Santa Maria del Mar. Church in Barcelona, Spain

Santa Maria del Mar

Church in Barcelona, Spain

Santa Maria del Mar Photo © Toni Torres

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Santa Maria del Mar

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Santa Maria del Mar - Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar - Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by SBA73
This cathedral, also known as “La Catedral de la Ribera”, is one of the many beautiful Gothic cathedrals that can be found in Barcelona, and is located in the La Ribera Quarter, very close to the sea. It was built in the 14th century entirely by inhabitants of the quarter and the harbors nearby, called the “bastaixos”, who contributed with both work and resources to it. It is said that the stones that form the huge columns and walls of this church were carried one by one by these dedicated workers.The main gates of the basilica serve as a testimony for their sacrifice, as well as a homage to them.

Tumultuous History

This cathedral experienced many catastrophes through its history. In 1379, a fire damaged many of the stones. In 1428, an earthquake caused the rose window and many stones around it to fall off, which resulted in the death of several people. In 1936, a fire caused by communists and anarchists in a series of riots resulted in damages to most of the images and the altar, which dated back to the Baroque period. Unfortunately, due to those damages, most of the original artwork of the basilica was lost.

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Desalojo - Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by SantiMB.Photos

The Structure

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Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by Marc
The Basílica de Santa María del Mar is a perfect example of Catalan Gothic architecture, which is also striking because of its serenity and austerity when compared to another important example of Gothic architecture in Barcelona, the Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia de Barcelona and its exuberance.
The basilica was built as a consequence of the growth the La Ribera quarter experienced in the 13th century, where merchants and builders gathered. This led to the need of a temple of importance within the quarter. La Ribera lost its importance in the 16th century, after the new port was built.
Nowadays, La Ribera draws huge attention from tourists from all over the world, due to the amount of artistic and cultural patrimony from the medieval times that can still be appreciated there.
One of the many interesting facts of the basilica is the consistency in its architectonic style — pure Catalan Gothic — which is a clear contrast with most Gothic churches that are found in Europe, which can present a varied array of styles, mainly due to the extensive periods of time their construction implied. To put it in perspective, while the Basilica de Santa María del Mar was under construction for 55 years, the Catedral de Toledo, one of the most impressive churches in Spain, was under construction for over 200 years.

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Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by Tomàs Badia Navarro
In addition to its elegant sobriety, the distance between columns (almost 12 meter) add even more solemnity to its main wing. This particular and tasteful style has its explanation in the origins of the church: while the Catedral de Barcelona was meant for noblemen, Santa María del Mar was the temple of the merchants and the artisans of the city.
The basilica is also more vastly illuminated than most churches of the time. While from the outside, Santa María del Mar looks like a robust, dark building, from the inside, the vast windows and wide spaces, bereft of the typical ornamentations of the time, give place to a calm and omnipresent light.

The austerity of the walls and the structure in general, combined with the wide spaces generated between pillars and aisles, give the impression of a single enormous hall, even when it does have a nave and aisles like most of the religious structures that were built in Europe at the time.
Its main facade is decorated with images of St. Peter and St. Paul. Unfortunately, most of the art the basilica used to display, as well as the original organ, were destroyed during the 1936 riots. However, its architectural singularity is worth visiting. The anthropomorphic gargoyles on the side of the basilica are worth mentioning as well. The basilica also has two large bell towers.
The basilica was built using stones brought from the famous Montjuïc (Wikipedia Article) hill. These kind of stones were the stones commonly used in buildings at the time and can be easily found in the buildings of the Gothic quarter. Each of the stones of the pillars weighs roughly 500 lbs. On the main gate of the basilica, there is a depiction of two men carrying weight on their shoulders, as a tribute to the men of the Ribera who carried the stones used in the construction on their backs.

The Sanctum of Santa María del Mar
	Cathedral - Santa Maria del Mar
The Sanctum of Santa María del Mar Cathedral - Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by Trey Ratcliff

How to Get to the Basílica de Santa María del Mar

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Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by Tomàs Badia Navarro
The church is located in front of the Plaza Santa María, very close to the beach. It can be easily reached by Metro L4 from the Jaume station. Buses 17, 19 and 40 also drive by the basilica. The Barcelona tour bus, the Bus Turistic, also stops by the church, in the Pla de Palau stop.
The church is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 1:30 PM and from 4:30 PM to 8 PM. During Sundays and holidays it opens at 10 AM.

Also in La Ribera

There are many museums and other attractions in the area of La Ribera, such as the Museu Picasso (Wikipedia Article), which shows many rare pieces from his Blue Period; the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern, the Foso de las Moreras, a monument for those who fell in the 1714 Barcelona Siege; La Llotja, a building which features a very unique mixture of Neo-Classical and Gothic styles, and the Calle Montcada, a very narrow street where several medieval castles can be visited.

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Author: eymili. Last updated: Feb 27, 2015

Pictures of Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria Del Mar - Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria Del Mar - Photo by Spiterman

Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar. Photo by Tomàs Badia Navarro


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