Following the track of Santa Tecla in Tarragona

TAU / ©GemmaCasalé

The arm relic of Santa Tecla is, probably, the most appreciated symbol Tarragonins have managed to keep from their Patron Saint. However, beyond the mere religious and sentimental value, the Cathedral of Tarragona still preserves important patrimonial elements which come to prove the veneration carried by the clergy, and the civil and administrative society, throughout the centuries towards Santa Tecla.

At the very same doors of the temple, one gets the iconographic importance the Saint Patron has in the actual Cathedral. Over 900 Tau letters (once part of the Greek alphabet, and very related to the Patron Saint) have been recorded. Quantity, thought, can go over three thousand, when letters inside the temple are also taken into account.

Julio, d'Argos Serveis Culturals / ©GemmaCasalé

The number given by Julio Villar –from the guide company Argos Serveis Culturals, which offers visits to the Cathedral in order to get to know the patrimonial legacy of Santa Tecla, among others– really impresses us, despite the fact that the ten of us are a hundred per cent Tarragonins. The guided tour, which will last just over an hour, will reveal a whole new view of the Cathedral, full of unsuspected details.

Retaule major de la Catedral de Tarragona / ©GemmaCasalé

At the altar, there is the main reredos dedicated to Santa Tecla. The work, by Pere Joan, becomes a real jewel in the Catalan Gothic. Dated in the 14th century, it represents six scenes of Santa Tecla’s life and martyrdom. From Paul’s preaching to Iconic, before Santa Tecla’s eyes; to the ones showing the way the Patron Saint miraculously survived a number of martyrdoms. The detail of the scenes made in marble becomes a real treasure. At the right –while facing the altar– there is the cathedral’s tabernacle, the place where Santa Tecla’s relic was kept from May 19, 1321 –when it was brought to Tarragona– until the 18th century.

Clau de SantaTecla / ©GemmaCasalé

From then on though, it was preserved in the interior of the Chapel of Santa Tecla, of Baroque style, made using marble, and in which we can find scenes of the Patron Saint’s life. In the centre of the altar we find the reliquary with two locks; one of the keys is under the Archbishopric’s custody, and the other one, under the Town Hall’s. Both are used only once a year: September 23, when the relic is taken out –today it is only the metacarpal bones– of Santa Tecla. In fact, the piece remains for everyone to see for the most part of the day in the interior of the Cathedral, and at 5pm is taken back to the processional cart, which will go on procession around the Part Alta streets.

Capella de Santa Tecla / ©GemmaCasalé
Antic Hospital de SantaTecla / ©GemmaCasalé

Just a few metres from the central nave of the Cathedral there is the old chapel of Santa Tecla, built in the 13th century, as well as the old Hospital of Sant Pau and Santa Tecla, which has become these days the head office of the ‘Consell Comarcal’ of the Tarragonès, and which also provides access to a street named under the very same Patron Saint, and where, of course, there is a statue of Santa Tecla, which as it happens every year, is wearing the traditional kerchief of the city’s festivities.

Capella votiva de Santa Tecla al Consell Comarcal del Tarragonès, restaurada per Carles Arola / ©Gemma Casalé

Text and pictures: Gemma Casalé (@Casalesi)

Translate: Artur Santos (@artur_1983)

More info:
(0034) 977 101 800 / (0034) 670 055 328
Guided tours to discover the patrimony of Santa Tecla in the Cathedral, with prior reservation.
Price per person: 10€ (group of 4+ people).
Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sunday and Bank holidays.
March 17 – November 4: 10am – 7pm
Saturday: 10am – 7pm
Open visits:
Adults: 5€
Kids (7-16): 3€
Over 65yo: 3€
Free under 7yo and unemployed