A visit to the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Tarragona is an ave inspiring experience. The largest cathedral in the whole of Catalonia, it has recently undergone a process of restoration which has revealed 14th and to 16th centuries old polychromes previously hidden by layers of paint.
The three hours long tour, conducted by Xavi Mejuto of Itinere tourisme & cultura, started at the entrance of the cloister and took us in to a Romanesque world and Gothic shadows, filled with historical information, tales and myths. Imagine the spectacle of the cathedral decorated inside and outside, walls made to look like tapestry , statues given a life like appearance, columns marked with symbols and brushed by the multicolored light of the stained glass windows towering from above.
Everything here is lights and shadow; it’s a silent place where footsteps and whispering voices echo in the cold air faintly smelling of incense.
The altar of Santa Tecla, the patron of Tarragona, is an intricate piece of craftsmanship, with one of the panels being the first example of life-like portraiture, featuring local clerics.
It is difficult to tear your self away from the insight of this building building back in to the open space.
Work at the Cathedral, initially built in 1154 by order of archbishop Bernat Tort, was stopped during the great plague, which ravaged through most of Europe and halved the population of Tarragona from six thousand, down to three thousand inhabitants. As a poignant memorial to that terrible event, the Cathedral was never completed and it’s perhaps the unfinished facade which gives the Cathedral of Tarragona a truly unique identity.