The Cathedral represents in part the Spanish Renaissance style although I did spot a few gothic elements around the back with pinnacles which is because the designs were initially Gothic before the later designs made way for the emerging Renaissance style.
It began construction in 1518 and was built on the site of an earlier Mosque. The architect was Enrique Egas to begin with, who was responsible for the foundations and the Capilla Real of the building that stands today. (The Capilla Real being the 'Royal Chapel' that encorporates Gothic design and is the Gothic view from behind that I spoke about).
From 1529 onwards Diego de Siloe then became the architect and saw to much of the work being done.
However, there are other noted architects involved seeing as it took long over a century until it was complete. One important one to mention is Alonso Cano. He is the reason that the facade design was altered... hence the Baroque elements that would have been out of place at the beginning of it's construction when the Renaissance style was favoured.
I've tried to upload the pictures in the order that I took them as I walked around the circumference of the building, so that it should in a way allow you to imagine walking around it too. We went behind the left side and came back around on the right hand side!
The rich carving and the scale of the bottom compartment in comparison to the top compartment makes the building impressive and daunting - typically Baroque. Baroque elsewhere in Europe was a response to the reformation and abided by the guidelines set out by the counter reformers. Architects were ordered to build densely, impressively and on a huge scale to show the world just how powerful the Catholic Church was.
However, I find it interesting that Baroque in Spain takes on a meaning of it's own. Of course, Spanish rulers had the catholic vs Protestant issue on their minds seeing as they had occupied the south of the Netherlands and were faced with the Protestant faith of their immediate neighbours (Northern Netherlands- or Flanders, at the time). However, they had also recently reconquered Muslim Spain and therefore the idea of baroque took on a far more significant role ( I think so anyway!!). This is even more interesting when you realise the facade is built upon the base shape of a triumphal arch. Triumph over the Nazarene Dynasty that ruled Granada for centuries.
I have never seen a cathedral so close to domestic buildings (and some cafés)
The Baroque as an evolution of Mannerism, shook up the language of classical architecture. Notice that there is not one column or pilaster, but multiple, that convex and concave. Also, notice how the pediment on the far top left is within a pediment itself, while the circular shape that the ogee pediment morphs into is echoing the oculus window below it. Much like St Paul's in London actually, it has round shapes echoed all over the place and of course represents our quirky take on Baroque in England.
The scene of the annunciation. This is given prime position over the main entrance because the church is dedicated to the annunciation. There is also a vase like thing at the top with lillies emerging from the top to allude to the virginity and innocence of the virgin.
If I had to guess who this is I would say it is St. Paul. This is because he has a book under his left arm which is his attribute (although he usually holds a staff in his other hand with a cross at it's top which I cannot see-perhaps he has a cross in his hand without the staff? ). Also, St. Paul and St. Peter are often represented together (read on and that will eventually make sense) because they share the same feast day which would further imply this figure is indeed St. Paul. The two figures flank either side of the entrance.
St Peter - or San Pedro in Spanish - the first pope hence he's holding the crossed keys of heaven. The attribute of the pope in the Catholic Church and the papacy as a whole.
You see this as you walk down the alleyway to the left of the building. Here you see a slightly more medieval portal like entrance with jambs ( the French word for legs - the base 'legs' of the arches). Weirdly though, it reminds me of a Renaissance tomb - not a tomb in the sense of a singular enclosed grave but the decoration that would surround a tomb of a royal, saint or someone important altogether. For example, Michelangelo's tomb. Other elements here are barroquial (overlapping pilasters for example) but for me personally I cannot shake off the Renaissance impression that I immediately got from it. It is eclectic in style.
I may be wrong, but when I said their styles are more eclectic (much like everywhere except for High Renaissance Italy) I meant this kind of thing. This is a close up of the picture above. Look at the creatures, creatures like this remind me of Gothic architecture much more than it does anything else. But then again, the placard has the date 1639 written on it - by which time the gothic Influence from over 180 years beforehand may have sizzled out. Maybe it was added later and weathered badly. I don't know. I should probably research these things before I babble on about them.
As you can probably tell this building is odd and is not straightforward in its style, as every bit of architecture is lol. This appears more classical to me ( the top bit).
Loyalty and justice - fides and justicia
So pretty! Not sure of the date of that door that I just about caught in the picture but having seen the Alhambra before my visit to the cathedral I am led to believe that the Spanish may have taken some tips from their predessesors. I will upload my photos from the Alhambra but in the meantime take my word for it that these can easily remind you of the marquetry on the ceiling of the palace.
Pilaster immediately next to a column and yet again alternating planes - features that came to define the Baroque style. It is comparable to the front facade for definite but is definitely more decorated.
All of these pictures above are beautiful. By far my favourite corner of the ever changing facade of the cathedral. From the pictures I've seen of the inside, this is the side that looks most like the interior. It is lighter and more ornate but nonetheless very impressive. I was confused as to why the back of the building would be so nice, could it have been the front facing facade initially? Or intended to be after the failed plans to extend the building?
The heraldic imagery pictured above is the coat of arms that represented Isabella and Ferdinand- the two responsible for conquering Spain. They united two kingdoms from the north of Spain: the kingdom of Castilla and the kingdom of Leon. With the power that came from uniting the two most important kingdoms in Spain the Catholics had found the power to overrule the Muslims. Today Castilla y Leon is an autonomous community in its own right and the coat of arms remains similar to this.
These are the gothic pinnacles I mentioned earlier, right around the back!
Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to see the inside because it is shut during the afternoon and opens up again at 4 30 by which time I had already left Granada !