Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona, Spain

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar (Saint Mary of the Sea) is a church in the Ribera district of Barcelona, Spain, built between 1329 and 1383 at the height of Principality of Catalonia’s maritime and mercantile preeminence. It is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.

Shortly after the arrival of Christianity to the Roman colony of Barcino, modern-day Barcelona, a small Christian community was started near the sea and just outside its walls. There was a Christian necropolis here where St Eulàlia, martyr, was probably buried in 303 A.D. This site might have been the place where a chapel was first built, known then as Santa Maria de Les Arenes, St. Mary of the Sea Sands. By the end of the seventh century, the existing structure was already known as “Santa Maria del Mar”.

The first church to occupy the site where today is Santa Maria del Mar was the so-called Santa Maria de las Arenes, documented since 998 and already built on a previous paleo-Christian temple. This previous temple must have been erected where tradition is the finding of the relics of Santa Eulàlia de Barcelona by Bishop Frodoí in 887. Recent studies by Jordina Sales have supported the hypothesis that Roman Barcelona had an arena or amphitheater in this place.

The 1005 appears the name of Santa Maria of the Sea, four years later it appears like parish of the Vilanova of the Sea, expanding outer wall district, inhabited by shipowners, merchants and unloaders of the port (the bastaixos ).

The construction of the present church began on May 25 of 1329, as they say gravestones post Moreres and putting the first stone king Alfonso IV of Aragon, March 2 Ramon Despuig and Berenguer de Montagut signed the contract works. One notable fact, which still lingers, is that it was established that the work should belong exclusively to the parishioners, the sole responsible for the temple. It seems that the entire population of La Ribera was actively involved in the construction, as they were the ones who paid for it, either with their money or with their work. This is in clear contrast to the Cathedral of Barcelonathat by those same times it was also being built and associated with the monarchy, the nobility and the high clergy.

Particularly noteworthy were the unloaders at the La Ribera wharf, called bastaixos, which carried the huge stones used for the construction of the church from the royal quarry of Montjuïc and from the beaches, where the boats were who had taken them to Barcelona. The stones were loaded one by one behind them, to the Born Square itself. The church pays tribute to the sticks that helped build it by representing them in the capitals and the bronze trim on the doors.

The walls, side chapels and façade were completed around 1360. In 1368 King Pere el Cerimonioso authorized the extraction of stone from Montjuïc, and later acted as a guarantor of loans. In 1379, near the end of the fourth section of the vaults, the scaffolding caught fire and the stones suffered significant damage. Finally, the last turn key was placed on November 3, 1383 and the first Mass was celebrated on August 15 of the following year.

The earthquake of Catalonia of 1428 caused the collapse of the rose window and thirty deaths due to the fall of stones. Soon, however, a contract was signed with the masters of houses Pere Joan, Andreu Escuder, Bernat Nadal and Bartomeu Mas to build a new one, a flamenco one, which was completed in 1459 and a year later they were installed. install the glasses, work of Antoine de Lonhy.

The first of August of 1708 were married in Santa Maria del Mar the Archduke Charles and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.

Of the two towers that flank the facade, the one of the west dates from 1496, when it finished Pere Oliva. The east tower was not crowned until 1902, but had been a clock tower since 1674.

The project of the baroque altar and the presbytery is of the year 1771, the work of Deodat Casanovas with the sculpture of Salvador Gurri. Between 1832 and 1834 the chapel of the Santísimo, by Francesc Vila, is built.

This church was the third in Barcelona to be called the minor basilica, preceded only by the Barcelona Cathedral and the Mercè Basilica. The title basilical was granted in 1923 by Pope Pius XI.

Declared a historic-artistic monument in 1931, five years later, with the assault and burning of July 19 and 20, all the interior decoration, which had already suffered damage during the siege of 1714, was destroyed, as were the vaults.

The restoration began in 1967 and a new presbytery was built. Between the 80’s and the 90’s of the twentieth century, the Generalitat of Catalonia restored roofs, stained glass and vaulted keys, which had been damaged since 1714.

