Santa María la Mayor church, also known as the Abbey Church, is found inside the Fortaleza de la Mota’s upper fortified enclosure, where there used to be an exemplary Muslim medina during the Islamic era with commercial and residential areas.
Following the reconquest, King Alfonso XI ordered for the mosque to be demolished and built the original abbey church in its place. This Abbey was under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Toledo and extended its dominion over a vast area. Its first headquarters was a Gothic church, remodeled following the taking of Granada, in an Renaissance style.
Its reconstruction started in the second quarter of the 16th century in line with Martín de Bolívar’s designs. Its Gothic structure included a stellar vault, covered with plateresque decoration. In this sector, the funerary chapels are monumental plateresque portals, as are the entrance arches to the Baptistery. The rest of the church is the result of the transformation that took place in the 16th century by Ambrosio de Vico; subsequently, the masters Luis González and Fray Cristóbal de San José built the east end, consisting of a large triumphal arch separated into three arches of the same height; while the sacristy, annex to the church, was built by Ginés Martín de Aranda in the 17th century.
The only part that remains standing from the original church is the Deán Cherinos chapel.
The interior space is organised into three naves, each with two sections, with a rood screen at its base. Its Baptismal Chapel is outstanding, with double Renaissance portal and coffered barrel vault ceiling, which some authors attribute to Jacobo Florentino. He was a remarkable architect of Italian origin, who worked in Granada and Murcia at the beginning of the 16th century.
We access the church through a semi-circular arched portal, decorated with Ancanthus leaves on the voussoirs. There are two other portals, in a Mannerist style.
Furthermore, from the exterior we can also see the buttresses crowned by pinnacles and the majestic tower topped with a spire of stone that rises intentionally above the fortress’s height as a symbol of the Christian’s victory over the ancient Muslim power. The church was left in solitude at the end of the 18th century.
The town became stronger and spread to the plains over more than two centuries before and the French troops caused a fire as they fled from the town after its occupation in 1810; combined, these events put an end to the church’s activity and part of the building.