Santiago’s Cathedral in Bilbao is a peculiar building: by just looking at it for a moment you will conclude that it is apparently Gothic. However, its construction lasted until the end of the nineteenth century, five hundred years after the Gothic era had ended.
Curiously, the reason why the aesthetic of the nineteenth-century works remained faithful to the original style, it was because enough time had passed for the Medieval fashions to return: now the Neo-Gothic was the trend, so, everything was in order.
But, let us start at the beginning. Santiago’s Cathedral is right in the middle of the Siete Calles (Seven Streets), in the old part of Bilbao. And it was already there when the city was only small, in fact, it was already there when Bilbao didn’t even exist.
Back then, it did not have the status of cathedral, but it was a temple dedicated to the apostle and had been erected long before Don Diego López de Haro had left his signature on the founding document of the town of Bilbao, in the summer of 1300.
In 1374, a horrifying fire, so frightful that it seemed to come straight from hell, swept everything. The Pope had to change indulgences for generous donations to build a new church that, given the times and trends, could not be anything other than Gothic. And here we return to the beginning of our story.
The works, of course, went very slow, so much that in the following centuries there was time to add some Renaissance elements. But in the nineteenth century the circle was completed, and as we were saying, the Gothic style came back like a fever during which, around 1880, the current appearance of the building was achieved. Over the following century, the church then became the Cathedral and seat of Vizcaya’s Bishop.
Between the start of the works up until the end, the temple had to survive to almost everything: the fanatic wars of the fifteenth century, the invasion of the French revolutionary army in 1794, fourteen years later the Napoleonic troops and also the Carlist sieges on Bilbao, with an especial mention for the one of 1874 and the rain of mortar shells that fell on the town. The cathedral also remained standing when the heavy rain in 1983 flooded the Seven Streets.
So, as you can see, we could say that you are in front of a grand survivor of the hazards and setbacks of history.