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Santa María del Mar

 

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Heralded by many as the most beautiful church in Barcelona, Santa María del Mar (Mary of the Sea) is located in the Born district and should not be missed whilst visiting this gorgeous part of the city.

Begun in 1328 and completed in 1383, the church was constructed relatively quickly (for the period), therefore producing a building coherent in one style and the most perfect example of that style, the Catalan Gothic.Appropriately dedicated to ship-owners and sailors, considering its location so close to the sea, the church was designed by Berenguer de Montagut and commissioned in order to honour the Spanish conquest of Sardinia.The interior was burned during the Spanish Civil War, but rather than damage the building this act of vandalism instead served to enhance its attraction; the wooden baroque additions were all burned away allowing the simplicity of the lines to show through and for visitors to see from one end of the building to the other, unlike so many cluttered Spanish churches.

The church consists of a nave and two side-aisles with devotional chapels running around the whole of the building.The soaring nave is held together by fan vaulting supported by four columns on either side, so slight they barely seem to cut off the side-aisles from the central nave.This gives a wonderful sense of space running throughout the whole structure and a unity to the building as a whole.There is no transept but an elegant ambulatory at the far end; the church also has no flying buttresses and octagonal flat-topped towers which are marked differences from other continental Gothic buildings built at this time.A highlight is the stunning 15th century rose window above the main entrance.The church is also famous for its excellent acoustics; classical concerts are held throughout the year with the occasional jazz evening, and it is well worth buying tickets if you have the opportunity.

Having been much-loved by Barcelona residents for over 600 years, Santa Maria del Mar was made notorious throughout Spain and beyond after the publication in 2006 of a best-selling novel, La Catedral del Mar by Ildefonso Falcones.A fictional tale of adventure and conflict in medieval Catalunya set around the church’s construction, it topped the fiction charts in both Spanish and Catalan and was the year’s publishing sensation.

Santa Maria del Mar, Plaça de Santa Maria

Opening times: Mon-Sat 9am-1.30pm and 4.30pm-8pm, Sundays 10am-1.30pm and 4.30pm-8pm

Entry: Free

Metro: Jaume 1 (L4)