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Santa Maria del Mar Basilica in Barcelona

Updated on November 20, 2018
aesta1 profile image

Mary works on international development projects and writes about the interesting attractions in countries where work brought her.

Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar | Source

The Church Most Loved in Barcelona

Churches are special because of its history, its being a centre of pilgrimage, its architecture but nothing makes a Church more fascinating than the love the local people have for it.

One Church that the people of Barcelona love so much is Santa Maria del Mar. We knew of this when we visited the Picasso Museum. We became friendly with one of the staff in the museum and as we got out of the place, he followed us and pointed towards the direction of Santa Maria del Mar. He told us not to miss visiting this very beautiful Cathedral.

After visiting the Cathedral, we mentioned it to a young staff in our hotel and she acknowledged that it is her favourite Church in Barcelona. Both young and old Catalans treasure the Cathedral del Mar and after reading its history, we no longer get surprised when people in Barcelona tell us of their love for this Church.

Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar | Source

The Cathedral of the People

Where Santa Maria del Mar is located, the La Ribera neighbourhood, was in the mid-1300's home to sailors, harbour workers, fishermen, craftsmen and merchants. Because of its ports, the area saw prosperous trade which engaged many workers, craftsmen, builders, porters, sailors, merchants and other labour required by the businesses which prospered in the vicinity.

As the area prospered, the local folks inspired by their piety felt they deserve a Church to display their growing status. As such, the construction of Santa Maria del Mar was started. Ordinary folks loaded and uploaded their boats, used their backs and hands to carry stones from the quarry in the nearby hill of Montjuic, rich merchants donated their profits.

This is what made this Church gain a special place in the hearts of the locals. They built this Church, unlike the Barcelona Gothic Cathedral which was constructed at the same time but was paid for by the king. Below is a picture of a carving in the Church showing the Baixatsos or stone masons transporting stones from the hill of Montjuic for the building of the Church.

Stone Masons Who Built the Santa Maria del Mar

Stone Masons of the Cathedral of the Sea
Stone Masons of the Cathedral of the Sea | Source

Interesting History

Built between 1329 and 1383, this Church in Barcelona's Ribera district was built on a site that was already important as early as the Roman times. The construction discovered a Necropolis, a cemetery.

This is hardly surprising because as a port, Barcino, the name of Barcelona during the Roman times, had already a growing Christian community. It was said that the martyr, St. Eulalia, was buried here in the year 303. The bones were hidden when the Moors came and placed in the Barcelona Gothic Cathedral 15 years later.

It was also believed that St. James preached here and it was around here where the early Christian community built a chapel which they called Santa Maria de Les Arenes, St. Mary of the Sea Sands.

There is no documentation on when the Church became Santa Maria del Mar. By the 7th century, the Church was already known as such but but it was only in 1329 when the prosperity of the area demanded a Church more impressive than what was there. Plans were made and on March 25, 1329, the cornerstone of the present Church was laid.

The Church was consecrated by Pere Planella, bishop of Barcelona, on 15 August 1384. Beren- guer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig were the architects in charge of the project.

Because of its unique history, Santa Maria del Mar is home to guilds because of their special connection to the construction of the Church and until today, these guilds still actively participate in parish life, in fact, taking on and active and leading role in the neighbourhood's spiritual life. They still celebrate their patron saints' festivities here.

This interesting story of the construction of Santa Maria del Mar is vividly told by Ildefonso Falcones in his novel, The Cathedral of the Sea, where he manages to bring to life the everyday happenings in the medieval streets of the former La Ribera. This was made into a movie by Netflix and watching it made us appreciate more the construction of this Church.

Cathedral of the Sea Novel

Cathedral of the Sea: A Novel
Cathedral of the Sea: A Novel

This international award winning novel written by a lawyer based in Barcelona, Ildefonso Falcones, sold over 7 million copies and it is no surprise at all. Translated into 40 languages, Netflix has chosen to produce this recently and after watching the movie, I searched for this book as I now want to fully enjoy reading the story.

The story centers on Arnau, a stone mason in the Ribeira district then who had a special devotion to the Virgin in Santa del Mar. Arnau was born to a family that was at the mercy of the nobles who owned the place they were in. This merciless noble used his mother and later pushed her to become a whore. The father moved to the city and found work there with the help of his sister who was married to a wealthy merchant in La Ribeira and here, Arnau grew up and later became a person to reckon with.

His story, Cathedral of the Sea, is now on Netflix and after watching the movie, we even understood better why the people of Barcelona have a particular affection for this Church. This movie showed how the Church was constructed, the historical context when it was started and the support the people gave it.

 
Pillars of Santa Maria del Mar
Pillars of Santa Maria del Mar | Source

The Architecture of Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar is the only pure example of Catalan Gothic architecture. Most churches in the Middle Ages were built for centuries that by the time they are finished the changes in architectural style are plenty but this Cathedral of the Sea was built in only 55 years. As such, there were no changes in its architectural style so it represents today the purist example of Catalan Gothic architecture.

