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The Cathedral is entering one of the most spectacular phases of the renovation work

2007/18/12 Open for Renovation Work’ attracts over 600,000 visitors

The Cathedral of Santa María is entering one of the most spectacular phases of the renovation work that began in the year 2000. In addition to a packed cultural calendar, the start of 2008 will witness the end of restoration work on the portico and the start of spectacular renovation work on the tower and naves of the Cathedral. Since guided tours were first made available to the public, this Gothic Cathedral has welcomed over 600,000 visitors.

Following seven years of intense activity, 2008 heralds a tough working schedule for the Cathedral of Santa María. Over the first few years of the Restoration Supervision Plan, fundamental work has been carried out, including archaeological digs that have provided essential and previously unknown information about the building pathologies suffered by the Cathedral and the origins of the city, the rehabilitation of access points for guided tours, the structural consolidation of the domes and the reinforcement of the entire system of foundations.

Restoration of the portico: the polychromatic façade has been recovered thanks to a revolutionary illumination process
Another of the tasks that required a great deal of care and dedication, and which even forced the temporary closure of the Cathedral, was the restoration of the portico. After months of intense work, the restoration teams have finally managed to restore one of the important monuments, historically and artistically speaking, of the 14th and 15th centuries in peninsular European. In addition to the artistic restoration work carried out, a study was also performed, revealing that the portico was once polychrome. Since the chromatic remains are difficult to make out because the façade was stripped back in the 60s, an innovative system of chromatic reintegration using light projections will enable members of the public to appreciate these magnificent colours and discover the Cathedral’s historical evolution. In a few weeks, glass doors will also be put in place around the west side of the portico, which will allow visitors to view this feature as never before, from outside the Cathedral.

Work in 2008
As for the tower, one of the main tasks will be the restoration of the spire and the octagonal body. With a timeframe of 12 months and a budget of €1.2 million, the plan is to strengthen the entire upper section, which will enable all the scaffolding to be finally taken down. The spectacular tower is also one of the best manifestations of the philosophy behind this project, which aims to overcome architectural barriers, incorporate exhibition spaces, tourist, cultural and historical uses, and in general to incorporate secular usages into a religious space.

The other projects planned for this year include strengthening the pillars, installing the wrought ironwork and the Cathedral floor, renovating the magnificent 18th century baroque sacristy and completing work on the crypt.

Intense cultural activity
The New Year brings with it a hive of cultural activity. On the 3rd, the recently unveiled portico will be the venue for a short performance by ‘Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc’, better known as the ‘Chorus’ from the film of the same name. Before performing in the Vitoria’s Teatro Principal – tickets have already sold out for the two scheduled performances – they will be singing at the Cathedral, performing some of the songs from their world tour, which has been met with both critical and public acclaim, taking them to Japan, Canada, USA, Russia and Spain.

Then, the following week, Vitoria will become the capital of the publishing world thanks to the world presentation of the Spanish edition of the latest novel written by Welsh author Ken Follett. Over the course of 4 days, between the 8th and the 11th January, the city will be the centre of attention for readers, booksellers and journalists from all around the country, thanks to the launch of ‘World Without End’ – the sequel to his worldwide best seller ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ – for which Follett took his inspiration from the Cathedral of Santa María.

Throughout the month of February, visitors will get the chance to see the first illumination trials of the portico. Shortly afterwards, in March, Rafael Álvarez, otherwise known as “El Brujo”, will be performing at the Cathedral. Álvarez, who two years go premiered a play in Vitoria based around the figure of Don Quixote, called ‘El Caballero de la Palabra”, will be staging ‘El secreto del Evangelio de San Juan’. This project aims to provide a modest contribution, in terms of the stage, to the artistic current that, through the work of men and women over the ages, evokes, contemplates or celebrates that great gift in the lives of men: the gift of mystery. There will be two performances on the 12th and 13th March in the Cathedral’s portico and the Teatro Principal.

And starting in March, a series of scientific and general interest essays will be published about the restoration process, showing the evolution and progress of this project.

‘Open for Renovation Work’ attracts over 600,000 visitors
Since it was launched in the year 2000, the programme of guided tours of the Cathedral of Santa Maria has caused a stir among visitors to the city. These unique cultural tours have drawn over 600,000 people into the Cathedral to see the restoration work up close. This figure has registered strong growth in the last few years and is still rising; it is currently close to the 100,000 mark.