Santa Maria del Mar – Legendary Barcelona’s Cathedral of the Sea

by Apr 19, 20200 comments

Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most unique religious buildings not only in the region of Catalonia but in the whole country. Perfectly proportioned, elegant and with a sober decoration, this Basilica is the ultimate exponent of the Catalan Gothic movement. The legend says that the number of stones that were used to build it is the same as the number of days that were needed to do so. Santa Maria del Mar has inspired books, films, series and documentaries because of its history and hidden secrets.

≫ It’s located in Plaça de Santa Maria, 1, 08003 Barcelona.

≫ Open from Monday to Saturday 9:00am to 1:00pm and 5:00pm to 8:30pm. Sunday 10:00am to 2:00pm and 5:00pm to 8:00pm.

≫ It’s a famous place to have a picture booking a photographer in Barcelona service.

History of Santa Maria del Mar 

It was back in 1329 when the sailor guild from the old neighborhood of La Ribera (now called El Born) started building this Basilica by their own will. Santa Maria del Mar is the only pure Catalan Gothic style construction fully constructed, it took 54 years to be finished so in 1383 this astonishing church opened its doors to the community.

Santa Maria del Mar’s history is deeply attached to the neighbors from La Ribera and to Barcelona’s population in general. A few years after the arrival of Christianism to the old roman city of Barcino (Barcelona), a small christian community was created close to the sea and outside the city’s walls. In this place there was a christian necropolis where Santa Eulàlia -a martyr- was buried. This could be the place where the first chapel was built under the name of Santa María de les Arenes which kept being expanded. There is evidence that proves that in the end of the 7th century the existing temple was already named Parroquia de Santa Maria del Mar.

In the 13th century the city experienced a huge expansion, this material progress and the piety of the time influenced people in their hope for a bigger temple than the old one. The thing that makes Santa Maria del Mar so special is that it was built thanks to the harbor and construction workers’ labour (also called bastaixos) who would sacrifice their time to bring the stones from Montjuic carrying them on their own shoulders. A remarkable moment in the Basilica’s history was its almost entire destruction due to the Civil War in 1936, when the church burned for eleven days in a row and almost all the inside was destroyed. Only the walls and the columns remained intact but thanks to its restoration we can now be delighted again by its elegant Gothic style.


Outside of Santa Maria del Mar 

The 14th century Catalan Gothic architecture has a strong personality manifested in the sober horizontally of its creations. It is said that the Santa Maria del Mar Basilica is the clearest exponent of this way of building monuments in Barcelona throughout the whole century. Seen from the outside, the building has a solid and robust appearance, which does not convey what we will find inside. The predominance of horizontal lines and wall sections without large openings or decorations is undeniable.

The main façade faces Santa Maria’s Square in El Born in Barcelona (the old neighbourhood of La Ribera) and it is decorated with images of Sant Pere and Sant Pau, as well as an astonishing rosette from the XVth century. The other side is decorated with gargoyles and it faces is the Fossar de les Moreres, a memorial tribute to all the victims who died in the 1714 siege in Barcelona. All the façades show the essence of the Catalan Gothic: octagonal towers, raw surfaces and strong buttresses. 

Outside of Santa Maria del Mar

Inside of Santa Maria del Mar 

The structure inside is composed of a three-nave building, with an ambulatory and no cruise. The naves are made up of four sections and the presbytery consists of half a section and a polygon with seven sides. 

The interior lacks the typical images that would be common to find in other important religious buildings in Barcelona such as Santa Maria del Pi or La Catedral. This is because of the fire occurred during the civil war that was mentioned before in this post, which destroyed almost all of them. 

Formally we have a three-nave building, but it seems as if the architect wanted to give the same feeling of space that is achieved with a single nave. That is why it separates the pillars enough and equals the elevations of the three naves, the result is an open space which stands out from the French Gothic style and focuses in the idea of ​​a single space.

Its remarkable stained-glass windows -the ones that survived the fire- are amongst the most impressive ones in the city. The daylight trespasses these gorgeous colorful windows creating a unique atmosphere inside the building.

Inside of Santa Maria del Mar

Thoughts about Santa Maria del Mar 

If you are in Barcelona don’t hesitate to visit Santa Maria del Mar, its unique history and magnificence will surprise you. The regular entrance is free and it is definitely worth it if you are walking around El Born. It is highly recommended for those Netflix and history lovers to watch the TV series about this marvelous Basilica before visiting it, this way you will have even a more intense experience once you get inside. Take your time to explore every corner of this masterpiece and don’t forget to light a candle in honor of all those humble workers who built it with their own hands.