Amazing Churches in Barcelona
When visiting any city for a short break, many top ten lists of the must-see attractions will include the city’s Cathedral. Who hasn’t heard of Saint Paul’s or Notre Dame? Well, there’s no better way to get a feel for the history of Barcelona than looking at the churches.
The Romans formed the old citadel of Barcino in the year 15BC on top of Mons Taber hill. This area is now the old town neighbourhood known as the Gothic quarter, and is where you would find Barcelona’s main cathedral. However, I’m not going to talk about that here. Instead, skip across town to the Raval neighbourhood for a step back in time. In the heart of the Raval is the oldest church in Barcelona, Sant Pau del Camp – literally Saint Paul of the countryside. This is a stone construction, which has survived fairly well after civil wars and the simple test of time, and its charm is that it is exactly the same on the inside than the outside – rough stone. No gold, no icons, no exaggerated altars – just cold stone. A visit to the cloister throws a visitor back centuries with its dank and damp smell, too. Details as to the dates of construction are scarce, but officials confirm that Earl Guifrë Borell founded the church between 879 and 911 according to his gravestone found early 1596 – currently attached to the left had wall of the church.
Staying in the old town, but moving over to the El Borne district is the Gothic Church of Santa Maria del Mar – Our Lady of the Sea. This is widely regarded as the best example of Gothic architecture in Barcelona, and is a permanent fixture on any city walking tour. The church is simple in construction and was built fairly quickly in terms of church building – only 25 years between 1329 and 1384. The church has also survived a rough past, and as well as the civil war, was set alight and burned for 11 days in the 1930s, which destroyed much of the wooden altars and decorations inside. This in turn, has led to open empty spaces, and it’s no surprise that the church is high on a wish list for couples wanting to be married in Barcelona, too.
Sitting at the back of Barcelona, is the Tibidabo mountain, and at it’s peak the Sagrat Cor – Sacred Heart church. This church can be seen from all around Barcelona, with a monument of Jesus outstretching his hands on top, similar to Rio de Janiero (although obviously not as big!). The church itself is not amazing in any specific form, but the views from atop Tibidabo make the journey worthwhile. Tibadabo is Latin for “To thee I will give” and earns its name from the biblical reference to the temptation of Christ by the devil who uttered these words.
Perhaps the most famous church in Barcelona is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, or the Holy Family Cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is actually not even finished yet, but is high on the list of any visitor to the Catalan Capital. Its architect, Antonin Gaudi, is also responsible for many of the city’s other most-visited attractions. Sagrada Familia is an incredible structure, challenging all the classical ideas of the time, and has a wholly catholic message at its core. There are endless intricacies and details to the cathedral, from it’s 12 towers representing the apostles, to the clever metal number plaques which always total 33 on the crucifixion façade – the age Jesus was when he died – to the smaller facts that every statue inside the cathedral is looking towards either Jesus or Mary. An incredible monument to The Catholic Church, and its no wonder that people visit this over the city’s main Gothic Cathedral.