Marbella has a long and rich history, which has been said to stretch back as far as the 7th century BC. In 1485 it became Catholic and many beautiful churches and chapels were erected throughout the area to celebrate the reconquest.
These are still at the centre of the community and play an important part during the religious celebrations and parades that you can see over the Easter period, as well as for the local saints’ days. They also play host to beautiful nativity scenes, known as “Belen” over the Christmas period. If you are visiting Marbella during December and until the 6th of January, you can follow a route of all the nativity scenes, which is a wonderful way to get to know the town and see the best churches in Marbella too.
Whenever you visit, we recommend popping in to Marbella’s churches and chapels. They are beautiful buildings, with fascinating history and often host events, such as concerts, alongside the normal religious services and special masses for holy days. In this article, we’ll be giving you the lowdown on the most important and most interesting churches to visit in and around Marbella.
Churches in Marbella Old Town and central Marbella
Marbella’s Old Town is a great place to start if you want to see the best churches and chapels and get a sense of its rich history. The winding streets, white washed buildings and pretty squares are stunning places to explore and these four churches and chapels are definitely worth a look.
The largest and most important church in Marbella’s Old Town is the “Iglesia de la Encarnacion” which dominates one of the main squares in the historic quarter. Its imposing white façade with yellow touches really stands out and inside the altar is spectacular. You can see the patron saint of Marbella Saint Bernabas depicted on the altar and marvel at the high vaulted ceilings and arches, with sculptures depicting saints and important religious figures around the sides of the church. This striking building dates back to 1615, with a beautiful baroque style stone doorway, but is mainly a modern building, which was rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War in 1936. You can visit Monday to Saturday 8am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm and 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm on Sundays.
Insider’s Tip – Visit the church at the start of the processions for Easter. You’ll see enormous statues carried out from the church to join the processions and it really is a beautiful sight. They are all worth visiting, but for families, the daytime processions on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are probably the best.
This chapel is the oldest in Marbella, which was built in the place of a mosque when the Catholic monarchs took control in the 15th Century. It’s a simple structure which is located on the famous Orange Square, right in the middle of Marbella’s Old Town. You’ll see some religious statues and a small altar inside, and a statue of Saint James outside and the setting, surrounded by cafes, restaurants and trees makes it picturesque.
San Juan de Dios Chapel
This 16th century chapel is tucked away on a narrow street and was built to celebrate the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic Monarchs and is considered to be one of the most beautiful and important to the devout. The main altar is very pretty, and in the niches on the side of the chapel you can see the statues which are used in the Easter processions. There is an interesting wooden vaulted roof which was discovered at the end of the 20th Century and you should look out for the carved image of a pomegranate which is the symbol of the ancient kingdom of Granada.
Holy Christ of Calvary Parish Church
This modern Church is located close to the main post office in Marbella’s centre, outside the Old Town. They started construction in 1972 and it was officially blessed and consecrated in 1976. It is a large church with a wooden ceiling and exposed brick walls and a simple, open design. But the stained-glass windows and the sculpture of Jesus on the cross by artist Miguel Fuentes Del Olmo are worth seeing and it’s interesting to compare the older churches with this contemporary design. It is open for visitors Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 7.30pm and there’s an international mass on a Sunday at 11.00.
Churches in San Pedro de Alcántara
San Pedro de Alcántara is a charming town to the West of Marbella centre. It is well known for its modern boulevard with playgrounds and cafes, popular with families. It also has a vibrant gastronomic scene, with lots of great restaurants and bars. The pedestrianized high street has some great shops, bars and cafes and it also has a lovely church which is worth visiting.
The Parish Church of San Pedro de Alcántara
At the top of San Pedro’s main shopping street is a large church, which dates back to the very beginning of San Pedro itself. The church was one of the first things to start to be built in the new settlement, and was opened in 1869. It overlooks a square with a modern fountain, which offers a nice place to sit and relax after a spot of shopping. It has a similar yellow and white colour scheme to Marbella’s main church, and is a good example of colonial architecture, including a large bell tower and wide entrance. Inside is an impressive vaulted ceiling, with an imposing altar and statues and shrines in niches around the sides of the church. It is open every day and is well worth a visit.
Virgen del Rocío Parish Church
This is a modern Church, built in the 20th Century, with a striking yellow façade and a large bell tower, and a large interior space. It is popular for weddings, and features some interesting religious sculptures and artworks, but isn’t of as much interest to a tourist as some of the other churches on this list.
Churches in Nueva Andalucía
Nueva Andalucia is the neighbouring town to Marbella and is just above Puerto Banus. It is a popular residential area, with a shopping centre, good bars and restaurants and a lovely church to visit.
Virgin Mother Parish Church
This small church is located near to the San Pedro Industrial Estate and the Magna Marbella Golf Course. It is a very active church, with well-maintained gardens and a beautiful design, with a large bell tower, and domed ceiling. It is a modern church with interesting stained glass, religious sculptures and artwork.
Churches in Las Chapas
Las Chapas is to the east of Marbella and is a residential area, best known by tourists for its beautiful beaches and the nearby Nikki Beach club. It’s a popular residential area for holiday rentals and to live full time, with some great schools and activities, but there’s also a new church to visit.
Virgen del Carmen Parish Church
This is a very modern church, built only 10 years ago, which is very popular during the summer months and Easter. Outside, it has a striking design, with a very tall tower with a cross mounted on top. Inside the simple altar is flanked by beautiful stained-glass pictures and there are religious statues around the large nave. It celebrates the patron saint Virgen del Carmen, mother of God, and in July is famous for its Virgin del Carmen festivities. They hold a mass in the church, before taking her sculpture to the sea for a blessing of the boats and the following day there is a procession around the town. It is a very international church and encourages community and combines the Virgin del Carmen processions with activities like sardine tasting and churros and hot chocolate.
Visiting Marbella’s Churches
As you can see, there are lots of Marbella churches which are worth a visit, whether you are religious, or are simply interested in the history and architecture. The best times to visit to see them at their most active and to be able to engage in events and parades are during the Easter “Holy Week”, in June when Marbella celebrates its patron saint with a massive party, Virgin del Carmen in July when they bless the boats and during the Christmas period. However, it’s worth popping in and enjoying these sacred and beautiful places throughout the year, as part of your holiday in Marbella.
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