Church of Santa Maria del Mar
The Church Santa Maria del Mar (Santa Maria of the Sea) is a 14th-century Gothic basilica, located not far from the sea in the district of La Ribera, El Born, and was built by sailors who wanted to compete with Barcelona Cathedral despite their limited resources. Its sobriety makes it one of the most beautiful examples of Catalan Gothic. The Basilica is located next to the Picasso Museum.
What to see in the Church of St Maria del Mar?
The Basilica of Santa Maria de la Mar is also known by the inhabitants of the city as the "Catedral de la Ribera" or "Catedral del Mar".
From the outside, Santa Maria gives an impression of massive severity that belies the interior. It is hemmed in by the narrow streets of the Ribera, making it difficult to obtain an overall impression, except from the Fossar de les Moreres and the Plaça de Santa Maria, both of them former burial grounds. The latter is dominated by the west end of the church with its rose window. Images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul occupy niches on either side of the west door, and the tympanum shows the Saviour flanked by Our Lady and Saint John.
The northwest tower was completed in 1496, but its companion was not finished until 1902.
In contrast with the exterior, the interior gives an impression of light and spaciousness. It is of the basilica type, with its three aisles forming a single space with no transepts and no architectural boundary between the nave and presbytery. The simple ribbed vault is supported on slender octagonal columns and abundant daylight streams through the tall clerestory windows.
The interior is almost devoid of imagery of the sort to be found in Barcelona's other large Gothic churches, the cathedral and Santa Maria del Pi, after the fire which occurred in 1936 during anticlerical disturbances. Amongst the most notable of the works destroyed at that time was the Baroque retable by Deodat Casanoves and Salvador Gurri.
The Church of Santa Maria de la Mar is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic architecture. It was built in the 14th century by the architect Berenguer de Montagut. The construction of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar dates back to the 14th century, in the medieval period.
It was built between 1329 and 1383, a record time for a church of this size at the time, thanks to the contributions of the inhabitants of the Ribera district, where it is located.
The construction of the basilica was financed by the sailors, fishermen and inhabitants of the neighbourhood who wanted a place to worship the Virgin Mary, who was considered the protector of the sailors and fishermen. They decided to build this church in honour of the Virgin, with the aim of making it a symbol of their neighbourhood and their city.
The architect Berenguer de Montagut was responsible for the design of the basilica, which is considered a masterpiece of Catalan Gothic architecture. The basilica was built in stone and brick, in an austere and elegant Gothic style, typical of Catalan architecture.
Over the centuries, the basilica has undergone several renovations and restorations, due to various natural disasters and armed conflicts, such as fires, earthquakes and the Spanish Civil War
During the visit, we learn that most of the stained glass windows were destroyed in a fire in 1936. However, some of them survived, such as the Last Judgement, Pentecost and Holy Communion windows. The main rose window, dedicated to the Coronation of Mary, had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1428, and the cracks left by the earthquake are still visible from the roof.
Recent work has allowed visitors to access the roofs of Santa Maria del Mar and discover previously inaccessible areas. The main rose window, the windows, the towers, the gargoyles and the upper part of the central nave can now be seen from above on the ribbed vaults. It is also an opportunity to enjoy spectacular views of Barcelona from a height of over thirty-three metres!
A recent anecdote about the church of Santa Maria del Mar is that it inspired the Spanish author Ildefonso Falcones to write his famous novel "The Cathedral of the Sea" in 2006. The book tells the story of the construction of the basilica and the lives of the workers who took part in it. Many of his readers now seek out the details of the book when visiting this "cathedral"...
Our advice: To get the most out of your visit to the Basilica of St Mary of the Sea, we recommend taking a guided tour to discover the history and details of its architecture. Don't forget to take time to admire the colourful stained glass windows and impressive sculptures that adorn the basilica.
Church of Santa Maria del MarPlaça de Santa Maria, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Area: El Born
Website: Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar - Barcelona
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00h to 20:30h
Prices: Visits 10:00h to 18:00h with a contribution of 5€ & Sundays from 13:30h to 17:00h with a contribution of 5€.
Metro/Bus: Metro: L4 Jaume I / Bus: 7, 120, V15, V17 (Via Laietana)
Barcelona metro map
Hotels: Find your hotel in Barcelona in this area.