Santa María Cathedral, inspiration for a novel



There are places in the world full of magic that are capable of inspiring famous bestsellers. Would you like to know one? Don't miss Santa María Cathedral, the great symbol of Vitoria, located in the north of Spain. You will discover a cathedral that has served as a muse to the writer Ken Follett for his new work. It is a marvel of Gothic architecture that can be visited in a very special way. Would you like to know how? Carry on reading.

"Nowhere in the world can you see anything like this," said Ken Follet after a number of visits to the Cathedral of Álava (in the Basque Country). What led to his fascination? The fact is that since 2000 the cathedral dedicated to Santa María has been undergoing a process of restoration to which the whole world has been invited. Why? Because this cathedral has hung the sign "Open for Restoration Work" outside its entrance and organises guided visits in which you can witness at first hand how architects and archaeologists are recovering the original colours and the magnificent 18th-century baroque sacristy or completing the funerary crypt.

This original and unique visit around the interior of the cathedral was what amazed Ken Follett and led him to write the continuation of his bestseller "The Pillars of the Earth". The result is his latest novel, "World Without End", which as the author admits has been inspired byVitoria Cathedral. So if you decide to discover this cathedral, you will see a statue of the Welsh writer (the only one in the world) standing next to it as a symbol of thanks.

International attention

It is clear that all eyes have turned to this cathedral since its novel restoration process was undertaken. It has been the location for events as notable as a performance by Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc, with songs from the film "Les Choristes" ("The Chorus") in the magnificent portico. The building has also been the location for theatrical performances or talks by literary personalities such as Paulo Coelho, Arturo Pérez Reverte and José Saramago. So it is no surprise that the restoration work has received a special Europa Nostra award from the European Union for conservation of the cultural heritage.

For all these reasons we recommend that if you want to take a trip to Spain, be sure to visit this marvellous cathedral. You will be impressed when you are given a privileged close-up view on a scaffolding of the interior or the beautiful vaulting. There is no doubt it will be the first time you will have enjoyed a religious building like this. Don't forget the ambulatory or the portico, one of the most important examples from the Spanish middle ages, with its reliefs of the Virgin Mary and the Final Judgment.

After this experience, if you are an art and culture enthusiast, we suggest that you should get to know the beautiful and stately city of Vitoria. There are programmes of guided visits to its walls, or you can walk around its mediaeval streets, admire its renaissance palaces and churches, and other architectural jewels such as the Pro-Cathedral of the Immaculate Mary or the Casa del Cordón house .

Thousands of people have already witnessed the special atmosphere of this city and the exceptional opportunity to witness at first hand the reconstruction of a Gothic cathedral. You can take an elevated view of the construction which enchanted Ken Follett. Don't wait to read about it in the books, live it in person.

If you want more information about guided visits, see our feature: "Open for restoration work": Vitoria Cathedral reveals its secrets


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