Basílica de la Mercè
The baroque basilica dedicated to the patron saint of Barcelona
An 18th-century basilica dedicated to the patron saint of Barcelona was built over a medieval church and convent. The Basílica de la Mare de Déu de la Mercè, one of Barcelona’s most representative, is the result of various expansions that transformed a 13th-century religious complex into a baroque monument that venerates the Virgin of Mercy.
Why visit the Basílica de la Mercè?
In the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, between Carrer Ample and Carrer de la Mercè, is the Basílica de la Mare de Déu de la Mercè, a church in the baroque style that the Catalan architect Josep Mas i Dordal built from 1765 to 1775 over an earlier church from the medieval period.
The first church of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy was built from 1249 to 1267 and then expanded in the Gothic style in the 14th and 15th centuries. Following Mas i Dordal’s construction in 1870, a 15th-century flamboyant Gothic facade from an old church dedicated to Saint Michael was added to the side on Carrer Ample.
A large dome, by Joan Martorell i Montells, the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament on the Gospel side, and a shrine to the Virgin Mary were added in 1888. The dome was crowned with a colossal image of the Virgin Mary of Mercy, by Maximí Sala, which was destroyed in 1936 and replaced in 1959 with an even bigger one by the Oslé brothers.
Its spacious interior, delicately decorated in the rococo style, contains another image of the Virgin Mary of Mercy, a Gothic carving from 1361 attributed to Pere Moragues, although the figure of the Christ Child is from the 15th century.
How do you get to the Basílica de la Mercè?
Hop off at the Museu d’Història de Catalunya stop on the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic to get to the Basílica de la Mercè by walking along Passeig de Colom and turning onto Carrer d’en Boltres.
For the most curious of you
- Did you know? Saint Eulalia was the sole patron saint of Barcelona until 1687 when Barcelona was visited by a plague of locusts that could not be stopped. The people of Barcelona turned to the Virgin of Mercy to rid them of these insects and in thanks the Council of One Hundred, the city’s government body, honoured the Virgin of Mercy by naming her the patron saint of Barcelona and of its diocese, to the detriment of Saint Eulalia. As the patron saint of the city, the Virgin Mary of Mercy deserved her own church, which is why this basilica started to be built in 1765.
- Local’s tip: On Carrer Ample and Carrer de la Mercè, which surround the basilica, there are a couple of bars that contrast with the religiosity of the church and stand out due to their decoration: Polaroid Bar, which is dedicated to the 1980s and 1990s, and Sor Rita, which is decorated in a kitsch style.
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