Jerez’s cathedral is a building that time made eclectic. It took so long to build that architectural fashions changed. Also note the two statues in the picture above: one of Catholicism’s most important popes who made Jerez into a diocese and the other of a captain-of-industry, in this case, the sherry industry.
The cathedral site is just down the hill from the Alcazar (where the above picture was taken). By now you’ve guessed that this was the site of the Arab mosque when the Christians recaptured the city at the end of the 13th century. It’s not clear whether they tore down the mosque and built a new church – or just modified the mosque. What was there was eventually torn down to make way for this fusion church with its Renaissance dome capped by an Andalusian Azulejo-tiled beanie. The tower at left seems to resemble a minaret tower -- up to a point.
The hilly site is accommodated by an elegant set of stairs leading to an elevated plaza. This full frontal view suggests the various styles struggling to capture the architect’s vision. Gothic flying buttresses support a Baroque facade. The separate bell tower is is reminiscent of a minaret and is the only part left from the earlier church torn down in 1695.
Above is a close-up of the tower with the town’s
seal displayed below a gothic window. Bunting accents the
tower in Jerez's town colors of blue and white.
The annual wine festival starts on these steps each year. The previous church deteriorated badly and when the roof of the nave began to sink in 1679, the town solicited proposals to replace what was by then at least a 300-year-old building. Five were submitted but the town fathers instead tasked the design to a Jerez native, Diego Moreno Meléndez, who would build several other churches in his home town.
In 1700, construction paused while Europe fought the War of Spanish Succession over who would succeed Charles II who had funded the rebuilding efforts. In 1715, Seville’s archbishop continued construction. At this time, this was a collegiate, not a cathedral. As such, it was the headquarters for a community of secular clergy who lived together not unlike a religious order, but with the vows. By the early 1700s, the Spanish Baroque was dictating ornate facades around church doorways, including the above elaborate Plateresque arch which barely makes enough room among the ornamentation for a statue of the Immaculate Conception.
Below the central window is this Transfiguration scene seen above. It's appropriate for a church dedicated to The Savior. Here we have an armless Christ but Moses and Elijah are no-shows. The alpha apostles Peter, James, and John appear to be sufficiently awed even though in need of a good cleaning.
The central door is flanked on each side by elaborate
facades over smaller entries. Here’s the
Baroque scene of the Adoration of the Magi above the
Gospel (left) side door.
Walking around to this composite picture of the long
Epistle (right) side of the nave, we see further buttress
work centering around another elaborate entry at the
crossing. Another Gothic pig with Baroque lipstick.
Above the door we have a bishop's coat-of-arms, perhaps that of the Cardinal Arias who got the build program restarted in 1715 after the hiatus caused by the war. Above that is an Annunciation screen we’ll look into at our next picture. God the Father appears above that scene holding the world. Above him on either side are angels although one has lost her head. On either side of the Annunciation scene we see statues, probably of Saint Francis at right and perhaps a Dominican at left.
Above is the central Annunciation scene, and it’s a fixer-upper. Archangel Gabriel will have a bit of trouble getting back to heaven with those broken wings (and won’t even be able to hitchhike without a thumb –or hand.) Maybe you can give him a lift when you go there. Mary’s halo seems to multi-task as a pigeon discourager. The Holy Spirit seems to be hovering in the shadows here.
Above is a statue thanking Pope John Paul II who elevated this Collegiate church to a cathedral (and made Jerez a diocese) in 1980.
Let's take a quick look inside of this elegant space that moves toward a large dome over the crossing. The neo-classic Corinthian pillars are unadorned except for the large statues of the apostles, fitting for a collegiate church
For an Andalusian church, the main altar is quite restrained, especially when one sees the gold retables found in many of the parish churches in this city.
The interior has five naves. The exterior was once called the last Gothic church – but that was before the Gothic Revival movement started in England a few decades later.
Except for the figures of the saints, the decoration on the Renaissance dome suggest the Moors influence.
At the east end of the cathedral stands a dark Angel, no doubt, an angel of commerce. It’s a 1997 statue of Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel who came to Jerez in 1835 at age 23 to start a Sherry producing company. Today we know his brand as Tio Pepe, a dry white that’s the most popular Sherry in the world. His statue is most likely on the land of his factory right next to the cathedral. (When your factory charges admission, you call it a “bodega.”)
Jerez is synonymous with Sherry – literally.
It’s how the Brits pronounced
“Scherisch,” the word the Moors’ used
to describe this town. The land to the north and west
contains a soil called “albariza” which can
be up to 60% chalk, making it ideal soil for growing
Sherry grapes. After picking, the grapes are aged in a
connected series of casts (solera) which mixes old wine
with new – so you are drinking a blend that
includes the first grapes ever put into production. In
your glass of Tio Pepe, you probably have one or two
molecules from 844. As M told 007 in “Diamonds are
Forever,” Sherry has no vintage year; it’s
all old wine in new bottles.
By his name, Manuel Maria González Angel appears to be thoroughly Spanish, but many of the sherry producers intermingled with British Catholics who fled here when Elizabeth I’s Act of Supremacy in 1559 made advancement for them nearly impossible in England. Britain is also a huge customer for Sherry. Tourists as well as the streets are full of distilleries, many of them with tours. The González Bypass plant that makes Tio Pepe (named after Angel’s Uncle Joe) features a pavilion designed by that French bridge builder named Eiffel.
Next we visit the spectacular Plaza de la Asunción. Please join us by clicking here.
Please join us in the following slide show to give Jerez de la Frontera the viewing it deserves by clicking here.
Geek and Legal Stuff
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
This page has been tested in Internet Explorer 8.0, Firefox 3.0, and Google Chrome 1.0.
Created on April 3, 2009