Málaga Cathedral: Gothic Grandeur and Spanish Renaissance

Málaga’s rich historical and artistic legacy is encapsulated in its magnificent cathedral, 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 you should know before you go.

exterior of malaga cathedral with bell tower and orange tress

Some articles on this website contain affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here.

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.

carved wooden door of malaga cathedral opening to sunny patio

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.

the magnificent main entrance to malaga cathedral with arched doorway and pinkish columns
The cathedral’s magnificent main doorway

4. It 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.”

single bell tower of malaga cathedral
The one arm of the 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.

interior of cathedral with soaring columns and alcoves

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.

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.

An ornate gilded altarpiece with statues of religious figures is one of the things that malaga cathedral is known for
Chapel of Santa Barbara, Málaga Cathedral

The painting by Alonso Carlo in the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rosary is one of the Cathedral’s greatest artistic treasures. I love the expression on the Virgin’s face.

painting of virgin mary by Alonso Carlo

9. The 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.

the famous carved wooden sculptures of religious figures are one of the malaga cathedral facts

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 are superb

I would normally highly recommend paying a few more euros to visit the Cathedral’s roof. However, access stopped in April 2024 for renovation work. This is scheduled to last 3 years.

Not wishing to rub it in, but this was a fabulous experience. Accompanied by a member of staff, I climbed 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.

a view over the rooftops of malaga to the hills beyond
aerial view of rooftops of malaga spain

Visiting Málaga Cathedral: Practical Information

Address: Málaga Cathedral is located at Calle Molina Lario, 9

Opening hours: The Cathedral is open daily, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 7.30 pm; Saturday, 10 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 2024, the general adult admission price is €10. 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 an excellent audio guide, available in ten languages. There are also audioguides for children.

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.

Although there is no strict dress code, as this is a religious site dress respectfully.

Photography is allowed but without the use of flash.

dimly lit interior of malaga cathedral with columns and soaring side aisle

Where To Next in Spain?

And that’s a wrap. If you want more help with planning your Málaga trip, take a look at some of my other articles:

If you are planning an Andalusia trip, read my guide to the best things to see in Seville, the region’s vibrant capital. If you have less time there, you can hit the highlights with this 1-day Seville itinerary.

I also have an in-depth guide for exploring the Real Alcázar of Seville and guide to Seville Cathedral.

Although it may be hard to drag yourself away from Seville, discover how to do Seville to Granada day trip.

Visiting the Alhambra Palace draws the crowds but there are other reasons to visit Granada.

I also have an in-depth one-day Cordoba itinerary (one of my favourite Spanish cities). 

Happy travels!

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

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.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.