The almost 15 years that Bishop Jesús Catalá has been the head of the diocese in Malaga have been marked, among other things, by the number of works he has undertaken to restore the architectural and artistic features of some of the churches in the city and in the province.
The restorations of the churches of San Juan, San Felipe Neri, Santiago, San Pedro, La Divina Pastora, and La Aurora y Divina Providencia, which is the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Vintners, are just some of the projects that have brought to light treasures hidden beneath paint and modifications which meant that their original beauty could not be seen.
With the help of Malaga city council's Urban Rehabilitation Office, these projects have now restored interest in churches, which have become not only a more suitable and comfortable place to attend services but also an important tourist attraction.
The most recent example is the church of Los Santos Mártires, which is perhaps the jewel in the crown of those in the city centre, not only because of its architectural value but also for the number of people who visit it. It will officially reopen for visits on 22 April.
Work began on the restoration of this building, which was originally completed in 1519 to a design by architect Bartolomé Pérez, before the pandemic. In front of the main altar the remains of a house were discovered; it had been demolished in the 18th century so the present presbytery could be built. This was constructed at the same time as the Baroque refurbishment of the church took place, between 1767 and 1777 and directed by Antonio Ramos.
The result of these latest works is that some truly elegant Baroque features can be seen throughout the church, following the removal of mouldings installed in recent decades which did not match the style and importance of the building.
Under the supervision of technical architect Pablo Pastor, the Hermanos Campano company has laid a new marble floor in the interior of the church, in the same style as that preserved by the main altar and in one of the chapels.
It has beautiful circular designs which give the church an identity all of its own. The large grilles in some of the chapels have also been removed, to give a better view of the altarpieces and the carved images which the religious brotherhoods carry in processions.
On the ceiling, and thanks to the sponsorship of the Malaga Foundation, restorers Francisco Naranjo and María de los Ángeles Mulero have recovered almost 30 Baroque paintings which had been hidden by dirt and these add considerably to the result of the project, which has cost nearly two million euros altogether.
The priest, Felipe Reina, and the parish community, which includes the religious brotherhoods of Los Santos Patronos, Remedios, Huerto, Virgen de Gracia, Gitanos and Pasión, are counting the days until services are held again and they can enjoy the results of these works, which have been a real landmark in the restoration of historical churches in Malaga.