In the heart of Barcelona‘s Gothic Quarter, you will find the church of Santa María del Mar. This Gothic minor basilica is one of the city’s emblematic buildings.
According to recent studies, Santa María del Mar was built on top of a Roman amphitheatre in the city of Barcino. The arrival of the first Christians in the Roman city established a place of worship to Santa María de las Arenas. Around the 7th century, there was already a temple to Santa María del Mar.
The 13th century was a century of prosperity for the city of Barcelona. At this time, the palaces on Montcada Street were built. They were destined to be the residence of the nobility and the merchant bourgeoisie.
The prosperity and growth led to the construction of a larger temple than the previous one. Pere III gave permission to use the stone from the quarries. In addition, the merchants paid a large part of the expenses.
On the other hand, people were the main protagonists in the construction of the basilica of Santa María del Mar. The Bastaixos -workers for loading and unloading-, and normal people of the city were in charge of transporting the stones from Montjuic.
Work was carried out by Berenger de Montagut and Ramón Despuig. The work began in 1329 and lasted until 1383, and was completed the following year. Later, at the end of the 17th century, the basilica was connected to the viceregal palace by an elevated passage.
In 1936, Santa María del Mar burned for eleven days in a row. During this tragedy all the archives were destroyed. In addition, the baroque high altar was also destroyed. The subsequent restorations have emphasised its Mediterranean Gothic style.
The exterior of the Basilica of Santa María del Mar stands out for the sobriety and horizontality typical of Mediterranean Gothic. It is one of the best examples of 14th century Catalan Gothic architecture.
It has three entrances. The main façade, framed by two towers, is the most beautiful. In the centre, it has a large rose window between buttresses. The tympanum on the façade houses the sculptures of Christ in Majesty, the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist.
The side façades are even more sober, with flat, undecorated walls. The side doors are known as: Puerta de los Sombrereros and Puerta de las Moreras. Another one was also opened in the apse: the Puerta del Born.
The robustness of the exterior contrasts with the interior of the basilica. It is a church with a hall floor plan, without a transept. A whole row of octagonal columns separate the main nave from the side naves and the ambulatory. The space is covered with ribbed vaults, which have beautiful keystones.
Opposite to the division of the classic French Gothic, in Santa María del Mar we find a unique and homogeneous space.
Of all the stained glass windows, the rose window, made by Pere Joan and Andreu Escuder in 1459, stands out. Others also stand out, made later such as the stained glass window of the Last Judgement, from 1474. In 1995, José Fernández Castrillo made one, next to the sacristy, on the occasion of the 1992 Olympic Games.
As we have already mentioned, the Baroque high altar was lost in 1936. Therefore, in 1965, the remains of the altar were removed and a new one was made. The new altar followed the aesthetics of the Gothic sculpture of the Virgin. In addition, a boat was added at the foot, coming from one of the side doors.
At this time, a series of archaeological excavations were also carried out. The remains of a Roman necropolis were found. A crypt was built to take advantage of the empty space left by the excavations. The crypt pays homage to Sant Cugat del Rec.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the chapel of the Holy Sacrament, destined to the communion. It was built by Francesc Vila in 1790, and has a neoclassical style.
Location: Plaza de Santa Maria, 1, 08003 Barcelona.
Phone: +34933 102 390
How to get there: Metro: L4 parada Jaume I. | Bus: 17, 19, 40 y 45. | Barcelona Bus Turístic: Pla de Palau stop.
You can check the updated timetable of the Basilica of Santa María del Mar here.
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