Historical Information

Construction of Santa Maria del Mar church began on March 25, 1329. It involved, in the first place, the formation of the full perimeter, including the buttresses, chapels, lateral walls, choir and façade (Fig. 5), which were fully completed by 1350. There is evidence suggesting that this phase was followed by the construction of the arches, both the longitudinal (or clerestory) and transverse ones, and both at the lateral and central naves (Vendrell et al.). At this stage, a normal use of the building would have been possible thanks to a provisory wooden roof supported on the transverse arches. The construction was completed by building the vaulted roof on the already existing arches, starting, in each bay, with the lateral vault membranes and then the central one. The last stone was placed on November 3, 1383. Remarkably, this procedure does not agree with the construction plan (supposedly) developed in most Gothic Cathedrals, which involved a gradual extension in the longitudinal direction starting from the choir and finishing with the main façade. In fact, Barcelona and Mallorca Cathedrals are known to have been built according to this latter plan.

In 1379, when the last bay was almost completed, a fire destroyed the scaffoldings and caused some damage to the stone. Another fire, provoked in 1936, caused significant damage to the piers, arches and vault keystones. Earthquakes are known to have occurred in several occasions, as in 1373, causing the collapse of the upper body of one of the façade clock-towers, and 1428, when the collapse of the rose window killed a number of people (Fontseré, 1971).

The building has also experienced damage during bombardments against the city in1714, (during the

Succession War) and the Spanish Civil War (19361939), among other episodes.

The architectural unity and the consistency of the construction process suggest that a fully developed project should have been well established before 1329, when the construction began. At this moment, not even the choir of Barcelona Cathedral, frequently regarded as the immediate precedent, was finished.

Construction of Mallorca Cathedral began by year 1300 starting with the presbytery (which comprises the so-called Trinity and Royal Chapels). According to the most widely accepted interpretation, by 1330 it was decided to build the remaining construction according to a three-nave plan and yet, by the mid of 14th c., it

Figure 5. Construction of Santa Maria del Mar. 1: foundation; 2: perimeter; 3: arches and vaults.

was decided to increase the height of the vaults. The construction of the main nave developed during the rest of 14th and 15th c (with a major interruption from 1460 to 1570). The main façade, of noticeable Renaissance style, was built from 1594 to 1601, when the cathedral was consecrated.

Research on the historical books has provided significant hints on the construction process. As shown in Fig. 6, the construction of the nave progressed, bay after bay, from the presbytery towards the façade (the last part to be built). Construction of the chapels was ahead because of the funding provided by noble families or corporations willing them as pantheons or gremial chapels (Domenge, 1997).

Figure 6. Construction stages of Mallorca Cathedral.

It has been possible, at least for one of the bays (the 4th one), to identify the process leading to its complete construction (Fig. 7). Once again, it started with the lateral chapels, followed by the piers, then one lateral vault, then the other and finally the central one. In the case of this bay, the construction of the vaults lasted 7 years. It should be noted that during a period of about 5 years), the lateral vaults were already pushing against the pier while the lateral vault was not yet there to counteract their thrust.

The building has experienced significant problems and repairs. The 4th vault (previously discussed)

Figure 7. Mallorca Cathedral's 4th bay construction sequence.

partially collapsed 30 years after its construction. A significant number of vaults were repaired or reconstructed during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Due to the concerning out-of-plumb (about 1.3 m), the original façade was taken down replaced by a new one during the second half of 19th c. Demolition was decided in March 1851 and hence was not connected to the earthquake occurring in May the same year.

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