The cathedral façade has three entrance doorways.
The superb Gothic portal in the centre is flanked by enormous buttresses and a base with a blind row of trefoil-headed arches containing figures of apostles and prophets under canopies.
The mullion in the centre has a pedestal decorated with scenes from Genesis and a marble statue of the Virgin Mary.
Above the lintel the tympanum is decorated with the theme of the Final Judgement under polylobed pierced stonework: Christ the Judge, semi-clothed, seated and represented as the Man of Sorrows, displays the wounds of His crucifixion; He is flanked by Angels bearing the Arma Christi, or symbols of the Passion. Beneath his feet is a scene of two trumpeter angels in flight and twelve sepulchres, from which emerge members of the different ranks of the blessed, foreshadowing that great day in which the condemned are dragged by demons towards the jaws of the two-headed monster Leviathan, the enemy of souls and the symbol of hell.
Work of Jaume Cascalls and Jordi de Déu
This sculpture group and some of the free-standing figures are the work of Jaume Cascalls and Jordi de Déu, although not those that are of manifestly inferior quality. This highly ornate façade with its magnificent rose window, 11 metres in diameter, was built between 1330 and 1348.
It was intended to be crowned with four pinnacles and a gablet which were never ultimately completed due to the ravages caused by the Black Death in 1348. The two side doors give onto the Epistle and Gospel naves.
Set in the wall above the right side portal is a Roman sarcophagus dating from the time of Theodosius –from 370 to 400 A.D.– depicting several scenes from the life of Christ on its frontal: the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, the entreaty of the Canaanite woman, the healing of the lame man in the pool at Bethesda, the conversion of Zacchaeus, and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The tympanum on the left-hand portal is decorated with a scene of the Adoration of the Kings at the crib in Bethlehem.
2. CENTRAL AND SIDE NAVES
Behind the main portal you have a broad view of the whole of the inside of the cathedral.
The floorplan is in the shape of a Latin cross with three naves, each with an apse in echelon, and the crossing.
Romanesque and Gothic
The central nave is 104 metres long by 16 metres wide and 26 metres high, and attains a height of 32 metres in the centre of the dome.
he side naves are 7.23 metres wide and 13 metres high.
Both the central and side naves are divided into sections covered with rib vaults converging in carved keystones, and supported by cruciform pillars with adjoining columns bearing capitals decorated with historiated scenes and plant and animal motifs.
Chapels in the side naves
Two keystones in the central nave and a pair of ribs in the side naves are polychrome. The window openings in the east wall are Romanesque, and the others are Gothic.
Several chapels were built in the side naves between the 14th and 18th centuries.
3. BAPTISTERY CHAPEL
It was built in the Gothic style between 1335 and 1340 under the prelature of Archbishop Arnau de Sescomes, who dedicated it to St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins.
The original altar and the figures of the saints suffered the effects of the Napoleonic invasion of 1811.
Original baptistery in 1821
This chapel was adapted for a baptistery in 1821, with the installation of the monumental Roman marble font dating from the first century A.D. The side walls are lined with free-standing figures and mural paintings of the patron saints dating from the 14th century. The large central window conserves part of the original 14th-century stained- glass windows.
The polychrome on the decorative tapestry hanging on the right –which predates the chapel– and the corresponding capital were discovered in 2012.
On the right-hand wall is the sepulchre of Archbishop Manuel Arce Ochotorena, created in 1952. The sarcophagus of Archbishop Gaspar Cervantes de Gaeta, founder of the Pontifical Seminar and the University of Tarragona stands against the left-hand wall separating this chapel from the adjoining one.
Designed by Jaume Amigó
The sepulchre was designed by the architect Jaume Amigó in 1575. This chapel also contains the tombs of the prelates Arnau Sescomes, its founder, and Jaume Creus.
4. CHAPEL OF SAINT MICHAEL
This Gothic chapel was built thanks to the munificence of the Archdeacon of the Church of Lorenzo, Guillem de Botsoms.
It was begun around 1365 and completed in about 1379.
The wall paintings simulating stained-glass windows date from the late 15th century and depict an angel, St. Agnes, and St. Bartholomew. The stained-glass windows on the headwall were produced by Jeroni Granell in 1958.
Retable of Saint Michael
he retable of St. Michael from Pobla de Cérvoles has been installed behind the main altar, and is the work of Bernat Martorell, the famous painter from the first half of the 15th century and master of the international Gothic style.
5. CHAPEL OF SAINT THECLA
The structure was designed in the form of a church with a central cross-shaped floorplan and a great dome.
It was built in honour of St. Thecla of Iconium –the saint to whom the cathedral is dedicated and the patron of Tarragona– for the safekeeping of the reliquary containing the saint’s arm.
