The Cathedral in Santillana del Mar is astonishing! The town is a short hop from Santander and a busy tourist town. But wander down the high street and suddenly you arrive at a Cathedral!
The Exterior of the Cathedral
A Benedictine Monastery c. 870 was the first religious establishment in Santillana del Mar. Nothing remains of this building. In the 11C the Augustinian Order took over and developed a Collegiate Church. They brought with them the remains of Santa Juliana who is buried in the Cathedral. The town is also named after the saint. Today’s Cathedral dates from the 12C and it is apparently the largest on the Cantabrican coast.
I think the Cloister is quite remarkable, with the most extraordinary carvings on the capitals. I found it difficult to photograph convincingly.
The symbols and figures on the capitals are both biblical and fantastical, and beautifully carved. There are angels, beasts, dragons, and plants, as well as more abstract carvings. Strangely I couldn’t find much information about the significance of these carvings on the internet. I wonder therefore if the dragons generally signify evil or darkness? Some of the beasts may symbolise the Four Evangelists: Matthew (winged man), Mark (winged lion), Luke (winged ox), John (eagle).
I visited a lot of Cloisters during the weeks in Spain! They were almost all atmospheric and calm. The Cloister in this Cathedral was no exception. It is beautiful, with a wonderfully peaceful and intimate atmosphere which is in contrast to the tourists on the streets of the town. Do visit!