Dedicated to Saint Mary, it was built during the 14th century on the same site where the main mosque of the Muslim Medina stood, the memory of which remains today in the lower half of the belfry.
It is an ogival temple which falls within the Catalan Gothic style; a single nave made up of six sections and side chapels. It is domed over with simple groin vaults and receives plenty of light through the high church windows opening onto the nave and the chapels. It was ordered to be built by King Alphonse III of Aragon after the conquest of Minorca in 1287. The Turkish assault on Ciudadela of 1558 left the main church badly damaged. Despite the repairs carried out, in 1626 a part of the vault caved in and the reconstruction led to the construction of a third body in the outer buttresses of the south façade.
In the year 1760 the Chapel of Souls was built, in 1795 Pope Pius VI raised the main church to the dignity of a cathedral when the old diocese of Minorca was restored. In 1810 Bishop Pedro Antonio Juano ordered the construction of the monumental Neoclassical doorway of the Corinthian order. Also a work of his was the Communion Chapel, next to which the current day Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament would be erected towards the end of the 19th century.
On the 27th of July 1936, nine days after the uprising, which would signify the start of the civil war, having been closed down upon the order of the Popular Front, uncontrolled groups destroyed the cathedral and burnt the statues, paintings and sacred objects. The bells were destroyed in the month of October.
Once the war had ended, the new Bishop of Minorca, Bartolomé Pascual, began the reconstruction of the cathedral. He ordered the choir area, located in the middle of the nave, to be dismantled and he placed it in the chancel, in the Episcopal see, situated at the back of the chancel. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and the chapel of the bell tower were reopened each featuring its own gallery, one in honour of the monumental organ of the 18th century (destroyed) and the other of the choristers. The restored cathedral was solemnly opened to worship for Holy Week of 1941.
In 1953 the Minorcan cathedral received the Papal Honour of “minor basilica”. From 1986 onwards the comprehensive restoration of the interior and exterior of the stonework began. In the year 2005 the process culminated in the restoration of the apse, with the opening up of five old blind windows, with stained glass made by Vidrieras Barrios in Burgos.
The reclamation of the space and the light greatly accentuates the value of this important monument of the Middle Ages, a living testimony to the Christian faith in Minorca throughout over seven centuries and, as the welcoming inscription to the visitor reminds us, it is still even today “a living tradition”.
Presided over by the Episcopal see, this is the place where the celebration of the Eucharist and other acts of worship of the Church are held. Presiding over the altar are the statues of Holy Mary in the Presentation of the Infant Jesus at the Temple, with Saint John the Baptist to the left and Saint Stephen the Protomartyr on the right. The sculptures are by the Majorcan artist Tomás Vila Mayol. Since its comprehensive restoration (2005-2007), the building features an open and bright area which is in harmony with the clear and sober architecture of the ogival nave.
2. Chapel of Souls
Built by the master builder Pere Amorós towards the end of the 17th century, it has an irregular octagonal layout covered by a polygonal drum vault and crowned with a cylindrical lantern. In its entirety it is of great interest due to its compositional unity and ornamental wealth, thus creating a feeling of space in an area which is in fact rather small, as a result the chapel can be fully identified with the creations of the Baroque era. A wood carving of the Crucified Christ presides over the chapel. To the left of the chapel the funerary monument of the Bishop of Minorca, Friar Juan Antonio Díaz Merino, can be seen.
This chapel is not of great depth as a result of being attached to the bell tower, which was built upon the minaret of the old mosque, the foundations of which can be seen through an opening cut out of the paved flooring. The statue of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the Patron Saint of Minorca, presides over the chapel.
4. Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
Built upon the order of Bishop Pedro Antonio Juano in 1810, it is of Neoclassical style and features a Greek cross floor plan covered by a hemispherical dome. Presiding over the chapel is a sculpture of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which is the work of the Majorcan sculptor Tomás Vila Mayol. On the left hand side there is the statue of the Minorcan martyr Blessed Joan Huguet, a wooden sculpture from the Vayreda, Bassols, Casabó & Co. workshops in Olot (2015). To the left of the chapel there is a funerary monument dedicated to Bishop Pedro Antonio Juano in front of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
5. Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (oratory)
According to the project of Bishop Mercader, it was built in a Neoclassical style in 1889. It features an oval-shaped floor plan and dome. The altarpiece is of the Classical order with a sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Herein lies a beautiful sacrarium of bronze and silver from the 19th century. To the right one finds the Crucified Christ by the Minorcan sculptor Jaume Bagur Arnau (1943).
Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist. To the left there is The Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist. Copy by B. E. Murillo, (18th century). To the left there is The Archangel Saint Michael on the summit of Monte Toro, Minorca (Joan Mas, Mallorca 1602).“a living tradition”.
6. Chapel of Saint Martin
This chapel provides access to the cathedral. It boasts
a statue of Saint Teresa of Ávila, Doctor of the Church. On the left hand side next to the entrance there is a tombstone dedicated to the doctor Martín Cursach y Canet. On the left hand side there is a painting of Saint Gertrudis.
