Saint Mary's Cathedral

Immerse yourself in the exceptional fusion of styles of the Lugo Cathedral.

By Regional Government of Galicia

Aerial view of Lugo (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

Lugo, an original Roman settlement, was the first urban center that existed in Galicia before the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle in the 19th century. It is located on the Camino Primitivo around 60 miles from Santiago de Compostela.

Roman wall of Lugo. San Pedro gate (260-310)Original Source: S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo

Alfonso II the Chaste, the First Pilgrim

Legend states that King Alfonso II the Chaste, the first to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, walked through here shortly after the discovery of the tomb to pay his respects.

Acrostic of Odoario (9th or 10th Century)Original Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back then, the young king encountered the cathedral, which Bishop Odoario had constructed in the 8th century, with a beauty that inspired him to erect the one in Oviedo. The only reference that remains of this time is in a medieval inscription—an acrostic in which the first letters of each line spell the word ODOAR.

Saint James as a Pilgrim with a Purse and a Staff (about 1440–1450) by Bedford MasterThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Some old legends carry the city's Jacobean link way back by hinting that the Apostle, during his evangelism of Gallaecia, had preached in the Roman city of Lugo (called Lucus Augusti) and was attracted here as it was the most important locality in the northeast at the time.

Cathedral of Lugo: north gate (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

A Cathedral with Roman …

The early Odoario cathedral was rebuilt from 1129 in a unique 12th-century Romanesque style. Although it has been touched up in later decades, this building is the one that is still here today.

Cathedral of Lugo: main facade (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

… and also Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical Influences

Typical for cathedrals, the building was subject to huge changes throughout the centuries. The Roman center was expanded with successive Gothic, Baroque, and neoclassical elements that extended its construction until the end of the 19th century.

Lugo Cathedral: ambulatory (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

It has a Latin cross plan with three naves, a transept, and ambulatory: a corridor that goes around the apse of the main chapel, used in medieval churches on pilgrimage routes to help believers travel between the different chapels.

Main chapel of the Cathedral of Lugo (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

Saint Mary's Cathedral was granted permission by the Pope to permanently exhibit the Blessed Sacrament. For this reason, Lugo is known as the city of the Sacrament.

Cathedral of Lugo - interior (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

The cathedral's treasures were virtually obliterated during the Napoleonic pillage of 1809. One beautiful piece of furniture was saved: the Renaissance altarpiece that was on the high altar, a work by Cornelis de Holanda.

Main chapel of the Cathedral of Lugo (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

In the early 21st century the Baroque paintings in the high altar of the cathedral, which stand out due to their theatrics, were recovered. They include pictures by Astorgan artist José de Terán from the 18th century.

Chapel of the Virgin of the Big Eyes (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

The shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Ojos Grandes, patroness of the city, is another distinguishing feature of the cathedral. It is attached to the center of the ambulatory and is one of the most accomplished icons of Baroque Galicia.

Cathedral of Santa María de Lugo (1129)Original Source: S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo

The exterior is dominated by 18th- and 19th-century Baroque and neoclassical panels. The collection of different volumes looks especially attractive from the Plaza de Santa María.

Lugo Cathedral: north gate (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

The north door is the door that has kept its medieval appearance the most intact. It is located underneath an early 16th-century portico, and a representation of the Christ Pantocrator presides over its tympanum.

Hanging down from the almond-shaped alcove framing the Pantocrator is a 12th-century capital, delicately carved from marble, where the Last Supper is presented.

The wrought iron leaves of this north door are the originals from the 13th century and are very similar to those found in other Galician churches, such as the Church of San Salvador de Vilar de Donas.

Cloister of the Cathedral of Lugo (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

The cathedral complex is completed by a single-bodied square Baroque cloister and the residences for the canons, built in the southeast corner of the church.

Cathedral of Lugo (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

In the 18th century, construction also began on the main facade in a neoclassical style, inspired by Roman examples. Its construction was delayed until 1880, when the side towers were finished and the cathedral gained its current appearance.

Cathedral of Lugo (1129)Regional Government of Galicia

This elegant church, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List from 2015 as part of the Caminos del Norte, offers a complete journey through history and the styles of Galician art from the Middle Ages to the present day.

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