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31/07/2003

The guided tours incorporate a new route

31/07/2003 Visitors can walk around Santiago Chapel and access the south crossing down a 14th century spiral staircase.

31/07/2003 Santa María Cathedral reveals yet more of its secrets. From this week onwards, the guided tours around the gothic cathedral will take a new route, including hitherto unseen areas of great historical importance which have remained closed to the public for decades. The new features are mainly located in the south crossing, where intensive work has been carried out over recent years in order to consolidate damaged structures.

Visitors can, for the first time, enter Santiago Chapel via a spiral staircase which connects with San Prudencio Chapel from the Ramparts Walk. They can also walk around the south crossing, which was filled with scaffolding until just a few weeks ago, see the tombs of the Vasterra family and wander round Santa Ana and Santísima Trinidad Chapels. They can also take a look at the proposed restoration project for the tower and portico in the choir.

The new route immerses visitors in a magical world filled with medieval remains. For the first time, visitors will be allowed access to areas which have remained closed for decades. This has been made possible thanks to one of the main tasks carried out during this first six months: the replacement of the scaffolding in the south crossing by a new steel structure.

Up until now, the route ran along the Ramparts Walk. Visitors went round the entire outer perimeter of the cathedral to San Prudencio Chapel, and then turned around and retraced their steps back to the inside of the building. All this changes with the new route. From the altar, built in honour of the patron saint of Alava, visitors will be shown the old connection between the Ramparts Walk and San Vicente Church and will then be led down a 14th century spiral staircase which has remained closed to the public for more than half a century.

This staircase is extremely important since it connects the Ramparts Walk first with Santiago Chapel and then with the cathedral. The visit to Santiago Chapel from the choir is one of the major attractions of the new route. The construction of the chapel is linked to the important pilgrim trail that passed through Alava, via Saint Adrian´s Tunnel, during the final decades of the 12th century and throughout the entire 13th century.

Replacement of the scaffolding in the south crossing
After having a look around Santiago Chapel, visitors continue on down the spiral staircase to reach the main body of the cathedral once again. At this point, they can walk around the south crossing, which was filled by scaffolding until just recently and is scheduled also for excavation. The replacement of the scaffolding has been a complex task, since before being dismantled, the new structure which supports the centring of the vault had to be set in place.

Visitors can now stand right underneath the vault of the south crossing and admire this area which has sustained some of the most heavy damage in all its glory. Furthermore, the elimination of the scaffolding enables visitors to walk around Santa Ana and Santísima Trinidad Chapels, which house the tombs of the Vasterra and Iñiguez families. These tombs, dating from the end of the 13th century, are some of the most important of their kind still surviving in the province.

Another of the new features included in the route is the exhibition of the restoration project for the tower and portico in the choir. Thanks to a 3D audio-visual recreation and a number of informative panels, visitors are presented with an in-depth explanation of the solution proposed for one of the most emblematic areas of Santa María Cathedral.

Anyone interested in going on this unique tour can make a reservation either by calling 945 255 135 or visiting our website at www.catedralvitoria.com. The Old Cathedral is open to the public every day of the week from 11.00 to 14.00 and from 17.00 to 20.00. The tour costs €2.

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