At the top of the hill where the primitive town of Gasteiz settled in 1181, which gave birth to the current city, is the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Vitoria. It is a peculiar gothic construction from the twelfth century, although it is nothing like other distinguished religious temples, not only because it is surrounded by a combination of constructions of different ages which camouflage its real size, but also because of the complicated history of architectonic styles and reconstructions that characterize it.
The building has suffered from structural defects since birth. By the middle of the seventeenth century, a great restoration work took place, taking weight off the vaults and renewing the carpentry cover. But these efforts weren’t enough to get the cathedral out of its ruinous state. As the years went by, the building suffered. In 1994 it was closed to the public. Finally, the time had come for it to show its true potential.
Since its closing to the public until the completion of works in 2012, the cathedral underwent a great renovation in order to resolve all the historical failures and provide a solid structure and foundation which would guarantee the future survival of the site.
A visiting schedule was established for the reconstruction works, showing the visitors the core of the extraordinary sanctuary while it was being restored. This special feature drew over 350 thousand people in five years, including great celebrities and famous writers like José Saramago, Paulo Coelho, Arturo Pérez Reverte, Mario Vargas Llosa and Alejandro Jodorowsky, who were fascinated by the hidden face of the temple of Vitoria.
None of them however, had the significance of Ken Follet, who based the second part of his successful saga, The Pillars of the Earth, on the construction problems that the cathedral of Vitoria went through.