Also known as the Old Cathedral, this 13th-century church-fortress stands majestically over the old quarter of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. It was part of the mediaeval walls and has a Latin cross plan, a large crossing, an ambulatory opening onto chapels, a 60-metre bell tower, a vestry and a number of other rooms. Its most outstanding feature is the triple Gothic façade containing numerous biblical scenes in detail.
The Cathedral of Santa María is currently being restored and has become one of the main tourist attractions in the city, offering guided visits to observe the architectural and archaeological restoration work taking place. The quality of this visitors’ programme has been recognised in the form of the Tourism Prize of the Basque Government, and it has also won the Europa Nostra Prize (2002), the most important European award for the recovery and conservation of cultural heritage.
A curious fact is that the famous British writer Ken Follett was inspired by the Cathedral of Santa María to write World Without End, the sequel to his most famous novel, Pillars of the Earth.