The cathedral in Palma de Mallorca, locally known as La Seu, is a rather fine piece of architecture. Well, most cathedrals are. But this one is particularly beautiful due to its splendid setting directly by the sea front, with its slightly elevated position.
La Seu was originally built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque. After the reconquista of the island from the hands of the Maurs, construction was begun in 1230 and finally completed in 1601.
The cathedral is worthy of your visit for a number of reasons. For one, you have a fine example of some great interior work by the great Modernist architect and genius, Antoni Gaudí, him of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona fame. Gaudí worked in Palma’s cathedral for nearly ten years, introducing electric lighting into the building, and creating the altar area with its beautiful lighting canopy, amongst many other details.
Another reason would be a major creation by the Mallorcan artist from Felanitx, Miquel Barceló, the Capilla de San Pedro (La capella de Sant Pere, chapel of St. Peter), inaugurated by the Spanish Royals, King Juan Carlos I. and Queen Sofía, few years ago. It took Barceló over five years making a quite extraordinary environment mainly fabricated out of ceramic clay and loosely based on the biblical story of the Feeding of the 10,000 with the supposed miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. In addition to the ceramic wall cladding there are also five stained glass windows suggesting an underwater location.
Now, you may not be much of a church going person. But there is no doubt that, if one would have to put a place of worship into the context of contemporary art of the XXIst century, whilst also paying respect to the spirit of the cathedral’s history, one would not find it easy to upstage Miquel Barceló’s creation. Well done.
There is a rather beautiful book about Barceló’s Palma cathedral project, available in Catalán or Spanish, with texts also in English, French and German. Check it out. It comes at 35 €.
As it happens, this artist is the pride of Mallorca’s bourgeois classes, not many of whom have much of a clue when it comes to contemporary art. I, for one, do not think all that much of Barceló’s talent as a painter. I consider him vastly overrated in terms of his painterly output of large format canvases. A lot of hype surrounds his persona, in my humble opinion. However, I have always admired his work on paper, in particular his water colours, and I do admire his three-dimensional clay works, some of which he exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris some years ago. Currently, ceramic creations of Miquel Barceló’s are shown in Madrid (Galeria Elvira Gonzalez, until March 27th).
I am praising Barceló’s work at the Palma cathedral unreservedly. I urge you to go and see it, should you have the opportunity.