7. Chapel of Saint Mark and Saint Scholastica
Here in lies an oil painting on canvas by Joan Mas (1601). The upper section depicts Saint Anthony the Abbot, the Patron Saint of Minorca, with the Port of Ciudadela in the background. The lower section portrays the Presentation of the Infant Jesus to the Priests of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Virgin Mary. It also houses a monolithic baptismal font from the 18th century. On the left hand side there is a painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel presenting Saint Simon Stock with a scapular (oil painting by an unknown artist, 19th century). On the opposite side one finds the Adoration of the Magi (an oil painting from the 19th century by an unknown artist).
8. Chapel of Saint George Presided over with a painting, which com- plements the one in the previous chapel. Both form part of the organ doors of the church, constructed at the end of the 16th century. It represents Saint George Fighting the Dragon (Joan Mas 1601). The bottom section depicts the Visit of the Virgin Mary to her Cousin saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist. To the left there is The Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist. Copy by B. E. Murillo, (18th century). To the left there is The Archangel Saint Michael on the summit of Monte Toro, Minorca (Joan Mas, Mallorca 1602).
9. Chapel of Penance
Neo-Gothic confessional by Jaume Bagur Arnau.
10. Main Entrance
Gothic door from the 14th century which became hidden upon erecting the Neoclassical doorway built in 1810 by Bishop Pedro Antonio Juano.
This chapel houses the Piety processional float, the name pertaining to the Brotherhood that parades in the Good Friday procession. This work was made in Olot around the middle of the 20th century.
12. Chapel of Saint Anthony the Abbot
It currently houses the altarpiece of Saint Scholastica made by Jaume Bagur Arnau (1947). It is of Neo-Gothic style and is presided over by the image of Saint Scholastica, on whose left is Saint Isidore and on whose right is Saint William. The paintings are by the Ciudadela artist Nina Camps. At the foot of the altar stands the sculpture of Jesus in the Tomb, a work by the sculptor Jaume Bagur Arnau.
13. Trinity Chapel
Present-day Gothic style altarpiece dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary (1948) made by Ciudadela sculptor Jaume Bagur Arnau. Presiding over the altarpiece is the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary with Saint Dominic de Guzmán kneeling at her feet. On either side one can see Saint Alonso Rodríguez, to the right, and Saint Anthony M. Claret, to the left. On the lower part of the altar there is a glass display cabinet with the statue of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (popularly known as Our Lady of August), a wood carving by Jaume Bagur Arnau. The pictorial decoration is by Nina Camps. On the left hand side stands a funerary monument dedicated to Bishop Antonio Ceruelo y Sanz (Bishop of Minorca from 1824-1830).
14. Chapel of the Assumption and Saint Joachim
Baroque altarpiece originating from the Church of Succour, presided over by the statues of Saint Joseph in the centre and Saint Peter and Saint Paul on either side. In the upper section Saint Joachim leads the Virgin Mary by the hand. The chapel houses the funerary monument of Bishop Joan Torres y Ribas.
15. Door of Light and the Organ
Gothic Door of Light. The sculpted capitals and archivolts are originally from the 14th century. Up above rises the organ, constructed in 1993 by the master organ builders Blancafort, in Collbató, with 2,371 pipes.
16. Chapel of Saint Peter
Seat of the Davidic Choir, the official choral ensemble of the Cathedral. On the background wall there is an allegorical tableau of sacred music by Llorenç Bonnin (Mallorca 1961).
17. Chapel of Saint Joseph
Within this chapel one finds the simple funerary monument dedicated to Bishop Manuel Mercader y Arroyo, designed by the sculptor Félix Ribas. This chapel also provides access to the sacristies and the chapterhouse.
18. Chapel of Saint Gabriel
Glass case displaying liturgical vestments. Models of the Cathedral and the Saint Augustine Convent (José Mascaró, presbyter, 1960).
19. Sacristy of the Beneficiaries
Worthy of note is the Italian marble font from the 18th century with the crest of the benefactor: Gabriel Roig, Vicar General of Minorca.
20. The former Communion Chapel, currently a vestry
Upon entering one can see, on the left hand side, the exhibition of two display cases containing various different silver pieces used for service at the altar.
Here in lies the processional ostensorium of the Cathedral. Bishop Bartolomé Pascual Marroig’s cope of blue brocade. Our Lady of the Rose (1677) of embossed silver. Chalice and Paten given as gifts by Queen Isabel II to Minorca Cathedral (1860). In the following corridor old photographs of the Cathedral and of the destruction of 1936 are exhibited. In the display case one can see several different objects of popular devotion.
22. Chapel of Saint Michael
Display case exhibiting the choral habit of the canons of the Cathedral Chap- ter of Minorca and Bishop Comes’ cope (restored).