11. CHAPEL OF SAINT OLEGARIUS
This chapel occupies the Romanesque apse bay on the right and dates from the 13th century.
Work by Francesc Bonifàs
The figure of St. Olegarius stands on a high- relief frontal representing the saint granting the fiefdom of Tarragona to Prince Robert d’Aguiló.
Both were carved by Francesc Bonifàs i Massó in the 18th century and were part of the original retable that was dismantled in 1936.
Under the Bell Tower
The column on the left has some polychrome remnants of hangings adorning the lower part of the apse, and beside them is one of the walls that flanked the door onto the old choir; it is crowned by carved corbels and heraldic emblems.
The cathedral bell tower stands over this chapel.
BELL TOWER AND BELLS
It has three sections: the first, with a square floorplan, was built towards 1200 in the time of the Archbishop Rodrigo Tello; the second –also square– dates from 1316, and is in grey dressed stone, and was financed by the prelate Gimeno de Luna. The final section was built in 1330 on the orders of the Archbishop John of Aragon.
It has a height of 70 metres and contains 19 bells cast between 1250 and 1867. The largest of all –known as the “Capona”– dates from 1509, weighs 5,188 kg and is housed in the belfry on the top. This is the bell that strikes the hours to call worshippers to prayer.
There is a spiral staircase to access the bell tower and has different rooms, such as the Monks Room, Clocks Room and Bells Room. The Cathedral preserves seventeen bells and two more beside to the dome.
In the bell tower, in the Bell Room:
- “Senyals” from 1250
- “Fructuosa” from 1313
- “Maria Assumpta” from 1314
- “Classica Robertina” from 1315
- “Prima I” or “Ave Maria”, cast by Isidre Fages in 1573
- “Tecla”, cast by Jaume Pallès in 1777
- “Prima II”, cast by Josep Pomarol in 1859
- “Clàssica” or “Maria Immaculada”, cast by Josep Pomarol in 1867
- “Sorda I” or “Maria Immaculada II”, cast by Josep Pomarol in 1867
- “Miserere” or “Micaela”, cast by Ramon Pomarol in 1905
“Capona”: more than 5.000kg
In the Monk’s Room there are:
- “les Hores” from 1380
- “Tecla I”, cast by Josep Pomaros in 1867
- “dels Quarts II”
- “Tecla II”
Beside the dome, there are two more bells:
- “Vedada” or “Ave Maria”, cast by Joan Sorelló in 1728
- “Maria Barbara”, cast by Jaume Mestres in 1772
“Capona” is found on the little temple at the top of the Bell Tower and is the biggest one, which strikes the hours and the prayers, cast by Antonio Fenodi in 1509 and which weighs 5188 kilos.
In the peak of the bell tower there is “dels Quarts”, cast by Antonio Fenodi in 1509.
The cathedral’s east wall and chancel follow the Romanesque architectural tradition in the central apse, partitioning arcade, large windows and capitals.
A particular highlight is the splendid 13th-century Romanesque paving laid according to the Roman technique of opus sectile, whereby geometric borders are created using limestone and coloured marble. Other features include the Roman inscriptions and ten tombstones dating from the 14th to 19th centuries belonging to the archbishops of this metropolitan See.
The chancel also contains a part of the Gothic stalls from the old choir carved by the Saragossan Francisco Gomar between 1478 and 1488 and which –until 1963– formed part of the stalls standing at both sides of the central nave.
The pair of pontifical seats date from 1534 and were carved by John of Tours and Henry of Burgundy. The restoration process in 2012 uncovered a series of pictorial frescoes in the style of textile hangings, tapestries and figures.
The side walls near the main retable are decorated with simulated fabrics imitating cloth and decorated with stencilled floral and plant decorations arranged in horizontal bands.
This type of imitation cloth can be seen in the costumes in the various retables produced throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.
13. HIGH ALTAR
The altar was created by order of Archbishop Aspàrec de Barca (1215-1233)..
It is made of white marble with a magnificent carved frontal dating from around 1220, and is one of the finest examples of Catalan Romanesque sculpture.
It depicts six scenes from the life and martyrdom of St. Thecla arranged around a central mandorla representing the Holy Trinity: Jesus Christ blessing the saint, God the Father symbolised in the haloed Dextera Dei (or “right hand of God”) and the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove with outstretched wings.
