Church of Santa Maria del Mar

Situated right in the middle of El Borne, a very up and coming area of Barcelona is one of the most perfect surviving examples of the Catalan Gothic style, this graceful basilica stands out for its characteristic horizontal lines, plain surfaces, square buttresses and flat stopped octagonal towers.

The architects in charge were Berenguer de Montagut (designer of the building) and Ramon Despuig, and during the construction all the guilds of the Ribera quarter were involved. The walls, the side chapels and the façades were finished by 1350. Its superb unity of style is down to the fact that it was relatively quickly, with construction taking just 55 years (1329 to 1384). In the broad, single nave interior, two rows of perfectly proportioned columns soar up to fan vaults, creating an atmosphere of space around the light-flooded altar. There’s also superb stained glass, especially the great 15th-century rose window above the main door. In 1428 an earthquake killing 25 people and destroyed the rose window in the west end. The new window, in the Flamboyant style, was finished by 1459 and one year later the glass was added.

Its perhaps thanks to the group of anti-clerical anarchists who set the church ablaze for 11 days in 1936 that its superb features can be appreciated – without the wooden Baroque furniture that clutters so many Spanish churches, the simplicity of its lines can emerge.

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