Discover the history of the greatest jewel of Mediterranean Gothic, the Arciprestal Basilica of Morella


40°37′08″N 0°06′01″O

The history of Santa Maria de Morella begins in the winter of 1231-1232 when the Christians enter Morella and King James I makes Morella a royal town at the crossroads of the territories of the Crown of Aragon. To reinforce it, a large temple had to be built. It would end up being the main place where the Morellan people celebrate our holidays and our mourning. It is the place where the Morellans have raised our prayers to God over the course of more than seven centuries.

To build the church of Santa Maria, it was necessary to overcome many difficulties, in addition to the orographic characteristics of the hill where it is located, we must add the economic and organizational ones typical of a great work. It is considered that the lowering and cementing works began in the year 1265 and the construction, properly speaking, in the year 1273. The first blessing (the work was not yet finished) took place in 1311.

The temple has a basilica plan with three naves and three polygonal apses while following the Romanesque tradition of the great Catalan temples, with a predominance of the horizontal lines over the vertical ones, with the introduction of the cross vault. To illuminate it they put the rose windows and windows, originally of alabaster, on the south facade, at the head and to the west.

To solve the problem of access, only the east facade remained free and there they made the two portals. They did it following the forms of Mediterranean peninsular Gothic. The magnificent main portal, called the Apostles, and that of the Virgins. Both have a multitude of sculptural elements that make them unique.

They had to make the choir high, between four columns that form its foundation, with a very low arch between each column. In the back choir we have a whole catechism of the end of time, it cannot be explained, you have to see it, it is a magnificent lesson for life. The access staircase seems of impossible construction, in the reliefs of the railing we find the genealogy of Jesus Christ, finished with a magnificent birth and the adoration of the kings.

Over time, tastes changed and they began to dress the temple in a different style, we are talking about the baroque and its “horror vacui”, you must admire the altarpiece of the High Altar with the amount and variety of decoration, pictures, sculptural elements… They make it indefinable, you can only do one thing: contemplate it.

At the same time, change from the 17th to the 18th centuries, to solemnize the liturgy, it was necessary to have a large organ, which is why they built what we can hear and see, the Turull organ, it is one of the best preserved, still in use, from the entire Mediterranean arc.

History has also bequeathed us a series of works of art, many of which lost their original meaning and are now part of the museum collection, some are displayed on the side altars of the temple and others in the rooms of the exhibition. There are many unique pieces, among which we must highlight the Gothic processional crosses made by Morellan goldsmiths and coming from different towns in the region.

It is really worth visiting the Basilica of Santa Maria de Morella, of which the inscription on the Portal of the Apostles says that “there is no holier place in the whole world“. We are waiting for you.

High Altar

Grand altarpiece in Churrigueresco style (17th century), sculptural work by Vicent Dols and paintings by Pau Pontons (Aaron, Melchizedek, Trinity, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, St. Julian, St. Theodore, First Mass in Morella, Delivery of the Lignum Crucis, 17th-18th century) and Joan Francesc Cruella (Assumption of Mary, 19th century).

The choir

Choir: A beautiful and singular architectural example, with a Gothic vault with an extremely lowered cross, defying the laws of architecture. Work of Pere Segarra from Morellà. Central vault key with the Virgin Mary flanked by angels and secondary keys with beautiful Gothic canopies.

Back choir: Admirable architectural and sculptural work. The first frieze is presided over by Jesus Christ the judge, flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Apostle, accompanied by the twelve apostles, archaic images of polychrome stone. Below we find the frieze of the Last Judgment where in the center is Saint Michael the Archangel weighing the souls. To his right is represented the legion of saints on the way to heaven; on the left, demons and the damned on the way to Hell.

The door

The Arciprestal Basilica of Santa Maria de Morella has on the main facade the portal of the Apostles, presided over, in the mainell, by the Virgin Mary with the Child, above we see the scenes of the Infancy of Jesus and on the tympanum the Coronation of Mary ( 14th century), has a wooden door and Mudejar-style nails.

The organ

Baroque facade, gilded and polychrome. Instrument built by the  organist Francesc Turull made between 1719-1720. 47 note keyboards. 49 registers on the Grand Organ. 21 registers on the Positive organ. 3.693 tubes.

Historical data

Property of Cultural Interest – June 3, 1931

1265 S. XIII - XVI

Temple construction




Monument identifier


Architectural style

A living space over time

Historical timeline