Despite often losing out in the popularity stakes to the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and Gaudí´s Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral found in Plaça La Seu in the Gothic Quarter remains the city’s foremost religious building. Sadly it is currently undergoing extensive building work to the façade which has all but disappeared under a web of scaffolding, but it is a thoroughly impressive structure and its location as the foremost building in this historical area of Gothic buildings ensures it is an essential stop on any visit to Barcelona.
Its origins trace back to a Romanesque cathedral started in 1046 but what is seen today is one of the finest examples of Spanish Gothic and was constructed between 13th-15th centuries.The façade, although based on a design from 1408, is in actual fact a Neo-gothic addition and was begun in 1870.The cathedral’s design is one of a wide nave with narrow side aisles divided up into individual chapels sponsored by different families and dedicated to their chosen saints.
The cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulália, a third century saint who is the first patron saint of Barcelona.As with all Christian martyrdoms at the hands of the Romans hers is a sorry tale; legend has it that she was put in a barrel filled with knives and rolled down a hill (supposedly the street Baixada de Santa Eulália, according to the story).Her crypt is one of the most important features of the cathedral and an excellent example of gothic sculpture.In the cathedral’s cloister, a tranquil space with a pond and palm trees in the centre, there are always 13 white geese; white for Eulália´s purity, and one for each year of her life before her martyrdom.
Another important relic with a romantic history is the wooden alterpiece known as Sant Crist de Lepanto.Originally part of a royal galley that fought in the Battle of Lepanto, the crucified Christ holds an unusually contorted position on the cross, having apparantly assumed this twisted position in order to dodge a cannon ball.Other points of interest are: the Romanesque chapel of Santa Llùcia (now incorporated into the cathedral complex), the gorgeous stained glass windows, gothic paintings decorating the devotional chapels, sculptured choir seats and the grotesque gargoyles so typical of the era.Not to be missed is the lift in the north east corner taking visitors up to the roof where fantastic views of the Gothic area and beyond are to be enjoyed (€2).