Probably, there isn't a medieval Cathedral that doesn’t have an interesting history. And Vitoria’s one, the Old one, also has its own story. The thing is, it is not too clear where it all starts.
Some ancient chronicles say that when Sancho the Wise founded New Victoria, in 1181, there was already a Romanic chapel in the villa. And it seems that it is over it where they ended building Santa Maria’s Church, which after a long time would reach the status of Cathedral.
The fact is that what you can see today comes from the fourteenth century when the temple was more or less finished according to the Gothic style which was then in full fashion. But this kind of Gothic was not like the one in other places, florid and exuberant, it was sober and without many decorations except for the entrance portico. And what’s with all the seriousness? You may ask.
Mainly because the temple was as dedicated to the glory of God as to the defence of the people of Victoria; that is, it was used to pray, yes, but also to avoid attacks and invasions too. You will clearly see that character of solid fortification if you take a walk around the square and look at the remains of the wall between the Cathedral and the Palace of Montehermoso. Remember, it was the Middle Ages, and the city had been coolly planted in the middle of many roads that one day could bring peaceful traders and the next, armies looking for a fight.
But those were not going to be the main problems for the building. When it acquired the category of a collegiate church, back in the fifteenth century, its leaders got cocky, and they began works to improve the set. They raised the bell tower, replaced the old light vaults with heavier ones, and the balance of forces was severely resented, as an amateur engineer would know.
It was necessary to resort to flying buttresses and buttress, but even so, deformations and cracks began to appear in the structure, which created fears that everything would collapse. Carefully, reforms were made to set things right, but centuries passed, the twentieth century came, and the problems were still not solved. The fire that broke out while the city was celebrating to have escaped an epidemic of cholera, in 1856, did not help either.
So, in the past nineties, they decided to take the bull by the horns and undertake an ambitious plan of complete restoration that left the Old Cathedral as new, although it seems a contradiction. The works were recognised and awarded, and even Ken Follett would present in the temple the continuation of his famous book The Pillars of the Earth, taking the opportunity to dedicate a lot of praise to Vitoria´s Cathedral. It is not a fictional invention, no! It’s there, and is a must see!