The church of San Pedro



The Church of San Pedro is the most ancient church in Huelva and is located on one of the cabezos (‘hills’) which give form to the city. The temple, placed over the rests of a Muslim mosque at the foot of the today missing Castle of Huelva, is a Gothic-and-Mudejar building which was started at the end of the fifteenth century and suffered different rebuilding works until well into the sixteenth century, when it became the only temple in Huelva which could house the whole population.

The first parish church in Huelva was consecrated to St. Peter and achieved its present state due to several rebuilding, extension, and renovation works, which have transformed the temple to a greater or lesser extent, from the sixteenth century to even the twenty-first.


The ground plan and the elevation of the church correspond to the Gothic-and-Mudejar model typical from Seville – the temple has a basilican plan and chevets roofed with sexpartite ribbed vaults. On the other hand, the central nave has a coffered armature, whereas the lateral ones have lean-to coffered ceilings – a legacy from the Muslim architecture in Spain. One can distinguish two areas in the ground plan of the church – the chevet and the naves.

The chevet is divided into two stretches – an octagonal one in the presbytery and a rectangular one in the ante-presbytery. The vaults in both stretches are rib-groined vaults in limestone whose ribs are supported by capitals built onto the walls and linked to one another by an impost. Both stretches are linked by a rib which makes the vault a sexpartite vault. The pillars which separate the first and second stretches have edge rolls and are the ones forming the inner transverse arch and the vault arch – all of them are pointed arches.

The church consists of three naves – a higher, central nave and two lateral naves separated by pillars supporting high, pointed arches which form five stretches. The fourth and the fifth stretches were added at the beginning of the sixteenth century (1508) and they protect the choir and the retrochoir. The four pillars which are the closest to the presbytery are cruciform. Meanwhile, the lateral naves are filled with chapels consecrated to different religious figures and painted by different artists. Some of these artists were influenced by the altarpiece-painters of Seville, such as Juan Martínez Montañés.

The Main Altarpiece

We should especially remark the restoration of the high altar in 1646, when the altarpiece was gilded and cleaned. In 1721, Francisco de Torres Esquivel submitted a report on the necessity of making a new altarpiece for the high altar as the former one was too old and deteriorated. The task was assigned in 1721 to Antonio de Carvajal – a carver, architect, and carpenter who had studied in Pedro Roldán’s workshop. He committed himself to finish the altarpiece in two years’ time. 

Carvajal sketched a mainly architectonical design following the typical taste for façade-altarpieces during the age. Following the canonical regulations of the age, the altarpiece perfectly fits the polygonal shape of the gable wall and rises over a predella with an altar and a tabernacle in the middle which have two great brackets over it. Four estipites (columns in the shape of a cut pyramid upside down) rising over the brackets divide the main body of the altarpiece into three bays with niches and brackets with tondos.

The trapezoidal tabernacle of the central bay – which is wider than the lateral ones – has its angles decorated by twisted columns at its lower part, whereas there are two superimposed niches at its upper part. The first one has a small seated carving of St. Peter’s, while the second one has a sculptural group consisting of St. Anne and Child Virgin Mary.

The lateral bays have niches with Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph. The main altarpiece of the church is crowned by a semi-circular attic, separated from the lower body of the altarpiece by a classical-like canopy whose upper part is decorated with festoons. The whole attic is decorated with a high relief of God as Eternal Father, blessing the people with his right hand and supporting the sphere of universe with his left hand. There are carvings of St. Martin de Porres’ and St. Luke’s at each side.

In the purest style of Spanish baroque, the altarpiece is completely covered with the addition of acanthi, spiral scrolls, cherubim, volutes, strut braces, and broken or triangular pediments. Besides, the classical orders are used as the artist’s like. This altarpiece was restored again between 2003 and 2004 by Juan Aguilar Gutiérrez.

The Difficult History of the Bell-Tower

The eighteenth century was a crucial period for the history of the Church of San Pedro, as the temple was damaged by several natural disasters. In 1722, a hurricane knocked down the bell gable, which had five openings. The earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 had dramatic consequences for the church as the main body, the main chapel, the bell gable, and the parson’s house. In 1758, a second hurricane knocked down the newly-built bell tower and destroyed the vault of the main chapel and the gable wall. In 1765, a new earthquake razed the bell gable to the ground and damaged the high altar again.

The location of the new bell-tower of the Church of San Pedro was chosen mainly to build it in a place where winds were milder. Pedro de Silva presented the project for the construction of the new bell-tower the 5 July 1790 and Francisco Díaz Pinto carried out the construction. 

The bell-tower has stone foundations and a main body of brick. The contrast of the white background and the warm colours of the bricks is completed with four pilasters at the corners of the tower together with a commemorative plaque and a circular oculus.

The bell-tower is divided into four bodies. The lower body has four pilasters at its corners, two at each side. The second body has sixteen Doric pilasters, four at each side, with architraves, friezes, and cornices. Over them, there is an octagonal spire with blue and white tiles crowned by a cross and a weather vane from previous ages.