Old and New Cathedrals

In Europe, most cathedrals are reconstructions of older cathedrals which were rendered obsolete by their size, condition or style. There are, however, cases where the inhabitants of a city did not want to destroy their old cathedral, and it remains alongside its newer version. Here are five examples of cities where old and new cathedrals coexist.

Wikimedia Commons/Manfred Heyde

Brescia, Italy

The Old Cathedral is a Romanesque building that was erected in the 11th century on the site of a previous basilica. Important works were carried out there between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. The new cathedral was erected between 1604 and 1825 on the site of the early Christian basilica of San Pietro de Dom (5th-6th century). The old cathedral, which was in an advanced state of deterioration, had to be replaced by a new one, more suited to the new architectural requirements dictated by the Counter-Reformation and more in line with the architecture of the time.

Old Cathedral of Brescia

Salamanca, Spain

The Cathedral of Santa María, known as the "Old Cathedral", is one of the two cathedrals of Salamanca. its construction began in the 12th century and was completed in the late 14th century, in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Its structure is adjacent to the "new cathedral". The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, popularly called “New Cathedral”, was built between the 16th and 18th centuries, mixing late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. It is the second-largest cathedral in Spain by dimensions.

Old Cathedral of Salamanca
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Coimbra, Portugal

The old cathedral of Coimbra was built between 1146 and 1218 and is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Portugal, as it has remained practically intact since its construction period. In 1772, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, the title of cathedral was transferred to the Jesuit church, now the New Cathedral of Coimbra. This church was originally built by the Jesuits in the 16th century next to the famous University of Coimbra. This baroque-style church was seen as an inspiration for many church styles in Colonial Brazil, particularly the Jesuit church in Salvador, Brazil.

Old cathedral of Coimbra
Wikimedia Commons/Charliemoon

Marseille, France

The Old Major was built from the 11th century on the site of an earlier church dating from the 5th century. The cathedral, of the Provençal Romanesque style, then had a bell tower added in the 14th century. The destruction of the old cathedral of the Major was decided in 1852, to allow the construction of the new cathedral Sainte-Marie-Majeure in Marseille. The old cathedral only owes its rescue to the intervention of the French Archaeological Society, which blocked its destruction in 1853. The New Major was built in the neo-Byzantine style between 1852 and 1893 following the plans of the architect Léon Vaudoyer. It has been a listed historical monument since 1906.

Old Major

Lleida, Spain

The Old Cathedral of Lleida was built between 1203 and 1278 in the Romanesque style, but its tower and main door are from the 15th century and were therefore built in the Gothic style. In 1707 the cathedral became a military barracks and a new cathedral was built from 1761 to 1781. Carlos III of Spain (1716-1788) granted permission and part of the financing for the construction of the new cathedral, on the condition that the city abandoned its intentions to recover the Seu Vella as the seat of the bishop. The new cathedral is in Baroque style, with the influence of French academic classicism.

Old Cathedral of Lleida