The Church construction was placed in the hands of the Catalan architects Beren-guer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig. These two architects built a sober horizontal structure based on the geometric design called "ad quadratum' of which this Church became the clearest example.

16 1.60 meter thick octagonal columns.

80 meters (or 100 feet) long, 33 meters wide –if we combine the central nave, the side aisles and the chapel naves–. If we take into account that the central nave is also 33 meters high, the architectural design, seen from the front, fits inside a perfect circumference.

Its structure comprises three naves of 33 meters high, underpinned by 16 very tall and 1.6 meter thick octagonal columns. Set 13 metres apart, a distance unsurpassed by any other existing medieval building, the structure gives the impression of unity, simplicity, sober sublimity and ethereal airiness.

Enhancing this structure are the many stained glass windows added to the Church. The amazing rose window destroyed by an earthquake in 1428 and remade in 1459, the window of the Ascension in the chapel of Santa Maria, and the Lavabo in the chapel of Sant Rafael are some of the best to be viewed.

On its floors you can see the tombs of the members of the guilds and brotherhoods of Barcelona which until today celebrate their feasts here.

The simplicity of design and almost total lack of adornment give the church an atmosphere of unsurpassed serenity.

Glass Windows of Santa Maria del Mar

Windows of Santa Maria del Mar
Windows of Santa Maria del Mar | Source

Other Interesting Facts About Santa Maria del Mar

This Church played a significant role in the history of Barcelona and of the Church. Here are some interesting things connected to it:

  • The most recent window, next to the sacristy, was completed in 1995. It was designed by José Fernández Castrillo to commemorate the 1992 Summer Olympics.

  • Since the year 2000, the relics of St Cugat del Rec are kept here.e the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
  • Many saints went to church here and to name some of them, there are Peter Nolasco, Vicent Ferrer, Ignatius of Loyola, Salvador of Horta, Francisco of Borja, Miquel dels Sants, and Josep Oriol, St. Maria Micaela of the Most Holy Sacrament, Maria del Carmen Sellés Berengueras and blessed Maria-Anna Mogas Fontcuberta.
  • Santa Maria de Cervelló, blessed Lluís Bertran, the venerable Juliana of Morella and the venerable Claudi López Bru Marquis de Comillas were all baptized in this parish. The venerable Dorotea Chopitea was also married hereTurning left around the church, you get to a small square at Carrer Santa Maria, where a granite slab commemorates the Spanish invasion of 1714.
  • Turning left around the church, you get to a small square at Carrer Santa Maria, where a granite slab commemorates the Spanish invasion of 1714.

Interior Facade of the Church

Interior of Santa Maria del Mar
Interior of Santa Maria del Mar | Source

El Fossar de les Moreres

There is one landmark adjacent to the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral that you need to check out before you leave the place. In this place, the Catalans, who died defending the city in the famous Siege of Barcelona in 1714 at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, were buried. To honour these heroes, the city placed a torch of eternal flame in this place with a poem by Frederic Soler, El Fossar de les Moreres.

This monument further strengthened the devotion of the locals to Santa Maria del Mar.

El Fossar de les Moreres
El Fossar de les Moreres | Source

Guided Tours of Santa Maria del Mar

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 9:00-13:00 Uhr and 17:00-20:30
Sun- and Holidays 10.00-14.00 and 17.00-20.30

The Basilica offers several guided tours:

1. Santa Maria del Mar Complete Tour

  • Includes visits to the Church, galleries and the crypt
  • 55-60 minutes long
  • Price for the general public-10Euros; Students, unemployed, Seniors (older than 65) and groups of more than 10 people-8Euros; Teacher’s accreditation,TR3SC members and members of the libraries of the Diputació de Barcelona-9Euros; Children between 6 and 8 years old and Official Guides of Catalunya-Free

2. Towers and Rooftops Tour

  • 40 minutes long; can be cancelled when weather is not suitable
  • Not recommended for children below 6 and for people with mobility and breathing difficulties
  • Requires climbing stairs
  • Price for the general public- 8Euros; Students, unemployed, seniors (older than 65 years old) and groups of more than 10 people-8Euros; Children between 6 and 8 years old and Official Guides of Catalonia-Free

3. Private Tours

  • Offered in various languages for groups during the opening hours of the church.

You can reserve your tickets here: Basilica del Mar Website

© 2018 Mary Norton

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    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      26 hours ago from Ontario, Canada

      True. We often do and we have become friends with staff in hotels we stayed in. Because we worked in those countries, we stayed in hotels for sometime giving us time to really know the staff.

    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      39 hours ago

      Hi Mary. You usually have benefits after being friendly with staffs haha. I can see why the people love the church. It's grand and their finished project. You are good in planning trips and I see that you timed the tour haha. Thanks!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Jason, I was born in Cebu City but my mother came from Bantayan island which is now a popular tourist spot.

    • manunulat profile image

      Jason M Quinapondan 

      2 days ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hello Mary! Correct me if I remember it wrongly, you are from Sta. Fe right? Oh that's good to hear. I am so glad I found a kababayan here.. :) And speaking of Cebu, yeah it is definitely a wonderful place to visit especially that there are lots of beautiful spots coming out. :)

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Jason. I was born in Cebu and I had been back there several times. I have a friend who just visited and she loved it.

