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Spanish cathedrals open for refurbishment

The current restoration work on the Spanish cathedrals in Vitoria and Leon and St Paul's Church in Valladolid gives visitors an opportunity to peek into the hidden corners of these great architectural beauties.

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How often does it happen that you're on holiday and find that one of the great monuments you had planned to visit is "closed for refurbishment"? It can be a terrible disappointment. In Spain, though, some tourist attractions have seen a way to turn the tables and take advantage of the scheduled cleaning and restoration works: they are throwing wide the doors and offering a unique visit for a limited time only. The scaffolding need not be an inconvenience, instead it provides us with a viewpoint that only a privileged few will enjoy. Are you up for it?

Ken Follet, author The Pillars of the Earth, the most widely read book on the planet in the last decade, was overwhelmed when he climbed the scaffolding of the Vitoria Cathedral and looked down on the magnificent architecture. He was so impressed by the experience of getting close to the stained glass, up near the the ribs of the arches, and down in the crypts where archaeologists are still exploring and making discoveries, that he used this great monument as a perfect setting for the sequel, World Without End. A visit to the Cathedral, with Ken Follet in hand, becomes a fascinating and mysterious journey through time.

The restoration of the wonderful stained glass windows of Leon Cathedral has meant the introduction of scaffolding into the monument in order for modern craftsmen to reach this superb artistic collection dating from the eight to the sixteenth century. The glass is a masterpiece representing the medieval theological idea of the world. From the vantage point of an 80 metre platform set 14 metres above the central nave, the visitor has an unsurpassed view of the cathedral interior as well being in a perfect position to see the progress of the restoration work. Visits to this great Gothic monument are organised in groups of 20, and are planned according to services in the cathedral. As well as admiring the quality of the light within the building, whether the visit is by day or by night, there are other features that should not be missed, including the White Virgin, flanked by two towers, the Renaissance choir, the chancel altar piece and the ambulatory.

In Valladolid, the Iglesia de San Pablo - St Paul's Church, the most impressive monument in the capital city of Castile, is undergoing restoration. The great platform lift giving access to the works is located at the façade, a splendid example of Hispano-Flemish Gothic style with Renaissance additions. Visitors can witness first hand the delicate conservation works as well as enjoying a privileged panoramic view of the city centre. The Visitor Centre alongside offers a thorough introduction and explanation of the church's history.

Further information:
Reservations for visits to Vitoria Cathedral can be made through the Cathedral Foundation: Fundacion Catedral de Santa Maria (Phone: 945 12 21 60). Visits to Leon Cathedral can be arranged by phone (638 47 94 19) or email to: proyectocultural@catedraldeleon.org. For the church of San Pablo in Valladolid, reservations can be made by phone (983 35 13 66) or email: proyectocultural@restauracionsanpablo.com.

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