‘Cathedral of the Sea’ (‘La catedral del mar’) | Netflix TV Review

August 31, 2018 (Last updated: September 3, 2018)
Jonathon Wilson 10
Netflix, TV, TV Reviews


A serious historical drama that might be a little slow-moving and dreary for some, Cathedral of the Sea is nonetheless a fairly impressive adaptation.

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A serious historical drama that might be a little slow-moving and dreary for some, Cathedral of the Sea is nonetheless a fairly impressive adaptation.

Directed by Jordi Frades and adapted from the famed Spanish historical novel La catedral del mar by Ildefonso Falcones, Cathedral of the Sea is a blessedly short miniseries (only eight episodes, as opposed to the sixty of Undercover Law, which also debuted today) that reminded me in many ways of Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth. They’re both set in tumultuous historical periods – the Inquisition and the Anarchy, respectively – and concern a salt-of-the-earth labourer toiling against religious oppression against the backdrop of a cathedral construction – in this case the Santa Maria del Mar.

You’ll probably be able to tell from that description alone whether or not Cathedral of the Sea is your cup of tea. The similarities in tone and style also make for similar issues – a persistent humourlessness and a restrained pace that can be mistaken for dreariness if the historical specificity and heavily-accented English dub aren’t enough to keep you entertained, but luckily the slim season order – even if the episodes run about an hour each – means that there’s plenty of plot to churn through before the end.

Cathedral of the Sea is also something of a technical achievement, boasting stunning landscapes captured with reverence by cinematographer Teo Delgado, and grubby production design that capably evokes 14th Century Barcelona. Well, as I imagine it, anyway, which is all any of us can hope for. The ever-present threat of black-garbed baddies is enhanced by Juan Federico Jusid’s score, which occasionally becomes a little heavy-handed but mostly does the job. And Frades is content to wring out tension where necessary by extending scenes to tortuous length, which brings me to another point.

This is heavy stuff. It isn’t gratuitous, but it’s a wringer of unpleasantness and undue suffering that a lot of folks won’t want or be able to put up with in their leisure time. It’s dark from the jump and never gets much lighter, which is often par for the course in historical fiction but worth a note all the same. Don’t go into Cathedral of the Sea expecting frothy entertainment, even if the odd line of dialogue – perhaps the fault of the dub – rings with a slightly dopey note.

9 thoughts on “‘Cathedral of the Sea’ (‘La catedral del mar’) | Netflix TV Review

  • September 3, 2018 at 5:53 am

    Loved every minute of this movie.
    I couldn’t stop watching.
    Superb acting by all. ?

    • September 7, 2018 at 12:28 am

      Same here. It’s a shame they’ve stopped the member reviews on Netflix. Positive reviews like the ones here would contribute to bringing great shows like “Cathedral del Mar” back for future seasons.

  • September 3, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I read the book, it is very hard to adapt such a superb book into a few episodes. I enjoyed every bit of it and watched the whole presentation in two days.

    • September 7, 2018 at 12:34 am

      I am racing through it as well. It’s a very sensitive presentation, with great acting, writing and action. Yes, it has grim, difficult scenes to watch, but I believe that there was severe, inhumane cruelty at that time, historically, with chasms between the social classes. If a production is as well done as this one, however, the tough scenes are not just thrown in gratuitously, but are a necessary part of the storytelling. So they are never as hard to swallow as violence for the sake of violence.

  • September 7, 2018 at 12:26 am

    This is actually a brilliant and exciting saga on Netflix. What keeps me watching is the great writing. I would love to read the novel now, but in any case the screenplay is masterful. As a writer, I find it difficult to watch a lot of these doltish shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime, but now and then a gold nugget emerges and I am captivated. I found “The Heist” to be another outstanding drama. I hope they do invest in a Season 2, and even beyond if possible, because for me, at least, “Cathedral del Mar” is a classy winner.

    • September 8, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      Totally agree with all the above comments. I also watched the whole series in two days, couldn’t stop watching. Most of the series you see in Netflix are cut from the same cloth, detective stories, drugs, murders. Cathedral of the Sea is to me a work of art, with historical information and hard to find these days. Wish Netflix would bring more of these.

  • September 12, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Nothing worse then watching 14th century period piece and the women are wearing 21st century makeup!!! Just wrecks it.

    • October 13, 2018 at 10:28 am

      I would love to have your problems…

  • October 6, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Just started watching this amazing series. Great scenery , the acting is superb. I’ll be binge watching this for sure! Bravo!

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