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Historical gems in Málaga: discover the four oldest churches of the city



Historical gems in Málaga: discover the four oldest churches of the city

Santiago, San Juan, Los Mártires and the Sagrario church, which is part of the Málaga Cathedral, were the first four Christian temples of Málaga. When these churches were founded, they served to establish the power of the city and to reorganise the metropolis around them.

The fact that the Málaga Fair is held in August is due to Málaga’s history, more specifically due to the conquest of Málaga by the Catholic Monarchs. The siege of the city of Málaga began on 7 May 1487 and ended on 18 August of the same year. The city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile on 19 August 1487, a date that today is a local holiday and coincides with the celebration of the Málaga Fair.

The Catholic Monarchs founded four churches in the city for two purposes: to reorganise the metropolis around these and to control the power of the city. Would you like to know more about the Santiago, San Juan, Los Mártires and Sagrario churches? Keep on reading!

The Santiago church: the first cathedral and a temple all about Picasso

The Santiago church, located on Granada street, is the oldest temple in the city, as it was the first of the four Christian churches that was built. It was erected on the land of a former mosque and is in Isabelline Gothic style, an architectural style of the Kingdom of Castile and named after Queen Isabella II. This style can be seen in the tower of the church. The Baroque style started to be present in this building at the beginning of the 18th century. This church acted as a cathedral until the mosque was adapted as the main church of Málaga.

As a curious fact, Pablo Picasso was baptised in this temple on 10 November 1881 and it is one of the stops of the Picasso Route in Málaga. The temple’s façade restoration in 2009 brought to light drawings from the 17th century that simulated the architecture of that time.
The Cofradía del Rico and the Hermandad de la Sentencia (religious brotherhoods) have their canonical offices in this temple, that is, the religious statues of these brotherhoods are stored inside this church all year round.

The San Juan church, a reconstructed temple

The San Juan Bautista church, known as the San Juan church, was erected to congregate the old suburbs of the Islamic city of Málaga after the arrival of the Catholic Monarchs. This temple has an Isabelline Gothic style with Mudejar elements. Nevertheless, some Renaissance and Baroque elements emerged after different remodelling works, and the latter became the main style of the temple.

An earthquake destroyed the tower of the church in 1680, which was reconstructed between 1732 and 1776. The church could be accessed through the right side aisle. Thus, the current look of the building and the inscriptions on its façade are the result of the restoration works that were undertaken in the 18th century.

As a curious fact, there is another façade at the left side of the building whose access to the temple has been open since 1988. It was paid for by the two religious brotherhoods that are housed in the church, that is, the Archicofradía de los Dolores de San Juan and the Reales Cofradías Fusionadas. This way, the demolition of the wall of the church every Holy Week was avoided, as the religious floats of this festivity did not fit through the main entrance door.
Los Mártires church, where the patron saints live

More than 500 years have passed since the construction of Los Santos Mártires church started by means of a testamentary donation of Queen Isabella the Catholic. It is a Gothic-Mudejar temple (parts of which are still visible) that was built in order to host some parishioners of the city centre, bordering the San Juan, Santiago and San Felipe Neri parishes.
This parish was constructed in honour of Ciriaco and Paula, the holy Martyrs of Málaga, who were stoned to death for defending the Christian faith in 303. As patron saints of the city, a religious procession is held in their honour every year on 18 June.
The church has been remodelled on several occasions, changing its initial appearance and having many rococo elements from the 18th century. It still has a tower in Mudejar style.
You can see several religious statues from the Holy Week in this temple, as it is home to different statues of various religious brotherhoods: those of Pasión, Gitanos and Huerto.

Santa María (Sagrario) church: a unique altarpiece

The Santa María church, known as the Sagrario church, is a parish that is part of the Santa María de la Encarnación Cathedral. It has a Gothic façade through which you can enter the temple and which is the oldest part of the cathedral. It is said that the façade was open at the base of the minaret of the old mosque.

There is a Plateresque altarpiece from the 16th century inside, whose artist is Juan de Valmaseda. The golden-coloured altarpiece comes from the San Pedro de Becerril de Campos church (Palencia, Spain).

It is important to mention that its beginnings were not easy, since the construction work was stalled in 1525 and was finished in the 18th century, when the first building had to be demolished and rebuilt.

As a curious fact, the access stairway was demolished in 1862 so that Isabella II could access the church on her visit to the city, but the stairs were rebuilt in 1940.