The beautiful bones of the Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar nu
The stones of the Santa Maria del MarBarcelona’s most beloved church, have their secrets. Sometimes you have to look very carefully, only then they tell their story.  On  the church wall in the Carrer del Sombreres, near the Plaça de Santa María and at a height of about one meter, there are a few stones with the vague contours of a coats of arms. Once they were ‘Reserved’ signs; for the horses of the nobles who went to church in the Santa Maria del Mar.

Inside, during dull and boring masses, the noble glances must have regularly gone up, to the colorful stained-glass windows. Those were different windows than those we see today, due to big and small disasters that affected the Santa María over time, like fires, earthquakes, and lightning strikes.

“The only decoration will be the light, the light of the Mediterranean “

The windows of the right wing for instance were destroyed when anticlerical masses started set the church on fire on the 3th august 1936, shortly after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. It took 11 days to put out the flames. All what was left then, was the original structure of the church. But, like art critic Robert Hughes wrote in his book Barcelona, “these bones are so beautiful that one finds it hard to regret the loss”.

Santa María del Mar 1936 1

The 1936-fire destroyed the ornate side chapels, choir stalls, most of the furniture ornaments, relicts, paintings, tapestries, and a huge baroque altar. The building itself almost collapsed.

“The only decoration will be the light, the light of the Mediterranean ” says Berenguer the Montagut,  the principal architect of the church in Ildefonso Falconens historical novel Cathedral of the Sea. “We don´t need anything more than that: space and the light that will pour in from down there.’ (…) This church will be for the common people, not for the greater glory of any prince.”

In 1936, the common people took action.

Santa María de la Mar en Octubre de 1936

The Baroque alter after the fire of 1936.



Join our ‘Cathedral of the Sea Walking Tour (no need to read the book) and discover many more secrets of the Santa Maria del Mar! Read more here

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