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The important royal wedding that might well have started a brand new tradition

When the then Prince Felipe of Spain married Letizia Ortiz Rocosolano, in May 2004, it was not only a historic day for the birth of a new family, or because it was the wedding of the heir to the throne to one of Europe’s most ancient dynasties. It also marked the first wedding in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. 

Built between 1883 and 1993, it is one of the most recent archdiocesan sees in Spain, and largely post-dates the surrounding buildings. In fact, the Cathedral sits opposite the Royal Palace of Madrid, and was built keeping in mind the already existing architecture. 

The Almudena on a sunny day – the wedding of King Felipe and Queen Letizia was famously hit by heavy rain
(By Your Travel to Spain – Almudena Cathedral, CC BY 2.0, Wiki Commons)

This latter characteristic is demonstrated in the unusual orientation that the Cathedral has. While most Christian churches follow an east-to-west building direction, Almudena Cathedral was constructed along a north-to-south axis, as to not disrupt the existing surrounding buildings, while at the same time allowing the front façade of the Cathedral to face the front of the Royal Palace. 

The Cathedral’s building measures 103 metres in length and 24,5 metres in width, with the latter being spit between the traditional three naves (a central and two side ones), with some extra width being added by chapels on the sides. 

Like in many other Catholic churches, side chapels in Cathedrals are reserved for burials, and these ones make no exception, with notable burials in the chapel including Queen Mercedes of Orléans and Princes Fernando, José Eugenio and Luis Alfonso of Bavaria. 

Almudena Cathedral was consecrated in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, during his fourth visit to Spain. While both of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía’s daughters got married after that, they both chose other cities (Infanta Elena and Jaime de Marichalar tied the knot in Seville in 1995, while Infanta Cristina and Iñaki Urdangarín’s 1997 nuptials were celebrated in Barcelona), leaving their younger brother to hold the first royal wedding there. 

The wedding of King Felipe and Queen Letizia in May 2004 © Casa Real

Since then, it has not been used much by the Royal Family, given that there have been no more royal weddings and that King Felipe did not have a coronation (he was instead proclaimed king with a swearing-in ceremony in front of the Spanish Parliament). There have been some sad occasions, like funerals and memorial services. 

While we are not to expect future coronations in Spain, what the Cathedral can hope for is a future royal wedding, in order for a tradition to be established and for the church to add another page to its royal history books.