30. CLOISTER DOOR
This magnificent Romanesque doorway carved in white marble dates from the late 12th century and connects the cloister with the cathedral interior.
It comprises a set of archivolts with convex mouldings supported on jambs and framing the tympanum decorated with the Maiestas Domini surrounded by the mandorla, and the Tetramorph, or the zoomorphic portrayal of the Gospel writers Matthew (angel), Mark (lion) Luke (ox) and John (eagle).
The capital of the mullion shows scenes of the birth of Christ, the Three Kings before Herod and Herodias, and the Epiphany or Adoration of the Magi.
Fauna y flora
The side capitals are decorated with animal and plant motifs, a scene of the Three Kings lying on the same bed being warned by the angel, and another with the empty tomb, the shroud, the soldiers and the three Marys in reference to the resurrection of Christ.
The doorway is engraved with the Chi Rho, or emblem of Christ and the letters alpha and omega.
The construction of the cloister was begun in the late 12th century and completed in the early 13th century.
It was a place for reading, strolling and meditation, and it was also used for processions and was the point where the main communal canonical areas converged: the dormitory, chapter room, refectory, library…
The back of the walls on the north and east sides coincides with the angle of the façade of a Roman building dating from the first century A.D.
The cloister has a quadrangular floorplan, rib vaults with simple moulding, and interesting keystones in the vault showing signs of the early Gothic style.
Each one of its four galleries is divided into six sections with two small pierced stonework oculi under a pointed supporting arch, and three semicircular arches on twinned columns with white marble capitals and imposts with a wide variety of biblical, legendary, hagiographic and moral themes
The Romanesque tradition can clearly be seen in the decorative carvings; in contrast the pierced stonework on the oculi and the frieze of polylobed arches around the outside of the upper perimeter of the cloister are clearly Islamic in origin. The whole ensemble encloses a garden, the hortus conclusus, whose plants and fountains evoke in the believer the lost earthly paradise.
PROCESSION OF THE RATS
Once upon a time, there was a noble palace in Tarragona that was full of rats that no one could get rid of.
One day, the nobleman held a banquet at which the King was the most important guest. All the rats appeared at once, scared the guests and ate all the food on the table.
The nobleman, embarrassed, searched high and low for the best ‘rat catching’ cat in the county. However, the cat he found couldn’t catch the rats because they hid in their rat hole, where he couldn’t fit.
One day, the cat decided on a plan to play dead and laid on the floor with his paws facing upwards.
When the rats saw this, they decided to make a funeral procession using a ladder and bury him. The cat, looking out of the corner of his eye, saw that all the rats where gathered around him, jumped up and ate them all.
The nobleman was so happy that he promised the cat to engrave the story in stone for everybody to see and that is exactly what he did.
32. MAIN SACRISTY
This 13th-century construction was originally used as a chapel, as can be seen by the coffering in the Treasure Room which was formerly part of the choir stalls, and the credence in the wall beside the door connecting with the central apse.
It was subsequently used as a sacristy, and the windows we see today were opened in the wall. Under the canopy on the headwall there is a splendid Baroque carving of the dying Christ on the Cross with a distinctive contrapposto.
This 18th-century work is from the church of Sant Miquel del Pla in Tarragona.
On the east wall hang two halves of one of the tapestries from a series on the story of Joseph in Egypt as told in Genesis. It shows Joseph being sold to the Ismaelites by his brothers in Dothan in exchange for 20 silver pieces, and his subsequent exaltation in the Pharaoh’s court. It was donated by Archbishop Ferdinand of Aragon and produced in Brussels in the early 16th century.
The sacristy and the Treasure Room are separated by a wall and a Gothic doorway with an ogee lintel in front of a segmented arch supporting the former choir stall.
Once inside, note the outstanding Mudéjar Gothic coffering dating from the mid 14th century; the frame is polychrome with heraldic, geometric and figurative motifs.
Here again we see the coat of arms of Bernat d’Albió, the builder canon, under whose orders it was built.
Silvery liturgy items
The glass-fronted latticework cabinets contain various objects of worship, particularly silver items used in the liturgy. Highlights include the collection of chalices, processional maces and bishop’s crosiers dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, the urn for the Maundy Thursday monument crafted in 1682 by the silversmith Gaspar Arandes Canals from Tarragona, the processional staves and the monumental neo-Gothic monstrance which were created in Barcelona in the 19th century.
