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Malaga’s cathedral is officially known as Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación, but locals know it as “La Manquita” or “the one armed lady.” Its single tower – or one arm – is the cathedral’s telltale sign that it has never been fully completed. Construction began in the 16th century, and continued for several hundred years. Due to the long build time, the Cathedral of Malaga has a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. In addition to admiring the building from the inside and out, it’s also possible to take a tour of the roof. There you can get an up close view of the tower(s) and check out the city from above.

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Monday to Friday: 10am to 8pm *
Saturdays: 10am to 6pm
Sundays: 2pm to 6pm
* Nov to March: closes at 6:30pm // July to Sept: closes at 9pm

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Cathedral: 6€
Rooftop: 6€
Cathedral + Rooftop: 10€
* Discounts for senior citizens, students, children
* Free access: Mon-Thu from 9 to 10am

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Calle Molina Lario 9, 29015 Málaga

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History of Malaga's Cathedral

Rooftop of Malaga's cathedral with unfinished tower, Spain
Rooftop of Malaga's cathedral with unfinished tower

In 1487, Christian forces conquered the city of Malaga and pushed out the Muslim Moors. Just a few days later, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the Aljama mosque to be consecrated as a Christian temple and eventually for it to be replaced with a new cathedral.

Construction of the Cathedral of Malaga officially began in 1525. The famous architect Diego de Siloé, who designed several churches including the cathedral of Granada, was tasked with drawing up the plans. But he was not the last architect to work on Malaga’s cathedral. In the decades that followed, several other famous architects from the day joined him.

Exterior of the cathedral of Malaga, Andalusia – Spain
Exterior of the cathedral of Malaga

This phase of the construction saw the building take on a Gothic style. Today the gothic portal is the best example of this style and the oldest part of the cathedral.

In 1588, although far from completion, the cathedral was consecrated.

In the 17th century, several interior pieces were created. The most impressive is the choir which includes 44 intricately carved stalls. The choir was designed by Pedro de Mena (1628–1688), a protege of Alonso Cano (1601–1667), the main architect behind the Cathedral of Granada. De Mena’s choir is one of the cathedral’s most valuable works.

Altar of Malaga's cathedral, Andalusia – Spain
Altar of Malaga's cathedral

By the beginning of the 18th century, it had been almost 100 years since any real work on the cathedral itself had taken place. By this time it was warned that the structure was in danger of collapsing. Repair works started and the cathedral began to take on more influences from the Renaissance. In fact, it’s been said that all of the great Andalusian Renaissance architects had worked on Malaga’s cathedral at one time or another.

Later, José Martín de Aldehuela (1729-1802), the same architect that worked on Ronda’s New Bridge, added to the cathedral, including the organ. The cathedral’s facade began to be worked on and, with the changing styles, took on the more extravagant Baroque style.

Baroque detail in the facade of Malaga's cathedral, Andalusia – Spain
Baroque detail in Malaga's cathedral

Over the centuries, the construction of the Cathedral of Malaga amounted to an enormous expense. To fund the project, a tax was laid on all ships that docked in Malaga’s port. But even with the port taxes, it still wasn’t enough to finish the building of the cathedral.

The most notable missing part of the cathedral is the unfinished tower. The missing south tower is what gives the cathedral its nickname – La Manquita (the one armed lady). The north tower was however, completed. Its 84 m (276ft) height, makes it the second tallest cathedral in Andalusia after the Cathedral of Seville.


Money was set aside to complete the entire cathedral – it was simply used somewhere else. No one is quite sure exactly where the money was allocated, but there are two theories.

The more interesting theory is that the money was sent to the Malaga born Luis de Unzaga y Amézaga who was the Spanish Governor of Louisiana. It’s said that he used the money to help the Americans in their war of independence from the British. In one instance, Luis de Unzaga sent a boat full of gunpowder up the Mississippi River to American forces under the protection of the Spanish Flag. This shipment was crucial in stopping the British from capturing Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania.

Unfinished tower of Malaga's cathedral – Andalusia, Spain
Unfinished tower of Malaga's cathedral

The acts of Luis de Unzaga in the United States are undeniable. But if his funding came by way of the moneys from Malaga’s cathedral – that’s anyone’s guess.

The second theory of what happened to the money is much less exciting. It is thought that perhaps it was simply used on other public works projects in the region, such as the road to Antequera.


In 2000, some of the reliefs from the vaulted ceiling began to crumble due to their constant exposure to Malaga’s humid climate. Safety nets had to be installed to catch any debris that might fall.

Since then, several attempts to restore the building have taken place but the deterioration still continues. It’s estimated that around 7 millions euros are needed to restore everything and complete the cathedral.

Interior of the cathedral seen from the upper gallery, Malaga – Spain
Interior of the cathedral seen from the upper gallery

Rooftop Visits of Malaga's Cathedral

Streets of Malaga seen from the cathedral rooftop, Spain
Streets of Malaga seen from the cathedral rooftop

In 2015 the cathedral started giving tours of the rooftop. This is a great way to get up close to the north tower and see the columns from the unfinished south tower. You also get amazing views of the surrounding old town, the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro.

Keep in mind that you will be going up a narrow spiral staircase with 200 steps. Therefore, this tour is not appropriate for people with reduced mobility, breathing difficulties or with small children. Tours might also be cancelled due to bad weather.


Monday to Friday 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00, 20:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00
Saturdays 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 17:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 17:00
Sundays 16:00, 17:00, 18:00 16:00, 17:00, 18:00 closed closed
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