Santa Maria de Vitoria Cathedral

Completed Project
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain


Santa María de Vitoria Cathedral was built by King Alfonso VIII of Castile after the conquest of Vitoria in the second half of the 12th century. Alfonso X was responsible for expanding and modifying the structure with Gothic details in the 13th century, and the building was embellished with a tower, choir, and a series of tombs for Vitoria’s most celebrated families at the end of the 15th century. Additions and Alterations continued through the 19th century, thus the building represents a combination of styles and architectural elements. Due to a lack of funds and political unrest, the cathedral had been poorly maintained for years, and suffered from structural and conservation problems, including the destabilization of the foundation and walls, which had shifted over time. In 2002, a conservation master plan was developed and its implementation was carried out as funds became available by the Ayuntamiento (Municipality) of Vitoria-Gastéiz.

How We Helped

In 2003, WMF contributed to the reopening of the three exterior portals of the cathedral, which had been sealed since the 18th century, the installation of a transparent gateway, and the monumental illumination of the portico. The project consisted of archaeological investigation, removing the infill walls and old flooring, installing new flooring and piping, providing improved masonry to stabilize the walls, conducting surface conservation treatments, and installing safety glass screens and illumination.

Why It Matters

The Ayuntamiento of Vitoria-Gastélz devised an innovative fundraising mechanism consisting of a program of public access during restoration works titled Abierto por Obras or “Open for Restoration,” which proved to be a big success and has been replicated at other WMF projects, such as the Capitanes Generales Palace in Guatemala and the church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas in Peru. The opportunity to invite the public in to view the conservation work and understand the efforts being made to protect the site stimulated local interest and assisted in meeting fundraising goals. This was a significant step in public promotion of conservation activities. The project was completed in 2008 and the portico is now used as an auditorium.

Last updated: August 2016.

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