14th century Catalan Gothic architecture has a strong personality. Particularly outstanding is the sober horizontal-structure of its buildings. A strong case can be made that the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is the clearest example of this type of building in Barcelona throughout the fourteenth century.

The side aisles are half the span of the central nave and this, in turn, shows that the geometric composition of the project was based on a system known in the Middle Ages as “ad quadratum”. This feature is one of the most significant examples during the entire Gothic period. The feeling you get is one of lightness. Why? First because of the 16 1.60 meter thick octagonal columns. The capitels start from the intertwining arches that crisscross the 13.2 meter central nave.

Including with the aspe, the basilica is 80 meters (or 100 feet) long, 33 meters wide –if we combine the central nave, the side aisles and the chapel naves–. If we take into account that the central nave is also 33 meters high, the architectural design, seen from the front, fits inside a perfect circumference.

The keystones in the vault were built first starting with the presbytery and moving one by one towards the main entrance. These were restored and colored between 1971 and 1985.

Seen from the outside, the building looks solid and solid, which does not translate to what we find inside. The predominance of horizontal lines and wall locks without large openings or decorations is absolute. The horizontality is continually emphasized, marking it with moldings, cornices and flat surfaces, as if to avoid an excessive sense of takeoff (despite being a really tall building). Overall, the building forms a compact block, without wall locks at different depths (only those for ships) typical of European Gothic. This makes lighting always very flat, away from the games of light and shadow that can occur in other churches.

The main facade is punctuated by the two octagonal towers (a form that will be repeated in the columns of the interior) and the two powerful buttresses that frame the rosette and translate the width of the inner vault. Horizontally we can see two sections, clearly marked by the moldings and the roofs, while in the towers the horizontality is again emphasized by the roofs instead of pinnacles or needles. The lower section is centered by the portico and the upper part by the rose window, with the two large windows that accompany it between the buttresses and the towers.

The general austerity is even more pronounced on the sides, made up of a flat, unadorned wall that closes the space between the abutments and allows for the presence of interior chapels. The conception is thus very different from the grace of the French Gothic buttresses, who were never a prominent element in Catalan Gothic and have completely disappeared here. Horizontally, three floors are clearly marked. At the bottom, corresponding to the lateral chapels, open relatively small windows, which rhythmize the wall and correspond to each one inside the chapel and every three to the space between buttresses. On the sides there are also two doors: the Sombrerers door and the Moreres door. Later another door was opened to the apse, the door of the Born.

On both sides of the Passion Pass or the Moreres of Santa Maria del Mar is the commemorative inscription of the beginning of the works. The Latin version is on the left and the Catalan version on the right. The text reads: “In the name of the Holy Trinity in honor of Sancta Maria, the work of this church was started on the day of Sancta Maria in March of the year MCCCXXIX Nanfós reigning by the grace of God King of Aragon who you know the kingdom of Sardinia. ”

Inside is a building with three naves, with ambulatory and without cruise. The naves are made up of four sections and the presbytery consists of a half section and a seven-sided polygon, all covered with a ribbed vault and crowned with magnificent vaults. Formally, then, we have a three-ship building, but it seems as if the architect wants to give the same feeling of space that is achieved with a single nave. This is why the pillars (15 meters) are very separated and the heights of the three naves are very equal (1/8 less the lateral ones than the central one). The result is an open space, which avoids the compartmentalization of European Gothic and is inclined to an idea of a unique space.

The central nave is illuminated by means of open occlusions between the roofs of the central nave and the lateral ones. These oculars become large windows between the columns of the presbytery, which occupy almost all the available space and help to reinforce the effect of the columns with a semicircle of light. The side ships are illuminated by large windows (one per section, and not very large ones) which also help illuminate the central nave.

