Novelda Shrine of Mary Magdalene – Novelda, Spain - Atlas Obscura

Novelda Shrine of Mary Magdalene

Novelda, Spain

The 20th-century church looks like a rustic version of the Sagrada Familia. 


This building, constructed in the Valencian Art Nouveau style, is a 20th-century addition to the 19th-century monastery of Santa Maria Magdalena in the small town of Novelda, far away from the typical tourist haunts in the Alicante region. The structure is framed by two slender 100-foot-high bell towers, and the exterior clearly demonstrates a nod to the famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona—although on a much smaller scale.

The shrine of Mary Magdalene was built between 1918 and 1946 by architect and engineer José Sala Sala, who trained in Barcelona and was clearly influenced by the more famous Catalonian structure of Antoni Gaudí. Its construction was delayed by a lack of funds and the Spanish Civil War.

The building’s trapezoidal plan is said to recall the shape of the vessel containing the oils Mary Magdalene used to anoint Jesus. The striking structure is constructed using small stones laid to give a rustic, if not natural, appearance. It’s decorated with red brick and colored earthenware embellishments produced in the region.

Its curved windows, statues, and tiles all wedge together and seem to integrate seamlessly. The paintings in the facade are framed by three stone vaults constructed of carved pieces.

Inside the church, you can admire large paintings depicting the life of Mary Magdalene, along with three large altarpieces made of tiles, placed either side of the main doors. Of particular interest inside the church, is an organ completely made out of marble.

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