The most valuable items of the cathedral treasure disappeared during the Napoleonic invasion of 1811.
34. CHAPEL OF THE CORPUS CHRISTI
This space was formerly the old Chapter Room. It has a quadrangular floorplan with a pointed barrel vault, and was built in the early 13th century.
In 1330 the “pavorde” Guerau de Rocabertí gave the orders to demolish the testera and build a chapel in the form of a polygonal apse dedicated to the worship of the Eucharist; since then it has been known as the chapel of the Corpus Christi. The polychrome relief on the keystone depicts Christ in Majesty displaying the Holy Host.
Coinciding with this extension, the walls were decorated with the theme of the Annunciation and a series of carved stone saints and apostles; these date from the first half of the 14th century and still bear remains of polychrome, along with repeated emblems of the founder.
This chapel houses Room II of the Diocesan Museum and contains a series of Gothic panels and retables produced during the 15th century. Over the apse is the retable of the Virgin from Solivella, the work of Mateu Ortoneda in the early 15th century.
The retable of St. Peter, originally from Vinaixa, dates from 1420, and is by Ramón de Mur. The retable of Santiago from Vallespinosa is attributed to Joan Mates and dates from the early 15th century.
Two large panels with scenes from the life of Christ, originally from Alcover, were painted by Jaume Ferrer II in 1457. There are also some outstanding examples of liturgical silver, including the processional cross of La Glorieta, dating from the early 15th century, and some fine reliquaries: the 14th-century True Cross of Archbishop Sescomes, and those belonging to St. John and St. Fructuosus.
In the smaller section leading to the Chapter Room –Room III of the museum– there are several works from the 16th-19th centuries. Highlights in this first space include particularly two display cabinets on your left containing items of silverwork dating from the late 18th century; and on the left-hand wall beside the door, the early 16th-century panel on the theme of the Nativity by the Maestro de Cabanyes.
Continuing on to the next room you will see –among other works– the splendid silver reliquary donated by Canon Guillem Bertran and created in Valencia by Lope de Salazar between 1478 and 1508; the 16th-century gold and inlaid pearl pectoral cross of Archbishop Pere de Cardona, subsequently transformed into a reliquary; and the monstrance in the Modernist style produced in 1922 following a design by the architect Bernardí Martorell, located in a niche in the wall on the right; the processional staves are a reproduction of the originals which were destroyed in the 1936 Civil War, and made in the workshops of Jordi Borràs i Fa from Torredembarra (Tarragona).
35. CHAPTER ROOM
This is the room where the Cathedral Chapter convenes when the new canons take possession.
It has a rectangular floorplan, a groin vault divided into three sections by means of supporting basket arches, moulded cornicing and gilded wooden keystones, and is Baroque in style.
This houses Room III of the Diocesan Museum. Its left wall is decorated with the tapestry of the Powers or Authorities, created in Arrás (France) in the 15th century; this summarises the ideas in St. Thomas Aquinas’ treatise on the government of the Princes.
On the right wall hangs the mortuary cloth of Pedro Antonio of Aragon, embroidered in Rome in the 17th century and originally from the Royal Monastery of Poblet.
The exhibits in this room include outstanding pieces of silverwork and 18th-century Baroque images such as those of Sts. Jerome and Onofre, the work of the brothers Lluís and Francesc Bonifàs, that of St. Michael the Archangel by the sculptor Antoni Pallàs, and a saint or Christ Child triumphant by an unknown artist.
36. CHAPEL OF SAINT RAYMOND
This Gothic-style chapel was built in 1520 and financed by Canon Joan Poblet.
The doorway is in the form of an ogee arch with convex moulding and pierced stonework on the intrados.
The smaller first section of the vault is ribbed and the three large beautifully-carved polychrome keystones are decorated with the image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the emblem of the founder, and St. John the Baptist.
The headwall is segmented by means of radial spokes converging in half columns suspended on the wall.
The image of the patron saint by the sculptor Ramón Ferran from Reus was made in marmoline in 1989 by order of the Archbishop of Tarragona, Ramón Torrella y Cascante, who died in 2004.
His tombstone can be seen on the flagstones beside that of the chapel’s founder.