It is worth emphasizing the austerity, achieved, once again by smooth wall locks; for clean octagonal columns as the nerves stop at the capitals instead of on the ground; due to the fact that the arches of the lateral and central naves start at the same height (the tax line, in the capitals ), which gives the impression of equality between the ships, etc. However, the austerity we now perceive is much greater than the original, before the burning of 1936 stripped the church of altarpieces and ornaments.

Below the presbytery is a small crypt. It conserves the casket with the remains of Sant Cugat, from the missing church of Sant Cugat del Rec. In this crypt was buried Peter the Constable of Portugal, proclaimed count of Barcelona (Peter IV), King of Aragon (Peter V) and Valencia (Peter III) during the war against John II of Aragon. In one of the chapels on the side of the Epistle is preserved the white marble tombstone, with its figure in relief.

In 1965, what was left of the previous baroque altar was removed and a new Altar was put in place along with a Gothic sculpture of the Virgin Mary with a ship at her feet. This sculpture was originally above the side door on Santa Maria Street. Archeological excavations during reconstruction and restoration of the church uncovered a Roman necropolis. It was on this spot, that a modern and functional Crypt was built. Since the year 2000, the relics of St Cugat del Rec are kept here.

Stained glass
During the restoration work of 1922, which was carried out by the architect Bonaventura Bassegoda on the side chapels of the church, fragments of the stained glass with scenes of the Ascension and the Lavatory appeared, which appear to have been between 1341 and 1385. and are kept in the church museum with later fragments of the 15th century.

Rosette of the facade. It is of Franco-Flemish Gothic style with a very realistic naturalism typical of the Tolosan author Antoni Llonye, made in 1459, after the restoration of the stone tracery to replace the damaged work with the 1428 earthquake. represents is in the central space the coronation of the Virgin, in the second circle are the symbols of the four evangelists, in the third the apostles and in the rest of the strips, saints, bishops and figures of musician angels. Blue stands out above the others, as is white glass; the grisalla is black, with a very dynamic outline.

Large windows. They show Gothic stained glass, one of which depicts the Virgin with the Child and Saint Michael; In the middle window of the chapel of Sant Pere, from the middle of the fifteenth century, the upper part, corresponding to the tracery, is preserved, and four of the fourteen panels that constituted the complete window. The other stained glass window is the one of the Final Judgment, made by Severí Desmasnes de Avinyó in 1494, and consists of four lancets of six panels each, with a tracery of four trilobates in the base with red cherubs and a remodeled rose window that presents the church coat of arms. The Final Judgment is represented continuously in the four panels with a composition of several characters in quite intense colors of tone achieving a great contrast between clear

The Holy Sacrament Chapel
Originally, the Holy Sacrament was reserved on an altar in the sacristy where Holy Communion was distributed when Mass was not celebrated. In 1609 a small Blessed Sacrament Chapel was built. By 1790 it was felt to be insufficient, and so the church decided to enlarge it. This chapel is currently open for worship. It is neoclassical in style and is the work of the architect Francesc Vila.Tiene un estilo neoclásico y es obra del arquitecto Francesc Vila.

The stained glass windows on the upper level

The Rose Window,1459, is the work of Pere Joan and Andreu Escuder. The glass itself was made by Antoni Lunyi from Toulouse (France). The other stained glass and bull’s-eye windows were completed over a period of time, whenever the economic situation was good enough.
The stained glass window of the Last Judgment (1474) was done by Sendrius Desmasnes from Avignon in Provence.
The stained glass window of the Fountain of Living Water, is by an anonymous artist and dates from 1648.
The windows depicting Pentecost and the Last Supper are from the year 1711 and the artist is Francesc Saladrigas.
In 1718, Eloi Sheer designed these stained glass windows with the Apostles.
The palm tree, the cypress and the Eucharistic allegory, at right above and behind the Main Altar, were done by Hippolytus Campmajó, in 1790.
The Four Prophets are the work of Eudald Ramon Amigó, in 1878.
The Annunciation and the Betrothal of the Virgin Mary were drawn by Lluís Masriera 1924. The ones in the side chapels were done some time after 1939.
The most recent window, next to the sacristy, was completed in 1995. It was designed by José Fernández Castrillo to commemorate the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most outstanding exponents of organ building in Catalonia. The diversity of influences which was assimilated into the Catalan organ building tradition – Central European elements were especially notable from the 14th century on -has greatly enriched its heritage. In fact, by the 16th century, Catalan organ building had a fully developed and unique “style” of its own. Castilian organ building, on the other hand, had to wait until the 18th century before it reached its peak. This was primarily the result of stylistically differentiated paths.

