If you haven’t yet caught on to my architecture obsession, then this post should clear things up for you.
A while ago, I mentioned in a post how I’d made it a goal of mine to visit and photograph as many of Granada’s buildings, both historical and modern, as possible. Well, I certainly haven’t visited every single one, but the following is a list (in order) of what I think are the top five religious buildings in this wonderful city I’ve gotten to call home for over three months now.
1) Monasterio de San Jerónimo
Long story short: I think this monastery (from its cloisters to its various, multi-purpose rooms, and especially its attached church) is absolutely beautiful.
It’s hard to put into words the awe and sometimes shock I feel when I visit historic buildings as architecturally stunning as this one.
Having stumbled upon the monastery on one of my many haphazard rambles throughout Granada, I had no idea what to expect from the inside. Right off the bat, I was captivated by the cloisters. And then I entered the church. And that’s when the awe really hit me.
I literally got chills. It may have been partly due to the fact that it was freezing inside, but nevertheless, that detail and that ostentatiousness and that absolutely INSANE extravagance were certainly chills-worthy.
I was totally and completely floored by the interior of this church. I could have spent hours in there, going more pro HDR-crazy than I already had been, or simply sitting on one of the rickety wooden pews and staring and goggling at every surface in there.
The church in the Monasterio de San Jerónimo is what garnered this building complex the top spot on my list. Maybe you can’t tell from my amateur photos, but trust me, come here and you will be amazed.
2) La Cartuja
It’s the monastery that gives my UGR campus its name, resting at the foot of the hill upon which the campus is located, and yet it took me two months to make the effort to seek it out. It’s not much from the outside, but as usual, my visit here was rewarded by the exquisite interior…which as it happens you’re not allowed to take photos of.
But I simply had to. And I got there right when it opened at 10am so there wasn’t anyone else there…so I did.
It’s considered one of the best examples of Spanish Baroque architecture, but taken together with the Catedral de Granada and the Capilla Real (coming up), I would say that the Monasterio la Cartuja takes the cake. The immaculate painted dome at the back of the main chapel is what won me over:
Seriously, where else have you seen a mix of paintings, frescos, and ornate gold- and wood-work that elaborate? This tiny little tabernacle with its gorgeous painted dome is what places Cartuja above the Catedral and the Capilla for me (although I’m sure others would disagree with me).
La Cartuja, or the historic Charterhouse of Carthusian monks in Granada, blew me away. It made for a perfect, pre-going-to-class visit.
3) La Capilla Real
The royal chapel, and the home to the tombs of the great Catholic monarchs (los Reyes Católicos), Fernando and Isabel…and another location where pictures of the interior aren’t allowed. Disappointingly, there were more guards here so I didn’t feel as confident pulling out my iPhone to snap some pictures. Luckily we have this wonderful thing called the internet.
Although it’s attached to the Cathedral, somehow I missed it when I went the Cathedral for the first time when my friend Lauren came to visit. The highlight of the Capilla Real, in my opinion, is without a doubt the ornate, white marble tombs of the Reyes Católicos (left), and of their daughter, Juana la Loca, and her husband Felipe (right). I so wish I would’ve been able to photograph the incredibly sculpted detail up close.
There’s also a museum inside with various relics and paraphernalia from the reign of the Reyes Católicos, but these tombs are the spectacle of the Capilla Real as far as architecture goes.
You can also walk down a short flight of stairs to see the actual coffins in which the Reyes Católicos are buried…an eerie but exciting site. Given my predilection for the history of 15th-16th century Europe, I was strangely fascinated with my proximity to the remains of perhaps two of the most illustrious and successful monarchs in European, if not world, history.
The tombs of the dead Catholic monarchs are incredible. Yes, that is blunt, but that was and still is my reaction to the Capilla Real, and why it ranks number three on my list.
4) La Catedral de Granada
It is one of the most unique cathedrals I have ever seen. An almost exclusively white interior, I marveled particularly at the immense fluted columns and the sumptuous and decorative ceilings.
It’s a lot less “flashy” or “flamboyant,” if you will, than the more decorative and ostentatious baroque style found in the Monasterio de San Jerónimo and la Cartuja, but it has a majestic flawlessness of its own.
All in all, the hype about this Cathedral as described online, in brochures, and other travel guides, in my opinion, is justly warranted.
5) Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Perpétuo Socorro
The same meander that led me to #1 on this list also led me to this church or sanctuary. It is one of the many but lesser-known cathedrals in Granada, but among the 10 or so I’ve visited it certainly stands out.
It’s kind of like a mini-Catedral de Granada, with the all-white interior and grandiose columns, but in a smaller architectural space. Nevertheless, I find it (almost) equally stunning.
While this religious space doesn’t top any lists of places to visit in Granada, I for one think it is (in this regard) unjustly underrated. But then again, nobody can visit all of Granada’s churches, can they?
And there you have it, the best of Granada’s religious buildings (in my opinion). I don’t pretend to posit this list as 100%-spot-on, but hey, if you were to come visit me in Granada for a week, and if you were interested in historic or religious architecture, I’d certainly make sure we hit up at least a couple of these! 🙂