.

The central niche is dominated by the image of Virgin of Peace, donated to the Cathedral by King Enrique IV, according to tradition. It is a Gothic piece. The clothes were silver-coated by Antonio Vendetti in 1775.

In the intercolumniations are the images of the saints Frutos and Geroteo. The images of saint Valentine and saint Engracia, saint Frutos siblings, are placed on the attic. All of these images were made by Manuel Adeba Pacheco in white stucco wood.

At the top, the altarpiece is finished with a cross at the peak between two angles. Damián de Castro, a goldsmith from Córdoba, made the six silver candlesticks as well as the Altar Cards in 1769. In turn, the silversmith José Pérez made the great lamps of the Blessed Sacrament.

This altarpiece was consecrated on September 7, 1775. The next day, the first Mass took place. It is important to highlight the great fame it enjoyed, especially in the court circles close to its creator, Sabatini. He was so satisfied with his work that he wanted to highlight it with greater luminosity, giving it more light. For this, he changed all the stained glass windows of the nave, removed them and replaced them with colourless glasses in 1794.

Retrochoir

In 1782 the Chapter decided to renew the area of the retrochoir. For this, they asked King Charles III for the marble altarpiece of the Riofrío Palace, which had been made by Hubert Dumandre in 1758. This altarpiece only consisted of the central body, so two more wings had to be added to occupy the width of the ships from pillar to pillar. This work was entrusted to Juan de Villanueva and finally executed by Ventura Rodríguez and Juan de la Torre y López. The set was completed in 1792.

It consists of a central body with a niche occupied by a silver urn, chiselled by Sebastián de Paredes in 1633, which keeps the relics of the Patron of Segovia, Saint Frutos. The sculptures of Saint Peter, Saint Paul and The Holy Trinity crown the whole. The chapel of the retrochoir is protected by a simple grid made by the segovian Félix Egido, forged in 1793.

Chapels of the North side (The Gospel Nave)

Chapel of The Pieta  

Chapel of St. Andrew

Chapel of St. Cosme and St. Damian

Chapel of St. Gregory

Chapel of The Immaculate Conception

Chapels of the South side (The Epistle Nave)

Chapel of St. Blas

Chapel of the Lying Christ

Chapel of St. Barbara

Chapel of St. James    

Chapel of Christ of the Comfort

Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament

Chapels of the ambulatory

Chapel of St. Peter

Chapel of St. Ildefonso

Chapel of St. Geroteo

Chapel of St. Frutos

Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua

Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary

Chapel of St. Joseph

Chapel of St. Anton

Chapterhouse

The Chapterhouse was built under the orders of García de Cubillas in the mid-sixteenth century. Of an unprecedented sumptuousness, it stands out for its golden coffered ceiling with the first gold brought from America. From the marble floor stands a Christ framed under a canopy that presides over the epicentre of the room.