Its full name is Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (Our Lady of Incarnation) although in Málaga it is simply known as «the Cathedral». Cathedrals are important in all cities, but here in Málaga it is even more important than usual. It is not only a religious building but a landmark, a national landmark, a milestone along the road and a witness to many events.
The building is one of the best examples of Spanish religious art and it is located on the remains of other cultural buildings such as the early Almohad mosque.
Its foundations were laid around 1530 and work ended in the 17th century, although it is unfinished and lacks coping on the main façade and the south tower.
The missing tower has led to it being popularly known as La Manquita (one-armed) and a legend that is still told today says that the money allocated for its completion in the 19th century was sent to pay for the wars in America, although there is evidence that the money actually went to fund emergency public works in the province.
With three naves with ambulatories, it is in some ways an evolution of Gothic art. This style initially welcomed the new Renaissance ideas building all the naves to the same height with ribbed vaults forming the characteristic cupolas that can be seen from above, for example, when you observe the cathedral from the Málaga Palacio hotel.
The elevation integrates Siloé’s style with the Brunelleschi cube, helping to give greater height and visual impact without distorting the canon.
The design of the apse makes the Manquita the sister of Granada and Guadix, both 16th century Andalusian cathedrals. However, the choir relates it to the Choirs of Toledo and Córdoba, the three most important of Spain.
The Málaga choir has 42 carvings that are mostly the work of Pedro de Mena and a masterpiece made after previous interventions by Luis Ortiz de Vargas and the Apostleship by sculptor José Micael Alfaro, all of which make it one of the most important works of its kind.
There are also two magnificent organs with more than 4,000 pipes, rare and beautiful examples of 18th century musical instruments. Today they are still being put to good use and are frequently played in concerts.
The façades of the cathedral are known as «de las Cadenas» or «of the Chains» that face the Zea-Salvatierra Palace with its gardens and courtyard of orange trees. The main façade, is referred to as the Plaza del Obispo (Bishop’s Square) and also, although it is not physically part of the Cathedral, as the Tabernacle façade.
Since the mid-20th century, the Cathedral has been completely detached after the last houses that were attached to it in the area by the park were demolished.
You will find the Museo Catedralicio (Cathedral Museum) inside the cathedral, which is currently housed where the old Chapter House can be found. There are two rooms, part of the 18th Century building work, with beautiful 19th Century coffer-work, pieces from the Cathedral itself and other sites. Some original rooms have now disappeared such as the old Room of Ornaments, also called the Cathedral Treasury, and the old Chapter House itself. The first room houses most of the sacred works.