The Baroque-Classicist style predominates in both the architecture and the sculptural elements, in consonance with the academic guidelines of the time as promoted by Louis XV. It was begun in 1760 under the prelature of Jaume de Cortada y Brú, and concluded in 1775 when Juan Lario y Lancis was archbishop.
Work of Josep Prat y Delorta
Josep Prat y Delorta was responsible for the management and execution of the architectural project. Both the central relief depicting the glorification of St. Thecla, the episodes from her life and the freestanding sculptures of the four cardinal virtues carved by Carles Sala, clearly show the influence of Bernini.
The pinkish jasper from Tortosa and the white marble from Carrara endow this space with nobility, as does the interesting wrought-iron grille by Onofre Camps with which it is enclosed.
6. CHAPEL OF SAINT FRANCIS
This Renaissance chapel has a very sober design and ornamentation, and was built in 1584 following a project by the architect Jaume Amigó, and financed by the heirs of the dean, Gabriel Robuster y Nebot.
The retable is in the 17th-century Baroque style and is presided by a painting depicting St. Francis of Assisi attributed to Josep Juncosa.
The side walls are adorned with another two enormous oil paintings of the Adoration of the Kings and Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents.
Work of Giacomo Giustiniano
They were painted by the Genovese artist Giacomo Giustiniano in 1625.
7. CHAPEL OF SAINT HELEN
This chapel, formerly dedicated to St. Lucia, has no vault and its headwall is the enclosing partition of the earlier choir.
The series of mid 15th-century tempera mural paintings were discovered in 1933.
The two central scenes depict the invention of the True Cross by the mother of the Emperor Constantine, hidden by Judas the Jew in the cistern.
These sequences are flanked by the hieratical figures of St. Helen, with the cross in one arm and a crown of thorns in the other, accompanied by St. Felix the African and the hermit St. Alexius.
On a ledge on the top of the right-hand column stands an equestrian figure of St. Hippolytus, a polychrome stone image made in 1405, endowed by Ferrario Pí.
8. CHAPEL OF SAINT LUCIA
This is a 14th-century Gothic chapel standing beside the choir partition.
The wall paintings showing the images of St. Narcissus and St. Martha –whose worship became widespread after 1187 with the discovery of the supposed body of the sister of Mary and Lazarus– are thought to date from around 1350.
The restoration works in 2012 uncovered the episcopal bust that appears to the left of the wall, and a third figure representing St. Valerian.
These paintings and the ones in the chapel of St. Helen are examples of the proto-Gothic style and reveal Italian-Gothic influences in the delicate treatment of the figures.
9. CHAPEL OF THE PRESENTATION
This Gothic-style chapel was the first to be built, and was made by demolishing the wall between the cathedral buttresses.
The date of its construction is thought to be around 1300, to judge from the style of the Gothic arches on the exterior, and the devotional Agnus Dei carved into the keystone in reference to the original dedication of the chapel to the Holy Saviour.
The high relief of the retable depicting the Presentation of Jesus in the temple was carved and left unpainted by Vicenç Roig y Besora in the first half of the 19th century.
One century later –in the mid-20th century– it was polychromed by the painter Sadurní García Anguera from Tarragona. The Baker’s Guild was established in this chapel.
10. CHAPELS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE TRANSEPT
Under the 14th-century rose window on the eastern side of the transept stand three chapels built in around 1500 under the patronage of Canon Joan Barceló, whose coat of arms can be seen repeated on the façade.
The chapel on the right –previously dedicated to St. Bartholomew– contains a neo-Gothic gilded wooden retable presided by St. Thomas Aquinas carved by Vicenç Roig y Besora in the 19th century.
The central chapel is home to the popularly venerated late-Gothic image of the Holy Christ of Health flanked by the statues of the Virgin Dolorosa and St. John the Evangelist; the ensemble dates from the late 15th or early 16th century. The vault is polychrome, and the keystone depicts a Maiestas Domini.
Virgin of the Rosary
The chapel on the left is dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary.
The images of the Virgin and Saint Dominic were carved in 1950 by the sculptor Lluís María Saumells from Tarragona, and polychromed by the painter Sadurní García Anguera.
The vault is polychrome and the central keystone depicts the figure of St. Stephen –the first patron– displaying the rocks with which he was stoned to death.
Flamboyant Gothic style
Despite the period of their construction the three chapels are all in the flamboyant Gothic style. The chapel of St. Luke the Evangelist is in the Romanesque side apse bay and dates from the 13th century.
A religious brotherhood bearing the name of the patron saint was established in the late 14th century with the patronage of the city’s notaries. The chapel contains a Baroque gilded wooden retable dating from 1679 with an oil painting of the saint attributed to the painter Josep Juncosa from Cornudella.