But aside from its obvious appeal to holidaymakers and beachgoers, the island offers up rich narratives of history, culture, art, and religion. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Cathedral of Ciutadella de Menorca. This imposing structure, which has stood in the island’s second-largest city since the fourteenth century, is a portal back through time, and a can’t-miss spot for visitors hoping to uncover the real Menorca.
The cathedral, a grand structure built from golden sandstone, dominates a stone-paved plaza in Ciutadella’s old town. But one of the most intriguing things about this monument isn’t visible from first glance. Constructed on the orders of King Alfonso III of Aragon (who conquered the island in 1287), the structure was built on the site of an old mosque. The king’s decision to replace the mosque, which had stood in the heart of the old Moorish citadel, with a Roman Catholic Church sent a strong political message about the power of the Christian Reconquista.
Over the centuries it has seen its fair share of conflict, from its desecration by the Turks in the 1500s to the damage suffered during the Spanish Civil War during the first half of the twentieth century. However, the cathedral has been extensively repaired and restored time after time, and is still one of the most stunning examples of Catalan Gothic architecture on the island.
The Cathedral Today
A visit to the cathedral is a must-see experience if you’re staying in or near the Ciutadella area. Step through the grand entrance with its towering columns and arches and discover a hushed, tranquil nave of white stone and soaring vaulted ceilings. In the apse, the stained glass windows glow like jewels, backlit by the brilliant sun. Away from the buzz and hustle of Ciutadella, this quiet place is a refuge for visitors and natives alike – not to mention a cool break from the midday heat.
Entrance to the church is free for children and five euros for adults. The fee also covers admission to other historic buildings in Ciutadella’s historic centre.