    • manunulat profile image

      Jason M Quinapondan 

      4 days ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I enjoyed reading your article and the pictures. It brought me to places I have never been. Thanks for this article. I would love to read more of your hubs about places you have been.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      My pleasure Nithya. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      There is still time Nell. It is so easy from the UK to go to so many places in Europe. You are lucky.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 days ago from Dubai

      The basilica is so beautiful, the stained glasses are exquisite. The photos are brilliant, thank you for the wonderful tour of the Santa Maria del Marx.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 days ago from England

      I always wanted to go to Barcelona, sadly I still haven't got there! Great pictures and facts! so lovely!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      10 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Dana, if only walls could talk. I laughed at the eh at the end. Yes, these walls have kept secrets of centuries.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      11 days ago from LOS ANGELES

      The pictures were amazing. I love old buildings with beautiful architecture but churches are my favorite. I can imagine the rich history. If only walls could talk eh! Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      13 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yes, Ann and sadly that was our last but we had a fabulous time.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      13 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Peggy. Yes, this Church is the best representative of Catalan Gothic architecture. So different from the Sagrada Familia which I also love.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      13 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Robert. Yes, the Assumption is a very special feast for the people of that parish.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      13 days ago from SW England

      Wonderful photos and great information shared here. It's great to travel with hubbie friends!

      Ann

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      We did not get to visit this basilica when we were in Barcelona. It is amazing that it was constructed in so short a time. The Sagrada Familia was still under construction and showed such contrasting architectural styles through the centuries. Although I could not understand the language, the video was worth watching just to see more of the views. The stained glass windows are so beautiful. Thanks for showcasing this beauty of a church and its history, Mary.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 weeks ago

      This is an excellent description and history of this church. It must be a wonderful place to visit. That is was consecrated on August 15 was probably because that day is the day Roman Catholics celebrate the Assumption of Mary.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      It was indeed a labour of love so until now, the people in the area just love the Church.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have no idea either. I will have to find out. The stained glass window of the Ascension, the Lavabo in the chapel of Sant Rafael, and the great rose window are some of the most outstanding in the Church.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yes, it is one Church that's lovely to visit when you're in Barcelona.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing the history, the architecture, and all the other interesting details about this impressive edifice. It was and is a labor of love.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 weeks ago from USA

      I would love to visit not just for the architecture but those stained glass windows. I wonder how they determine who is unemployed for purposes of admission—honesty policy or some kind of document?

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      2 weeks ago from london

      Very impressive pictures and pillars as well. 55 years! and some take more? Wow!!

      A great account of this amazing and inspirational church/cathedral and one I'm sure to look for if I visit Barcelona.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sean, am glad you were reminded of this beautiful Church built by the people themselves. It's nice to share the memory.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Linda. Cathedrals and Churches give us so much history.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      No, people bringing stone by stone from the quarry to build their Church, I don't think that's possible today.

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 

      2 weeks ago from Greece, Almyros

      My dear Mary, this is an excellent article! A work of Heart! I have been in these places, and it was a great reminder! Thank you so much!

      Admiration!

      Sean

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I always enjoy visiting cathedrals and churches. Thank you for sharing the information about this beautiful cathedral in Barcelona, Mary.

    • Bede le Venerable profile image

      Bede 

      2 weeks ago from Minnesota

      I saw pictures of this church a few years ago and the atmosphere carried me away. That was only from seeing the pictures – I can only imagine being there in person. We probably can’t build churches like that anymore despite all of our technology.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Heidi. It is amazing what people can do when they dream.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      I hope you would. it is one the locals are proud of.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      I'm always amazed at what people were able to achieve building-wise so long ago... like 700 years ago. How did they ever do it without the tools, equipment and power we have now? Anyway, thanks for sharing the lovely photos of this beautiful site!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 weeks ago from UK

      This is a very interesting article. We have visited the cathedral in Barcelona, also Sagrada Familia and the church on Mount Tibidabo, but this is one to put on the list for our next visit.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Such majesty, I agree. The people worked on it and supported it.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Bill. More so because the people built it.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Churches and cathedrals tell us plenty of the history of the place so it is interesting to visit them.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Louise, Barcelona has so many beautiful cathedrals and churches. It would be wonderful if you can visit that city.

    • Ladymermaid profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      2 weeks ago from Canada

      How beautiful the old buildings are. Their majesty amazes me. I can only imagine the work and cost involved in their construction. Thank you for sharing or I would never have the opportunity to see these far away places.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Absolutely stunning architecture! Thank you for sharing, Mary!

    • Stephen C Barnes profile image

      Stephen Barnes 

      2 weeks ago from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

      Nice article Mary, beautiful pictures. Churches and cathedrals are among my favourite places to visit wherever I travel.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      Oh that looks a beautiful Church. I love visiting Churches and Cathedrals. I hope one day I will be able to visit here. Thankyou for the article. It has been very interesting to read. =)

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