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Santa María del Mar, the most beautiful people’s rebellion

By | 23 July, 2018 | 0 comments

Never has a peaceful rebellion of a group of people brought with it such a magnificent work of art as with Barcelona’s Santa María del Mar Basilica. For 54 years, residents living in the Ribera neighbourhood worked from dawn ‘til dusk, overcoming adversity of all kinds to build one of the most significant monuments in all of Barcelona, a place full of mystery, legend and very special charm. Barcelona’s ‘other cathedral’ and the ‘cathedral of the people’ are just two of the nicknames given to this Gothic temple, which has attracted more and more tourists every year since it starred in a successful novel by Ildefonso Falcones entitled, La Catedral Del Mar. Today, it’s an unmissable stopping point on any sightseeing itinerary through the Gothic Quarter, heading down to Parque de la Ciudadela afterwards, for example.

Santa María del Mar

To understand the beginnings of the Basilica, we have to go back to 1329, where there was a very clear goal from the start: it would belong to the citizens of the Ribera neighbourhood and the city’s port area, since they would be in charge of funding its construction. Challenge accepted. Despite not having a huge amount of money to hand, the residents made an enormous effort to acquire the necessary resources for the task. But the effort was also physical, since they were the ones responsible for moving the stones from the quarry in Montjuic on their own backs, or from the boats that took them into port in Barcelona. All this intense work was carried out by the so-called bastaixos, the loaders at the harbour. Without them, it would have been impossible to achieve their collective dream of building the Santa María del Mar Basilica, and for that reason, the memories are still very fresh. The main door has two copper figures attached representingbastaixos carrying stones, something that is repeated in the smaller sculptures that adorn the same door and in the chancellery.

The significant achievement of building this temple is even more impressive given that, at the time, the nobility and high-clergy of Barcelona were also building the Catedral de Santa Eulalia. As a result, the common people rebelled against the establishment’s power through their hard work and dedication to the goal of creating a place of worship that even managed to overshadow the officials. Although a fire damaged part of the walls before the work was completed, an earthquake collapsed the rose window in 1428 and another fire seriously damaged the altar during the Spanish Civil War, the Santa María del Mar Basilica today displays a splendid austerity that wins over each and every visitor.

The temple’s spectacular appearance was improved by the restoration completed in 2013, enhancing the windows in the apse and recovering five chapels that had previously been hidden after being partially destroyed during the 19th century.

This work, designed by Berenguer de Montagut and taken over by Ramón Despuig, keeps the memory of those people who fought for the town alive, those who were able to create an authentic work of art with a roof that almost appears to float and enormous spaces that leave a lasting impression on everyone lucky enough to visit. The Santa María del Mar Basilica should be an unmissable addition to everyone’s itinerary through the city of Barcelona.

Categories: barcelona

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