The story of Saint Thecla
The episodes referring to the saint are shown in compartments arranged in two horizontal bands: on the left we see St. Thecla of Iconium, the fiancé of Thamyris, who listens from a window of her house to Paul preaching on the virtue of chastity.
Next, – moved by the Apostle’s teachings– Thecla offers her virginity up to Christ; then accused before the governor’s court she is condemned to the flames from which she would miraculously escape.
The sequences on the right show the saint surrounded by wild beasts that have been tamed, baptising herself by immersion in a pool full of vermin and poisonous snakes; and finally we see Thecla released from her torments when she is freed and received in the mansion of Queen Tryphaena.
The last scene depicts her death in Seleucia, surrounded by her followers, while two angels deliver her soul to heaven in the form of a dove.
14. MAIN ALTARPIECE
The retable, a work in alabaster by Pere Johan carved between 1426 and 1434, is a magnificent example of Catalan Gothic carving.
It stands on a large limestone base adorned with intertwined leaf motifs alternating with figures of children, dogs and the emblems of the archbishops Dalmau de Mur –its instigator–, and Pere Sagarriga, who was the driving force behind it.
Life and martyrdom of Saint Thecla
Above this is the exceptional and exquisitely crafted polychrome and gold predella, showing six scenes from the life and martyrdom of St. Thecla, intersected by the front of the central tabernacle with a depiction of an angel holding a shroud showing Christ venerated by the Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
The predella has two episodes which are not reproduced on the frontal of the main Romanesque altar: the torment of the saint who is yoked to oxen to be torn apart and then released as the ropes are broken; and another depicting the miraculous discovery of the saint’s arm, the source of the relic brought by the King of Armenia Minor to the church of Tarragona through the mediation of King Jaime II in 1321.
Reliefs and images
The reliefs are separated by stanchions crowned with small pinnacles and canopies containing virgin saints and martyrs: Catherine, Barbara, Lucia, Eulalia of Barcelona, Agatha, Anastasia, Cecilia and Agnes.
In the centre of the retable is the image of the Virgin and Child flanked by the carved figures of St. Thecla and St. Paul; around them are twelve reliefs reproducing scenes from Christ’s childhood, Passion and Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost and the Coronation of the Virgin.
On both sides of the retable, forming part of the same structure and in the same style, are two doors with elegant flamboyant Gothic pierced stonework crowned by two corbels with the figures of St. Olegarius and St. Fructuosus, archbishops of Tarragona.
The façades are decorated with the images of St. Michael the Archangel and the Guardian Angel, sculpted by Perris Austris, and polychromed and gilded using the “estofado” technique by the Italian painter Pietro Paolo de Montalbergo during the second half of the 16th century.
To your right is the sepulchre of John of Aragon.
15. SEPULCHRE OF JOHN OF ARAGON
On the side wall to the right of the chancel is a segmented arcosolium with ornate polylobed decoration and crockets on the reverse, containing the mausoleum of the archbishop and patriarch of Alexandria, the Infante John of Aragon, who consecrated the cathedral in 1331.
This splendid recumbent image in white marble is regarded as a towering work of Spanish Gothic sculpture, and has been attributed to a disciple of the Italian sculptor Tino di Camaíno in around 1337.
The figure of the deceased, wearing a peaceful, benign and serene expression, is surrounded by a cortege of guardian saints, including members of his own family: St. Fructuosus and St. Thecla, St. Isabella of Portugal, St. Louis, King of France, and St. Louis, bishop of Toulouse.
On top of the mausoleum under a pointed gablet is a mullioned niche which prior to the siege of the cathedral by the Napoleonic troops contained the original reliquary with the arm of St. Thecla. The niche currently houses a series of relics.
16. APSE AND SACRARIUM
In the apse –behind the retable and defended by a smiling St. Michael– is the aedicule housing the Baroque sacrarium reserved for the holy sacrament; it was carved in 1696 by Isidre Espinalt y Serrarica.
17. CHAPEL OF SAINT MARY OR TAILORS’ CHAPEL
This is the most sumptuous Gothic chapel in the cathedral thanks to its rich architectural, sculptural and pictorial decoration.
