Málaga’s rich historical and artistic legacy is encapsulated in its magnificent cathedral and is an essential part of any Málaga itinerary. Towering over the city’s skyline, the unfinished Cathedral of Málaga is fascinating, inside and out.
Do you want to know more about why you should visit or how to make the most of your time there? Here are the key Málaga Cathedral facts that you should know before you go.
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Essential Málaga Cathedral Facts
1. It is built on the site of a former mosque
After kicking out the Germanic tribes in 711 AD, the Moors ruled Málaga for over 700 years. Their tenure came to an end in 1487 with the reconquest of the city by the Christians.
Like many other cathedrals in Spain – Seville cathedral and that in Valencia are good examples – the Cathedral of Málaga is built on the site of the mosque in the former Arab-walled city. Other than the Patio de los Naranjos, a small courtyard of fragrant orange trees, little of the original mosque remains.
2. Málaga Cathedral was designed as an outward display of Castilian power
The Cathedral was intended to be bigger and better than the El Hammas mosque it replaced. There was to be no room left to doubt the power of the Catholic monarchs.
3. The Cathedral has a (much) longer official name
The Catholic monarchs dedicated their newly built cathedral to Our Lady Santa Marîa de la Encarnación. The official name of Málaga Cathedral is Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación (or the Incarnation Cathedral).
I think that I’ll just stick with plain old Málaga Cathedral.
4. Málaga Cathedral was built in two phases
The first building phase started in the early 16th Century but work had to be stopped at the beginning of the 17th Century when funds dried up.
The reasons for this are unclear. Some say that these funds were donated to the American Revolutionary War, whereas other sources state that the funds were diverted to the construction of the road connecting Málaga to Vélez-Málaga.
Construction work resumed in the 18th Century and the Cathedral as we see it today opened for worship in 1782.
5. It is also known as the One-Armed Lady
Málaga Cathedral is famously unfinished.
Its second tower, included in the original plans of architect Diego de Siloé, was a direct causality of these diverted funds. Due to the Cathedral’s unfinished state, it is known as La Manquita or “The One-Armed Lady.”
6. Málaga Cathedral is a jewel of the Spanish Renaissance
Málaga Cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of Baroque-Renaissance architecture in Spain. It is a magnificent cathedral and not only because of its monumentality and height.
The fusion of architectural styles reflects its two phases of building activity. Plus, there’s a little bit of Gothic thrown in for good measure.
Inside the cathedral are three collonaded naves of equal height below a fabulous domed ceiling that soars 40 metres into the air. Coloured shafts of light flood in through its stained glass windows.
7. It is the second-highest cathedral in Andalusia
The Cathedral’s tower stands 87 metres tall. After La Giralda in Seville, Málaga Cathedral is the highest in the region.
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8. It is home to magnificent works of art
The sheer volume of outstanding paintings and sculptures in the cathedral in Málaga is overwhelming.
The Gothic altarpiece of the Chapel of Santa Barbara, commissioned in 1524, is the sole survivor of the original phase of the 16th Century cathedral. It survived the ravages of the Spanish Civil War concealed behind a wall.
The painting by Alonso Carlo in the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rosary is one of the Cathedral’s greatest artistic treasures. Just look at the expression on the Virgin’s face.
9. Málaga Cathedral’s choir is one of the 17th Century’s finest sculptures
For many, the artistic highlight of Málaga Cathedral is its wooden choir. The great Baroque sculptor Pedro de Mena carved the wood wafer-thin in places to express the shape of a finger or the fold of a robe.
It’s an extraordinary piece of workmanship.
The two magnificent 18th Century organs, comprising over 4,000 pipes, are still in good working condition.
10. The views from the roof of Málaga Cathedral are superb
It’s well worth paying a few more euros to visit the Cathedral’s roof.
Accompanied by a member of staff, you climb 200 steps to walk around the perimeter of the roof’s domed landscape. As well as offering a different perspective on the church’s construction, there are panoramic views of Málaga and its surroundings.
For the best photos, visit the roof in the morning when the sun is in the east.
Visiting Málaga Cathedral: Essential Information
Address: Málaga Cathedral is located at Calle Molina Lario, 9
Opening hours: The Cathedral is open daily, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 7 pm; Saturday, 0 am to 6 pm; Sunday 2 pm to 6 pm.
Escorted visits to the roof take 45 minutes and leave Monday to Saturday at 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm. On Sundays, there are visits at 4 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm.
Ticket price: In 2023, the general adult admission price is €8. To visit the Cathedral and the roof costs €12. Discounts are available for seniors, young people and students.
Buy your ticket at the cathedral’s door or online from the official website.
The entrance fee includes the use of an audio guide, available in seven languages.
You can enter the cathedral for free Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 9:00 am and on Sunday from 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
For further information, visit the Cathedral’s official website.
Visiting Málaga Cathedral: FAQs
Is Málaga Cathedral free?
You can visit Málaga Cathedral for free on Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 9:00 am or on Sunday between 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
How much does it cost to go to Málaga Cathedral?
In 2023, it costs €8 for an adult to visit the Cathedral of Málaga.
What is the dress code for Málaga Cathedral?
Although there is no strict dress code, as this is a religious site dress respectfully. Leave the shorts back at your hotel.
Can you take photographs inside Málaga Cathedral?
Photography is allowed but without the use of flash.
Why is Málaga Cathedral unfinished?
Work on the cathedral in Málaga stopped when funds dried up. The reasons behind this are debated.
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Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
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