As you may know from Alan's blog, on thursday night we went out with his class to a Basque tapas bar in the Born area of the city, near Barceloneta. Since we hadn't been to the area, we decided to leave home early and explore it a bit before meeting the others at the bar. I specifically wanted to visit the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar.
The first written reference to a church of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona dates to the late 10th century. The basilica, as it stands today, dates to the 14th century (my period!!) and I have to confess I found it the most beautiful church I've ever been to.
I think the TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona) describe it best: "Designed by the architect Berenguer de Montagut in the mid-14th century, it contains three naves, all of which are of almost the same height, separated by pillars, extraordinary spatial proportions which turn it into a unique building. It was the church in which the shipowners and merchants of Romanesque & gothic Barcelona worshipped."
The first stone was laid down by Berenguer in 1329 to mark the conquest of Sardinia by Jaume the Conqueror, which completed the conquest of the Mediterranean initiated by the conquest of Mallorca 10 years prior. The domain of the House of Barcelona would extend to Greece and Sicily in the 14th century.
The sense of space in this church is unbelievable. It is one, very big, open space. All the previous gothic cathedrals I've been to were very impressive, very tall and certainly had gorgeous stained glass windows but somehow I've always felt they were a bit stuffy. Somehow, the proportions in this church give you the feeling of lightness and space so sought by medieval builders.
One of the reasons I wanted to visit the cathedral was the book La Catedral del Mar by Ildefonso Falcones. It's a historical fiction set in the fourteenth century about the building of the cathedral. It was released at the beginning of the year and it's in its 6th edition already. A huge success. I was looking for a historical fiction book set in medieval Spain and this one could not have been more appropriate. I'm sure I'll cringe at all the historically inacurate bits but hey, it's just fiction… Note about the next picture – it's a very modern stained glass window. I wonder if it is replacing some of the ones broken during the civil war… I LOVE it and hope to find out more about it.
* Remember that you can see larger version of these pictures (or download them) – and a few more – through the Flickr link on the right side of this page…