On the basis of research, especially the work done by Francesc Baldelló in his study on “La Música en la Basílica Parroquial de Santa María del Mar, de Barcelona” (1962), we have been able to confirm that many important organ-builders worked on the large organs. Outstanding names include: Bernat Pons, a priest fromNarbonne, France(1393): the first documented evidence of an organ in Santa Maria not even ten years after the first Mass was celebrated in the newly built Gothic church, Frater Leonardus (1464), a Franciscan from Mainz, Germany, Johan Spinn von Noyern (1484-1487), Pere Bordons (1547), Perris Arrabasa and Salvador Estrada (1500-1564), a prestigious Aragonese builder José de Sesma fromSaragossa (1677), Andrés Barguero (1691) from Flanders, Josep Bosch (1719-1721), Antoni Boscà -who, since 1734, had repaired the organs in Santa Maria; in 1741 he built an entirely new instrument, a magnificent synthesis of the Catalan and Castilian traditions: divided manuals, en chamade reeds and a full-compass manual instead of the short octave-, Jean-Pierre Cavaillé and Dominique Cavaillé-Coll (1794-1797)- and Joan Puig (1854).

Spirituality & Piety
Santa Maria de Cervelló, blessed Lluís Bertran, the venerable Juliana of Morella and the venerable Claudi López Bru Marquis de Comillas were all baptized in this parish. The venerable Dorotea Chopitea was also married here

The following saints also went to church here: Peter Nolasco, Vicent Ferrer, Ignatius of Loyola, Salvador of Horta, Francisco of Borja, Miquel dels Sants, and Josep Oriol, who was an altar-boy here and made his first communion here as well, St. Maria Micaela of the Most Holy Sacrament, Maria del Carmen Sellés Berengueras and blessed Maria-Anna Mogas Fontcuberta

Among the many preachers who occupied the pulpit of Santa Maria del Mar, two are particularly notewor- thy: St Anthony Ma Claret in 1850, after he had become Bishop of Santiago de Cuba, and St Francesc Coll who in 1853, founded the Dominican Sisters of The Annunciation.

Santa Maria del Mar is home to many guilds that are related to the basilica in some way, those whose names appear on the street plaques, for example. But it is also concerned with the neighborhood’s spiritual welfare and often takes the lead in current social advances. Today, the city’s guilds still participate in parish life and celebrate their patron saints’ festivities here.

True to its history, today the parish of Santa Maria del Mar makes every effort to be an “open house for everyone and at the service of all those who need us. That’s why our liturgical celebrations are an essential part to the life of all Catholics in the area, whether they were born here and have lived here all their lives or whether they are new-comers. In addition, we want to share what we have in the most effective way with all those who need help wherever they come from and most especially with those whose have nowhere to turn. For these people we offer the services of Caritas. In this context our parish provides the neighborhood and the surrounding area with support whatever their problems may be and support for their aspirations, by providing our pastoral services, rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and always deeply respectful of all faiths and beliefs.

Archaeological interventions
In 1966, due to the restoration of the baroque altar and altarpiece in the church of Santa Maria del Mar, an archaeological excavation was started. The works provided for the construction of a new altar and a basement crypt in the same presbytery. Initially, the ruins that remained of the Baroque altarpiece were demolished. Later, a ditch was practiced in the center of the presbytery to study the terrain, but the need to build a crypt allowed to reduce the whole area methodically occupied by archeological levels. In this way it was possible to document several chronological stages of space use.

