Santa María de Mediavilla Cathedral, Teruel

Pl. de la Catedral, 3, 44001 Teruel

CURRENT PROTECTION STATUS: Asset of Cultural Interest (ACI)


CATEGORY: Religious


  • Original construction, 12th to 13th century. Construction of the Santa María de Mediavilla parish church began in 1171, according to documentary evidence, and ended with the Mudejar tower at the west end in 1257. The bell tower, the final element from this early stage, used Mudejar language and served as a stylistic role model for the other towers of the capital of Teruel.

  • 13th to 14th century. With the original construction still in good condition, remodeling began on the church of Santa María de Mediavilla at a time of economic vitality for the city. In the second half of the 13th century, the side aisles were raised more than three meters in height, respecting the previously existing difference between the central nave and the aisles but covering over the original openings while creating new ones in a system based on the Gothic style. The number of pillars separating the bays was also reduced to half. The Morisco master builder Juzaff oversaw the construction work.

  • 14th century. In 1342, Santa María became a collegiate church, prompting yet another remodeling. The original chancel, outgrown with the addition of the new bays, was expanded with the construction of a crossing, and the apses were replaced with new ones. In addition, the central nave was equipped with a new covering consisting in a magnificent painted ceiling that was lighter weight and more appropriate. The crossing and new Mudejar apses, designed by master builder Yuçaf de Huzmel, were also coated in plaster and decorated. Expansion, 16th to 17th century. In 1537 Juan Lucas, also known as Botero, whose designs included the lantern towers of the cathedral of San Salvador in Zaragoza and of the cathedral of Tarazona, laid out the designs for the new Mudejar lantern tower. It was completed in 1538 under the supervision of Martín de Montalbán, replacing the medieval tower and providing more light for the recently installed main altarpiece by Gabriel Joly. In the late 17th century, a rectangular ambulatory was built around the east end, the side apses were removed and the ceiling structure of the central nave was covered over with vaults.

  • Expansion, 18th century. In the early 18th century, construction of the ambulatory began, building chapels and adjacent rooms such as the chapterhouse, the vestry and the main sacristy. Most of the side chapels also date from that century, and a new ceiling was constructed, covering the central nave of the cathedral with quadripartite rib vaults and stellar vaults over the side aisles, thus concealing the Mudejar ceiling structure until well into the 20th century.
The cathedral has a rectangular floor plan with three naves, an ambulatory and side chapels. The central nave is taller and wider than the aisles and all three are divided into four bays by means of pointed supporting arches covered by an interesting Mudejar collar beam ceiling over the central nave and a flat double- joist ceiling over the aisles.

The ambulatory features chapels and altars along the north-south axis, such as the main sacristy attached to the north side and the chapterhouse attached to the south, covered by a groin vault. There are side chapels arranged on either side of the aisles, three on the Gospel side – the chapels of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, of the Pérez Aranal family, and of La Coronación (formerly, the chapel of the eleven thousand virgins) – and four on the Epistle side – the baptistery and the chapels of the Holy Kings (formerly of St. Thomas of Canterbury), of Venerable Aranda and of Santa Emerenciana.

Other elements of the cathedral include its rectangular east end with a heptagonal presbytery (originally the central apse of the church, built in the 14th century) oriented for the liturgy and covered by a ribbed vault, the crossing with the octagonal lantern tower rising above its central space, a plaster balcony space near the ceiling with a parapet decorated in knotwork, and the bell tower/gate tower attached to the west end of the central nave.

Natural light floods the interior of the cathedral through a row of openings arranged around the entire temple. Thus, the central nave is pierced with round- arched windows, the sides of the transept feature oculi, the lantern tower has two sets of double round-arched windows with colonettes in the first set, the ambulatory has rectangular apertures and the chapels have a variety of openings.

The free-standing nature of the building is striking from the exterior, in which the materials used in its construction over the years can be discerned: ashlar stones only for the corners, perimeter walls built with colossal masonry then covered in plaster, the east end and lantern tower are made with brick and the tower boasts a combination of stone, brick and ceramic.

CEILING STRUCTURE: The collar beam roof structure is decorated with beautiful paintings depicting medieval society in Teruel in the 13th century.

A fusion is observed here between Muslim ornamental motifs and structure and Christian decorative themes, thus creating one of the greatest examples of Mudejar art.