37. CHAPEL OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE
It was built in 1536 in the Plateresque style and is notable for its extravagant architecture and ornamentation.
The intrados of the supporting arch and the side pilasters are profusely decorated with grotesque motifs a candelieri, which can also be seen on the cresting of the exquisitely worked grille. It is covered with a barrel vault adorned with coffering supported on a frieze of trygliphs and metopes with heraldic emblems.
The altarpiece features an oil painting showing sequences from the life of St. Mary Magdalene attributed to Francesc Olives, and thought to have been painted towards 1536.
38. CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF GUIDANCE
This Gothic-style chapel was built by Canon Bertran de Montoliu and his brother Vice-Admiral Berenguer, as can be seen by the family crest adorning the central keystone of the rib vault.
It was built in around 1300 to house the enormous polychrome carving of the patron saint standing in the niche in the headwall. The image, one of the oldest in the cathedral, is known both from historic documents and in popular culture a La Grossa.
Created between the 13th and 14th centuries using various species of pinewood strengthened with original tempera polychrome, and re-polychromed during the Baroque period. The altar stands on the tambour of a Roman column.
The tallest man of his time
In front of the chapel of Our Lady of Guidance is the tomb of the military man and captain of horses Francisco Plaza, “the tallest man of his time”, as you can read on the gravestone. It measured more than 12 hands that would equal a total height of 2.34 m.
He was born in Milan in 1597, possibly in a family from the Iberian peninsula, since there were many noblemen, civil servants or soldiers who during the sixteenth century went to try their luck in Italy and ended up establishing and founding a family.
At the age of fifteen he began his military career in which he served for thirty years in the thirds of Flanders and in Italy until, in 1634, he was transferred to Roussillon to form part of the army of Philip IV.
According to the documentation preserved of this period, in 1637 he was in Caldes de Montbui and Badalona, where he and his soldiers were accused of committing excesses against the Catalan peasantry.
Fortress of Salses in Roussillon
In 1639 participates actively in the military offensive to recover the strength of Salses in Roussillon. He became a prisoner of the French, but in 1640 he was freed when exchanged for a French artillery lieutenant.
It is during this year, with the outbreak of the peasant revolt of the Reapers, when he joins the army of the Marquis of Los Vélez, participating in the actions of repression against Catalonia. In 1641 he was badly wounded in the battle of Montjuïc, where Los Vélez was defeated by the Catalan-French army.
In his retreat, Francisco Plaza was quickly transferred to Tarragona, where he died on February 3 as a result of the wounds received in combat.
He was buried in the Cathedral of Tarragona on February 5, having acquired the status of noble since he was knight of the order of Santiago.
Thanks to the augmented reality technology we can see a recreation of Francisco Plaza and check his height.
39. CHAPEL OF THE OUR LADY OF THE CLOISTER
It was built between the 16th and 17th centuries. After entering, you will see the tombs of Archbishop Antonio de Echanove y Zaldívar, who occupied the See in Tarragona between 1825 and 1854, and of Vicenç Falconer, doctor of the Cathedral Chapter who died in 1693.
The alabaster and stone retable of St. Thecla was carved by Bernat y Josep Verderol in 1852. The chapel is dedicated to the worship of the image of the Virgin of the Cloister, a polychrome wood figure dating from the 13th or 14th centuries.
On the left you can see a painting on the theme of the Annunciation painted by the artist Miquel Fluixenc y Trill from Tarragona.
The remaining paintings depict the Virgin appearing to St. Francis of Paola, and the Virgin appearing to St. Philip Neri, dating between the 17th and 18th centuries.
40. CHAPEL OF THE HOLY SAVIOUR
This Renaissance chapel was commissioned by Nicolau Albanell and his wife Ángela Trillo. The Chapter granted the licence for its construction in 1533 and it was blessed on 11 April 1535.
It is a light and spacious structure that very closely follows the more elementary outlines of the Renaissance, as can be seen from the generous barrel vault adorned with coffering above a frieze of triglyphs and metopes.
The altar was built by the benefice Pere Mir in 1537. The high-relief retable in white stuccoed pinewood on the frontal depicts the baptism of Jesus. It was made by Vicenç Roig y Besora in around 1835, and replaces a previous one dedicated to St. Mary of La Esperanza originally installed in 1537.
41. CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF SNOWS
This Gothic chapel was built in around 1414 by Pere de Vallfogona and Guillem de la Mota, and financed by Pere Poch, a citizen of Tarragona.
Its outstanding features include its doorway with mouldings decorated with thistle leafs on the reverse, the smaller initial section with a rib vault and three historiated keystones depicting St. Thecla on the supporting arch, the Tau del Cabildo on the first vault, and the Virgin with the Christ Child on the second. Another highlight is the ornamented headwall with radial spokes flanked by crockets.
An oil painting by an anonymous artist of Our Lady of Snows –or “La Buena Nueva”– is revered in this chapel, and dates from between the 18th and 19th centuries. The wrought iron grille was made by the wrought- ironmonger Vidal Gassia from Tarragona.
42. FORMER CANON’S REFECTORY
The visit concludes in the north section of the former canons’ refectory. It was built in the 12th century and has a pointed barrel vault; its headwall still conserves part of the Roman wall built in the first century A.D. according to the technique of the opus quadratum, with isodomum masonry.
Room 1 of the Diocesan Museum
The perforations in the side indicate that it was originally clad in marble, a common practice on important monuments at the time of the Roman Empire. This area houses Room 1 of the Diocesan Museum.
It contains a selection of works of art from Roman times through to the 15th century from the cathedral itself and from other areas in the Archdiocese of Tarragona.e.
Particularly worth noting is the funerary stele of the auriga Eutyches, from the second century A.D., the Arab alabaster arch with polychrome remains dating from the year 960, the series of images of the Virgin, Roman sculptures from the transitional period between the 12th and 14th centuries, and the 13th-century gilded copper guiding cross.
Over the lintel of the door into the room is a tapestry showing the scene of Samson destroying the temple of the Philistines; it was woven in Brussels in the 17th century.
The archaeological works and the architectural intervention carried out between the years 2000 and 2003, allowed to bring to light a significant part of the temenos, the porticoed wall that surrounded the precinct of imperial cult dated in the 1st century BC.
Located on the north side of the current cloister, this wall is formed by large stone blocks and had a series of windows (fenestrase) designed to illuminate the interior of the portico. The face that would give the great square was decorated with large marble plaques (the lace still visible on the wall preserved inside the Diocesan Museum) while the face that gave the outside was left with the ashlars in sight.
Later, in the s. XII is integrated inside the construction of the Cathedral, giving rise to a large room that still conserves the arcades and where we can appreciate one of the fenestrase turned into a door walled when constructing the gallery of the cloister.
The most important is called Las Potestats or “The Good Life”; weaved in the 15th century in a studio in Arras (France), of large dimensions (4,65 x 10,65cm), which was donated by archbishop Gonzalo Fernandez de Heredia at the end of the century.
A piece of a Flemish tapestry from the beginning of the XV century which is complete with, two tapestries of the Joseph’s history donated by the archbishop. Alfonso of Aragon, at the beginning of the XVI century (made in Brussels in the XV century). The Cardinal Gaspar Cervantes de Gaete made a donation in his testament (1575) of different series: the four tapestries called “of vegetables” (made in Enghien o Oudenaarda, netherlands, in the XVI century), the three tapestries of David’s series ( made in Brussels in the XVI century) the eight tapestries of Tobías’s series ( made in Brussels in the XVI century), and five tapestries of Sonsons’s series ( made in Brussels in the XVII century) .
The canon Diego Giron of Rebodello made a donation in his testament of eight tapestries of Ciro’s el Grande series (1682) (made in Brussels in the XVII century) of ten tapestries of Poverbios’s series ( made in Brussels in the XVII century) and the eight tapestries of famous woman’s the XVII century). Some of the tapestries of these two last series were inspired by Jacob Jardoens’s cartons.
The collection was completed with two coats of arms of the XVI and XVIII centuries and with a embroider mortuary cloth of Pere Anton d’ Aragon’s embroidery (made in Rome in the XVII century) from the Monastery of Poblet.
SAINT TECLA THE OLD
It is located in the end angle of the oriental part of the Cathedral, with a garden facing it which was the old cemetery.
It was built in the first half of the XIII century.
In its interior, in an arcosolium practised in the gospel wall, we can find a white marble tomb which it is supposed to belay to the archbishop Bernat d’Olivella (+1287).