Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor
A hidden treasure in the centre of Barcelona
While from the outside it appears to be a simple Gothic church, inside it is full of surprises and offers unbeatable views of the city centre. The little-known Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor, considered to be the city’s oldest church, contains treasures from the Roman and medieval periods and offers a privileged view of the historic centre from its bell tower.
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Why visit the Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor?
The Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor is a Gothic church dedicated to Saints Justus and Pastor, two boys who were martyred during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian because they refused to renounce their faith. Religious worship at this site, now Plaça de Sant Just in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, dates back to 801, when Louis the Pious, one of Charlemagne’s sons, ordered the construction of a church in homage to the two saints.
Centuries later, Barcelona’s last great Gothic house of God, noteworthy due to the austerity of its design, was built over the ruins of that church from 1342 to 1571. Only the right semi-octagonal tower of the pair originally planned for the new church in the 15th century was actually built on the facade. Master builders like Pere Blai, Joan Safont and Joan Granja participated in the construction of the facade and bell tower, which were not completed until the 16th century.
The interior structure of the church is very simple, consisting of a single nave with a polygonal apse and six rectangular chapels, including one dedicated to Saint Felix and one to the Holy Cross, which preserves an altarpiece dedicated to the Passion of Christ painted by Pere Nunyes from 1528 to 1530 that is considered to be one of the finest to be produced in Catalonia in the 16th century. If you look up, you can see various lattice stained-glass windows from the 17th century and, if you look further up, you can see scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary in the rib vaults.
But the spectacle that visitors most appreciate is at the top of a narrow spiral staircase: the church’s 16th-century bell tower. It is 35 metres tall and offers a 360-degree view of Barcelona that allows you to see the bell towers on the cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar, Santa Maria del Pi and La Mercè, as well as the entire city from the sea to the mountains and from north to south.
How do you get to the Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor?
On the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic hop off at the Barri Gòtic stop, from where you can easily reach the basilica.
For the most curious of you
- Did you know? Restoration work undertaken on the Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor in 2013 unearthed numerous archaeological remains that have added to the mystique of this church. They include the base of a Roman column from the 1st century that was reused to construct a Christian basilica in the 6th century, a baptismal font from the same period and a 14th-century mass grave containing 120 victims of the Black Death.
- Local’s tip: It may seem very simple from the outside, but its secrets and views are so impressive that you should not pass up the chance to take a guided tour.
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