It dates from 1270 and 1300, coinciding with the expansion of the original Romanesque structure of Santa María de Mediavilla to transform it into a Gothic church of larger dimensions. A lighter structure, appropriate for covering the central nave, was needed after raising the height of the walls. The ceiling measures 32 m in length and 7.76 wide and it divided into nine sections by means of ten tie beams. The decoration consists of both sculpted and tempera- painted motifs in the Gothic linear style, with a wide range of designs: plants, geometric shapes, inscriptions, figurative images, etc. The iconography shown in the ceiling design has been interpreted in a number of ways.


20th century The cathedral sustained serious damage during the Spanish Civil War in areas such as the vaults concealing the Mudejar ceilings over the side aisles, and was even damaged by gunfire.

Restoration, 20th to 21st century Restoration work was carried out to repair the damage after the Spanish Civil War, thus revealing the Mudejar ceiling that had been covered over by the corbel vault constructed during the remodeling around 1700. The actual heights of the original Romanesque apertures and walls were also discovered. The Mudejar ceiling was restored between 1938 and 1945 after the Civil War. It was brought back to its true splendor with the latest restoration in 1999, funded by Caja de Ahorros de la Inmaculada savings bank, the Government of Aragon, the Ministry of Culture and the Cathedral Canonry, for a total investment of 721,214.53 euros, of which 279,842.85 were provided by the Government of Aragon.

The most recent full restoration was completed in 2005. In 2001, the Government of Aragon and Caja Inmaculada savings bank sponsored the restoration of the Crowning of the Virgin altarpiece with a budget passed under the Order dated April 2, 2004 for the Cultural Interest of the Santa María de Mediavilla Cathedral.

In November 2010, the Ministry of Public Works reasserted its participation in the funding for the recovery of Teruel’s historical heritage, allocated to the budget item reserving 1% of the budget for cultural purposes. The Ministry of Public Works will earmark 818,141.30 euros for the full restoration of the Mudejar tower of the cathedral of Teruel. The Government of Aragon also helps fund this project. The restoration project calls for repairing cracks in the walls to prevent moisture infiltration, the restoration of stone and ceramic materials, treatment of wood structural elements affected by wood-eating insects and fungus and roof waterproofing work.


On November 28, 1986 UNESCO added the Mudejar architecture of Teruel to its World Heritage list, in which four of its most important monuments are included: the tower, ceiling and lantern tower of the Santa María de Mediavilla Cathedral, the tower and church of San Pedro, the El Salvador church tower and the tower of the church of San Martin.


  • ALCALÁ PRATS, ICÍAR, PÉREZ SÁNCHEZ, ANTONIO Y SANZ ZARAGOZA, JOSÉ MARÍA. La arquitectura mudéjar de Teruel: balance de veinte años como Patrimonio Mundial (1986-2006), en Turia (revista cultural) nº80 (nov. 2006 – feb. 2007), Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, Teruel, 2007, p. 361-377.
  • ALCALÁ PRATS, ICÍAR, REVILLA HERNANDO, ANA MARÍA Y RODRIGO GARZA, BEATRIZ. Guía del arte mudéjar en Aragón, Centro de Estudios Mudéjares, Prames, 2005. BORRÁS GUALIS, GONZALO M. El arte mudéjar, Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, Teruel, 1990. BORRÁS GUALIS, GONZALO M. La techumbre mudéjar de la Catedral de Teruel, Caja de Ahorros de la Inmaculada, Zaragoza, 2000. CORRAL, J. LUIS Y PEÑA, F. JAVIER (EDS.). La cultura islámica en Aragón, Diputación Provincial de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, 1986.
  • RABANAQUE, E.; NOVELLA, Á; SEBASTIÁN, S. Y YARZA, J. El artesonado de la Catedral de Teruel, IberCaja, Zaragoza, 1981.
  • GALINDO PÉREZ, SILVIA (COORD.). Aragón Patrimonio Cultural Restaurado. 1984/2009. Bienes muebles, Gobierno de Aragón, Zaragoza, 2010.
  • VV.AA. La techumbre de la Catedral de Teruel. Restauración 1999, Gobierno de Aragón-Ministerio de Cultura, Caja de Ahorros de la Inmaculada-Cabildo de la Catedral.
  • VV.AA. El mudéjar de Teruel, Patrimonio de la Humanidad, Instituto de Estudios Turolenses-Ayuntamiento de Teruel, Teruel, 1989.

Santa María de Mediavilla Cathedral

Pl. de la Catedral, 3, 44001 Teruel

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