Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar | Barcelona Bus Turístic

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Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar

A church in the Gothic style built by and for the people

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One of the finest examples of Catalan Gothic architecture, which stands out due to its breadth and sobriety. The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Sea, contrary to common practice in the Middle Ages, was built in just 55 years in a purely Catalan Gothic style that deviated from the compartmentalisation of the European Gothic style to opt for a more open space.

Why visit Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar?

The Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar de Barcelona was built from 1329 to 1383 by Berenguer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig, who erected what is considered to be the finest example of the Catalan Gothic style.

The church is structured into three aisles of roughly the same height with tall, sober columns every 15 metres, creating a space whose expanse is not matched by any other medieval construction anywhere in the world, with an internal lightness and breadth without equal in Gothic churches. The aisles measure four spans and the chancel consists of half a span and a seven-sided polygon, covered by a Gothic cross vault and crowned with magnificent keystones.

The main facade consists of two towers and two powerful buttresses that frame the rose window. Horizontally you can see two spans marked by their mouldings and flat roofs, while the horizontality of the towers is stressed by their flat roofs rather than with pinnacles or capitals. The bottom span, corresponding to the side chapels, is centred by the portico and the top one by the rose window, and the two windows that accompany it are between the buttresses and the towers. On the sides there are two doors: one on Carrer dels Sombrerers and the other on Plaça del Fossar de les Moreres, on either side of which is an inscription commemorating the start of the work. Subsequently, another door, this time for the apse, was added on Passeig del Born.

Internally it is a building composed of three aisles, with an ambulatory and no transept, which features numerous stained-glass windows. Under the chancel there is a small crypt, which conserves the tomb containing the remains of Saint Cucuphas from the now defunct church of Sant Cugat del Rec. Portugal’s Peter the Constable, who was proclaimed Count of Barcelona (Peter IV of Barcelona) was also buried in this crypt, and one of the chapels on the Epistle side conserves his white marble tombstone, on which you can see his outline carved in relief.

Mention should also be made of the stained-glass windows of the Ascension, in the Chapel of Saint Mary, and of the Foot Washing in the Chapel of Saint Raphael, which appear to have been made from 1341 to 1385 and are conserved in the church’s museum with other later fragments from the 15th century. Noteworthy too is the large rose window, which was destroyed during the 1428 earthquake and reconstructed in the middle of the 15th century in a Franco-Flemish Gothic style with highly realistic naturalism. The central space depicts the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, whereas the second circle contains the symbols of the four evangelists, the third features the apostles, and the rest are dedicated to saints, bishops and figures of musical angels.

 

How do you get to the Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar?

From the Pla de Palau – Parc de la Ciutadella stop on the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic you can explore the Born district and discover the Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar.

 

For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? The construction of the Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar included the active participation of the entire population of the Ribera district, who paid for it with their money or with their work. This is in stark contrast to Barcelona Cathedral, whose construction was associated with the monarchy, the nobility and the senior clergy. Mention should also be made of the Ribera district’s stevedores, who brought the enormous stones used in the construction of the church from the royal quarry on Montjuïc Mountain and from the docks. They were known as "bastaixos" (porters) and they carried these huge stones one by one on their backs right to Plaça del Born. The church pays homage to the "bastaixos" who helped construct it, representing them on the capitals and on the embossed bronze elements on the doors.
  • Local’s tip: The Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar organises visits to its flat roofs that allow you to climb to the main floor of the chapels of the apse and access its crypt. In addition to examining the originality of its Catalan Gothic architecture, from the roofs you can enjoy one of the best vistas of Barcelona and a unique view of the church and the Born district.
  • A must: To contemplate the maximum expression of the Catalan Gothic style.