It was built before 1350, in the second quarter of the 14th century, under the patronage of Archbishop Pere de Clasquerí and at the request of the Brotherhood of Presbyters of the cathedral. The builder canons Guillem d’Anglesola and Bernat d’Albió supervised the work, and both their coats of arms can be seen on the walls. It was financed by the Guild of Tailors to which it owes its popular name.
It occupies one of the Romanesque apse bays in the cathedral, and has a hexagonal floorplan and a lierne vault. One third of the way up there is a frieze with ogee arches supported on carved corbels, crowned by a flowered cornice. The intricately carved cantoria or singers’ gallery invokes the English choir lofts.
Leaded stained-glass windows
The leaded stained-glass windows by Guillem de Letumgard date from 1359. The retable is made from polychrome limestone and decorated with scenes from the life of the Virgin. It was carved by the Norman artist Aloi de Montbrai in 1368. The simulated stained-glass windows on the wall depict St. Judas Thaddeus, James the Less and his mother Mary Jacobé and date from the second half of the 14th century.
The wall on the right contains a polychrome sepulchral urn belonging to Archbishop Pere de Clasquerí dating from around 1388 and flanked by the images of St. Paul and St. Thecla. The paintings on the lintel of the door giving onto the chancel represent the prelate dressed in pontifical vestments and kneeling before the Virgin and the Christ child.
18. CHAPEL OF SAINT BARBARA
This Gothic chapel is located on the western side of the transept and was remodelled in 1362 by Canon Bernat Rufaca.
It has a lierne vault and a decorative gablet crowning the arches, and contains a Baroque gilded wooden retable dating from 1765 with an oil painting of the patron saint, offset by two carvings by an anonymous artist representing St. Anthony of Padua and St. Blas. The painting on the finial shows St. Anthony of Padua, and the oval tondo on the base depicts the death of St. Francisco Javier on the Chinese island of Shangchuan.
19. CHAPEL OF THE HOLY SACRAMENT
This outstanding example of Renaissance art is entered through a doorway flanked by two grey granite columns from a previous Roman construction.
Old canons’ refectory
The chapel of the Holy Sacrament was adapted from the right northwest half of the old canons’ refectory built in the 12th century and covered by a pointed barrel vault.
It was remodelled between 1582 and 1592 from a design by the architects Bernat Cassany, Jaume Amigó and Pere Blai. It has a rectangular floorplan and a semi-spherical dome and an open tambour on the vault, and is decorated with male and female saints related with the Holy Sacrament.
The iconography on the headwall includes scenes from the Old and New Testament referring to the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter, framed by jasper from Tortosa.
On the left, from top to bottom we see the exterminating angel of the non-elect whose doors were not marked with the blood of the Lamb, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and Christ consecrating the wine at the last supper.
On the right we see the manna sent by God to the Israelites on their crossing through the Desert, the procession with the Ark of the Covenant, and the morsel of bread at Christ’s meeting with the disciples at Emmaus. The ensemble was painted on slate by the Dutch artist Isaac Hermes Vermey in around 1587.
The high reliefs in the sacrarium are the work of the silversmith Gaspar de Lira from Medina del Campo, and the sculptures on either side are by Domenico Albrioni and Nicolás Larraut
Sepulcro del fundador de la capilla
Sobre los altares encastados en el muro de la izquierda figuran, por este orden, un lienzo al óleo, anterior a 1586, con la Coronación de la Virgen, atribuido al genovés Luca Cambiaso; en el centro, el sepulcro del fundador de la capilla, el arzobispo Antoni Agustí, diseñado por Pere Blai y tallado en mármol alabastrino de Sarral por Isaac Alfred Vermey en 1592, siguiendo modelos de Andrea del Verrocchio; y, junto a la puerta de entrada, el altar presidido por un retablo dedicado a san Martín de Tours, de autor desconocido y datado en 1622.
Los altares encastados en el muro de la derecha muestran, en primer lugar, un lienzo del siglo XVII con la imagen orante de san Carlos Borromeo y, en el siguiente un retablo policromado, obra de Francesc Bonifàs y Massó de 1795 dedicado a san Agustín.
20. CHAPEL OF SAINTS COSMAS AND DAMIAN
It was built in the late 16th century following a design by the architect Pere Blai.
Elements of note include the austere limestone façade and the coffered vault framing the Baroque gilded wooden retable housing the figures of the patron saints in two twinned niches.
The ensemble was created in 1712.