The church of La Purísima Concepción



‘Tota Pulchra Es’ is a fourth-century Catholic prayer which corresponds to one of the five antiphonies from the psalms of the Second Eve to the Day of the Immaculate Conception – the 8 December. This prayer to Virgin Mary – meaning ‘You are full with beauty’ in Latin – is inspired on both the Book of Judith and the Song of Songs and refers to her Immaculate Conception, which also gives name to the second oldest church in Huelva.

Concepción Street

The Church is located in Concepción Street, a traditional place for the locals to have a walk through the city. Limits for the traffic of carts and carriages and were established already in 1880. Soon afterwards, four small iron columns were settled at the beginning of the street so that no vehicle could enter it. Already paved in 1573, Concepción Street suffered successive pavement changes throughout the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries – slabs from Tarifa, Cadiz, cement from Portland, USA, and so on – which have contributed to the reaffirmation of this street as a pedestrian one. 

The central, populous Concepción Street is the shopping street of Huelva par excellence. There is written evidence of the existence of numerous shops in the street since the beginning of the seventeenth century. Nevertheless, what we know as Concepción Street is actually a group of four streets in a row – Concepción Street strictly speaking, Palacio Street, Arquitecto Pérez Carasa Street, and Berdigón Street. 

In the sixteenth century, the street was named ‘Calle de los Dorantes’, and so was named by the secular city council when it had to carry out the urbanization of the street. Here, the town crier announced the proclamations and other news of the city in front of the doors of the Church of la Concepción.

This temple, the first one to be dedicated to Virgin Mary in the whole Spain, is very close to some of the most relevant buildings in the patrimony of Huelva, such as the Palace of Moras Claros, the Casa del Millón (‘House of the Million’), or the Convent of the Shod Augustinian Nuns, which was built in 1515 like the Church.


The chronicles of the age tell that Cristóbal Dorantes offered the terrain of his properties so that the second parish church of Huelva would be built there. The temple, which would be dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, started being built in 1515. Just like the one we have today, the original church consisted of three spacious naves with a main altarpiece. Nevertheless, we have no traces of it.

Architectonical Characteristics

The original Gothic-and Mudejar temple is not conserved today because of the disastrous earthquake which took place on 1 November 1755 as the people were leaving the church after the All Saints’ Day Mass. This happened again in 1863, so it became imperative to carry out some rebuilding works in the main building and the bell-tower. The first rebuilding was carried out by Pedro de Silva, a building inspector, in 1757. Silva also participated that very same year in the construction of the Parish Church of San Antonio Abad in Trigueros, Huelva, where he was mentioned as ‘Building Master with the Royal Approval, Main Supervisor, and Main Foreman Builder’. The second person involved in the rebuilding of the Church was Antonio Matías de Figueroa. In 1936, a fire damaged the Church during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), so a new rebuilding had to be carried out. The history of all these reconstructions goes on until 2006 – this time, it was due to several problems with the foundations caused by a near building work. The architect of this last project was Antonio Jesús López Domínguez.

Today the Church of la Purísima Concepción has three naves. The central nave has a barrel vault strengthened with transverse arches. The arches supporting the vault have finely engraved, semi-circular mouldings. The transverse arches rest over Ionic pilasters with architraves, friezes, and cornices – the latter are engraved with special emphasis. The pilasters are built onto square-shaped pillars, which also have Tuscan columns built onto their opposite sides. Each section between the pillars is divided by three round arches. The lateral naves – originally covered with a single-pitch wooden frame – have today wooden frames forming rib-groined vaults. Nevertheless, one of their cells is uncovered so people can appreciate the original structure. The central nave is covered at the presbytery by a chevet of Gothic tracery from the original church.

The Church on the Outside

The main façade of the Church is divided into two bodies. The lower one consists of three bays separated by columns which are supported by high pedestals. The main door of the Church is located at the central bay, below a round arch. The lateral bays have niches with small statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. The upper body has a single bay flanked at both sides by brick columns and a central niche with a statue of Virgin Mary as the Immaculate together with a segmental pediment with an oculus inside. Three balconets with trefoil arches as a loggia rise over the main façade. 

The bell-tower rises at the right of the main façade and is decorated with baroque festoons. The tower is crowned by a spire with blue and white tiles from the factories of Seville – this decoration would be imitated by posterior bell towers.

The restoration works between 2002 and 2006 have tried to recover the original state of the building – Mudejar and baroque vaults, capitals, cornices, and openings. The result is a harmonious, eighteenth-century ensemble over a Mudejar ground plan.

The Art Works inside the Church

The Church of la Purísima Concepción is decorated on the inside with a good number of art works by great Andalusian carvers, such as Luis Álvarez Duarte, Antonio Castillo Lastrucci, Luis Ortega Bru, and local artists Antonio León Ortega and Sebastián Santos. Their works form part of the patrimonial richness of the Holy Week in Huelva. Here, we must remark a carving of Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (‘Our Father Jesus of Nazareth’), specially venerated by the locals.