Almudena Cathedral. Church in Madrid, Spain

Almudena Cathedral

Church in Madrid, Spain

P1070939 Photo © Jens Wegar

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Almudena Cathedral

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The Almudena CathedralSanta Maria la Real de la Almudena in full and in Spanish – is the principle church of the Archdiocese of Madrid. It’s a Catholic cathedral and the seat of the archbishop. Even though it may seem like an old building, it is, in fact, relatively young. Plans for a new cathedral had been in existence since the 16th century, but, although having been consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993, the church was not completely finished until as recently as 1999. The reason it took so long to finish the building is that Madrid has historically been part of the Archdiocese of Toledo, a city that was reluctant to give up a part of its area of influence.

The cathedral is dedicated to Santa Maria de la Almudena, a name that has its origins in Arabic. ‘Al mudayna’ means ‘the castle’. The legend goes that when the Moors invaded the fortress that stood at a site that now is Madrid’s historic city center in the 700s, the inhabitants hid a sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the city walls. It wasn’t until the 15th century, when the city was recaptured, that the wall crumbled and revealed the sculpture. Other versions of the legend say that El Cid (Wikipedia Article), a legendary figure in Madrid’s history, found the sculpture and that the Virgin Mary helped him retake the city.


Although the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Church in Spain stayed in Toledo – the bishopric seat was the Toledo Cathedral. Madrid didn’t have a cathedral, but plans to build one were being developed as early as the 16th century. Even though Imperial Spain built numerous new cities, with their own cathedrals, in the New World, construction of a cathedral in Madrid kept being postponed, mainly due to opposition by the powerful Archdiocese of Toledo.

Plans for the new cathedral were finally set in motion in 1883, when Madrid became its own Diocese. Construction slowed down and even was stopped during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The building was consecrated in 1993, while works continued on until 1999.


The Almudena Cathedral was designed to be built on a Gothic Revival style, but several design changes and the long construction period have resulted in a mix of architectural styles. Now, the cathedral has a Baroque exterior, a Neo-Gothic interior, and a Neo-Romanesque crypt. The building, constructed of granite and marble, measures 341 feet in length, 249 feet in width, and 240 feet in height. The impressive central dome measures 66 feet in diameter. The cupola is of a Neo-Classical style. Rather unusual for a church or cathedral, the Almudena Cathedral is not oriented east to west, but north to south. This is due to its original design, which meant to integrate the cathedral into the Royal Palace Madrid. The main entrance is decorated with two imposing towers; the second minor entrance has a beautiful bronze door. A statue of Pope John Paul II can be seen in front of the eastern façade of the cathedral.

Inside, the Neo-Romanesque Crypt is the oldest part of the building and houses a 16th-century sculpture of the Virgin Mary. The decorated Statue of Our Lady of Almudena in front of the magnificent altarpiece is worth seeing, too. The interior is enormous and that alone is worth a visit.

The Cathedral Museum covers the history of the building and the Archdiocese of Madrid. Highlights include the Central Sacristy, the Chapter Hall and the fabulous view from the cathedral’s dome.

Visiting the Almudena Cathedral

The cathedral itself is free to visit, although a €1 ($1.15) donation is appreciated, and is open to the public every day of the week from 9 a0 feet to 8.30 p0 feet It is closed during mass and during religious events. Mass takes place three times per day from Monday through Saturday, and five times on Sunday. If they feel the need to, people can also go to confess at four different times per day.

Tickets to the Cathedral Museum cost €6 ($6.90) for adults, and €4 ($4.60) for youths, seniors, and disabled visitors. The museum is open to visitors Monday through Saturday between 10 a0 feet and 2.30 p0 feet It’s closed on Sundays and on days when special cult acts take place.

How to Get There

Located in the west of the historic city center, at the western end of the Calle Mayor that runs past the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor, the Almudena Cathedral is easily reached on foot from anywhere in central Madrid. The nearest subway station is Opera, which is served by lines M2 and M5.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

The cathedral lies right next to the imposing Royal Palace Madrid and the Plaza de Oriente. Other major landmarks in the city include the Buen Retiro Park, the Reina Sofia Museum, and the Cibeles Palace.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Apr 02, 2015

Pictures of Almudena Cathedral

almudena cathedral, madrid - Almudena Cathedral
almudena cathedral, madrid - Photo by Holly Hayes

Palais royal et Cathédrale de la Almudena, Madrid, Castille, Espagne. - Almudena Cathedral
Palais royal et Cathédrale de la Almudena, Madrid, Castille, Espagne. - Almudena Cathedral. Photo by Bernard Blanc

Almudena Cathedral - Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral - Photo by Eric Titcombe

Almudena Cathedral - Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral - Photo by Robert Lowe


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