The oldest corresponds to a cemetery use, with a late chronology, between the 4th and 6th centuries. A total of 102 burials were documented, which were presented in tiled structures (in boxes or double-sided decks), in amphorae, and in some wooden boxes, which had already disappeared but of which remains of wood were preserved. carbonized and of nails. Of note is the presence of formae and de formae groups that could be interpreted as family mausoleums. An opus signinum level covering some of the tombs was also documented. The graves were distributed in various orientations, though with a predominance of the northwest to southwest orientation.

Above these graves, dug in sands, was documented a layer of clay soil that seemed to cover the necropolis with mounds of mounds. At the same level as the necropolis, several structures were documented consisting of irregular stone walls and lime and mud mortar dating to the 14th century, as some of the foundations of the Gothic temple had been trimmed. These structures had been taken advantage of by a later construction, but still in medieval times and from which their function was not realized. It was a wall oriented transversely to the presbytery, which was 12.75 m long and 0.55 m wide.It had been built of unevenly sized ashlars in horizontal rows, and the widest part of the wall had been raised with masonry, and among them could be seen sculpted stones taken from other works. In the center of the wall a portal of 1.27 m wide with stone pillars and a step was opened, and in another area there was a part of a semicircular arch that had been covered in a reform rear. From the modern age, two large pillars made of lime and stone mortar have been documented, which with its demolition were able to recover several used architectural remains. These pillars date from the 17th – 18th centuries. One of them served as the foundation of the high altar. On the other, its functionality could not be specified, because it was not related to any structure.

At the southwest end of the excavation were several tombs built of stone walls and masonry dating from the 17th – 18th centuries. These had been cleansed of human remains and devoid of their lauds at the time of building the new presbytery on a higher level.

In 2007 a new intervention was performed, The intervention was aimed at finding out the physical characteristics of the foundations of the different structures that make up the church as well as their structural stability. Although the project envisaged the completion of 8 coves, only 3. would be opened. Thus, the location of the three coves, made in three key places of the building such as the apse, the lateral nave and the The inner face of the facade has shown several evidences: first, the presence of non-temple structural elements shows that several houses were demolished for the construction of the church of Santa Maria del Mar and existing buildings in the sector, evidence of a town planning prior to the church. Part of these constructions, in particular, the foundations of the pre-existing buildings were used as a gateway, in order to form a rostrum that linked the entire foundation of Santa Maria del Mar. These buildings were built in an age between the Late Antiquity and the High Middle Ages and were partially dismantled and re-used at certain points to build the church in the century xiv.

Secondly, the excavations revealed a basement structure consisting of a system of walls with medium-sized ashlars, arranged in regular rows and reaching almost three meters deep. Its function is to distribute the loads over a very large surface of the ground, in order to reduce the unit load that gravitates on it.

The foundation system of Santa Maria del Mar denotes a careful program of action that began with the expropriation and demolition of the pre-existing buildings, and then leveling the ground, which must have caused a great movement of earth, and then rethinking. the foundation, marking on the ground the outline of the foundations and excavating the continuous ditch of them.

The foundations, in essence, consisted of a bed of lime mortar that regularized the ground and on this platform were constructed walls with medium-sized ashlars, arranged in regular rows and tied with lime mortar. Then the perimeter fence wall and the pillar system between the chapels and the buttress base were erected.

Popular culture
Historically, Barcelona was known by foreigners as the city of the three cathedrals, in addition to the Cathedral of Barcelona, the church of Santa Maria and the old destroyed temple of Santa Caterina were considered buildings of great beauty and wealth. For this reason, the basilica was popularly known as the “Cathedral without a Cloister”, the “Fisherman’s Office”, the “Seu del Born ” or the “Seu del Mar”.

The construction of the church is the main subject of Ildefonso Falcones ‘ famous novel, The Church of the Sea, with more than a million copies sold and translated into several languages. There are also references to the temple to the work of Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Game of the Angel and to the youthful novel Thesaurus of Africa Ragel.