Alicante Monuments: Churches and Temples
CHURCHES AND TEMPLES
Iglesia de Santa María(St Mary's Church)
This is the oldest church in the city and was built in the Gothic style between the 14th and 16th centuries over the ruins of what was once the main mosque during the Moorish domination. The solid-looking towers flanking the façade are similar in appearance, but are in fact different in that the right tower has an original "L" shape and dates from the 14th century whereas the other is rectangular and was erected in 1713. The portal is a beautiful example of sculpted baroque stonework and is attributed to Juan Bautista Borja. Of note inside is the high alter in golden rococo (18th C), the choir in a very pure 14th-century Gothic style, the 16th-century Immaculate Conception chapel, with an image by Esteve Bonet (18th C), the antechoir, with a handsome baroque stone doorway, and the baptism chapel whose font in white Carrara marble is of Italian workmanship from the 16th century, attributed to the school of Michelangelo. There are many works of art kept inside this church, of which two valuable pieces from the 15th century can be highlighted: a Gothic image in stone representing St Mary and a sculpture of the Santos Juanes by Rodrigo de Osona. There are also incunabula dating from the 13th century onwards.
Concatedral de San Nicolás de Bari(Concathedral of Saint Nicholas of Bari)
The outside of this cathedral looks highly restrained and can be stylistically placed within the framework of the later Renaissance and the early non-ornamented baroque styles. Built between 1616 and 1662 following plans by Agustín Bernardino, a disciple of Herrera, it still preserves traces of the cloister dating from the 15th century, showing a smaller former temple that was built over the ancient mosque. Inside, the cathedral is spaciously proportioned, with a delicate dome soaring to 45m above the floor. There is a fine Communion chapel, considered one of the most beautiful examples of the high Spanish baroque. Within the same style are the doors of the cloister and the chapel of San Nicolás (1676), patron of the city, with an image of the saint, located in the centre of the apse and made by Juan de Villanueva. On the lower side is the reliquary bust of the Alicante St Felicitas (15th C) and on both sides are the co-patrons, St Rocco and San Francisco Javier. Of note among the cathedral's artistic heritage are the Retablo de las Animas (Nicolás Borrás, 1574), the Cristo de la Buena Muerte (Nicolás de Bussi, 17th C) and an Italian baldachin in marble and jade from 1688.
Monasterio de la Santa Faz (Monastery of the Holy Visage)
This is now a nunnery of the order of St Clare located in a nearby town at 5km from the city centre. It dates from the early 16th century although the church in its current style was built between 1752 and 1766. Of the former fortified edifice only the defence tower (1582) is still preserved, on the right side of the building. The monastery has a fine, stylised, triple-panel baroque door, and inside, behind the high altar, is a finely-wrought hexagonal chamber (1677-1680) decorated with paintings by Juan Conchillos and containing a reliquary of the Holy Visage, inside of which, according to tradition, is one of the folds of the linen that Veronica used to wash the face of Christ on His way to Calvary, brought from the Vatican in the last third of the 15th century. Since 1489 popular pilgrimages have been made to this site each year, demonstrating the enormous devotion that Alicanteans have for the Holy Visage. Buried at the monastery are two of the city's illustrious sons: the composer Oscar Esplá and the painter and sculpture Eusebio Sempere.
OTHER CHURCHES AND TEMPLES
Within the old part of town is a nunnery known as the Monjas de la Sangre. This was originally a Jesuit school dating from 1732 but since 1790 it belongs to the order of the Augustine Mothers. In the chapel is an image of the Virgin of Solitude (16th-17th C) considered to be the most ancient effigy taking part in the Holy Week procession. Just up the street is the chapel of St Rocco, co-patron of Alicante, erected in 1559, reconstructed in 1875 and recently restored. In the high altar is the figure of the Gypsy Christ, held in great devotion.
At the highest point of the quarter is the chapel of Santa Cruz, from the last third of the 18th century, built over the tower of the Ampolla, a cylindrical outpost along the old town walls, to which one can arrive through narrow, winding streets boasting typical architecture.
Returning to the traditional urban centre, there are two religious buildings located next to each other: the interesting Capuchin convent has a superb "pietà" by the ingenious image-maker Francisco Salzillo located on the right side of the chapel and known as Our Lady of Anguish. This enclosed convent contains (in a miraculous state of preservation) the body of the abbess and founding mother Sor Ursula Micaela Morata Garibaldo (1628-1703), writer and nun of Italian ascendance who was very popular in her day.
On the other side is the church of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, a large, imposing prototype of contemporary religious architecture. Built between 1945 and 1951 by the architect Antonio Serrano Bru, this building was clearly inspired by the concathedral of San Nicolás and possesses elements of Herreran and neoclassical influences, with an octagonal belltower that is practically freestanding.
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