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Santa Maria del Pi (St. Mary of the Pine)
Santa Maria del Pi (St. Mary of the Pine) Review
Sister church to Santa Maria del Mar and to Santa Maria de Pedralbes, this early Catalan Gothic structure is perhaps the most fortresslike of all three: hulking, dark, and massive, and perforated only by the main entryway and the mammoth rose window, said to be the world's largest. Try to see the window from inside in the late afternoon to get the best view of the colors. The church was named for the lone pi (pine tree) that stood in what was a marshy lowland outside the 4th-century Roman walls. An early church dating back to the 10th century preceded the present Santa Maria del Pi, begun in 1322 and was finally consecrated in 1453. Like Santa Maria del Mar, the church of Santa Maria del Pi is one of Barcelona's many examples of Mediterranean Gothic architecture, though the aesthetic distance between the two is substantial. The church's interior is disappointingly cluttered compared with the clean and lofty lightness of Santa Maria del Mar, but there are two interesting things to view: the creaky choir loft and the Ramón Amadeu painting La Mare de Deu dels Desamparats (Our Lady of the Helpless), for which the artist reportedly used his wife and children as models for the Virgin and children. The lateral facade of the church, around to the left in Plaça Sant Josep Oriol, bears a plaque dedicated to the April 6, 1806, fall of the portly parish priest José Mestres, who slipped off the narrow catwalk circling the outside of the apse. He survived the fall unhurt, and the event was considered a minor miracle commemorated with the plaque.
The adjoining squares, Plaça del Pi and Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, are two of the liveliest and most appealing spaces in the Old Quarter, filled with much-frequented outdoor cafés and used as a venue for markets selling natural products or paintings or as an impromptu concert hall for musicians. The handsome entryway and courtyard at No. 4 Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol across from the lateral facade of Santa Maria del Pi is the Palau Fivaller, now seat of the Agricultural Institute, an interesting patio to have a look through. From Placeta del Pi, tucked in behind the church, you can see the bell tower and the sunny facades of the apartment buildings on the north side of Plaça Sant Josep Oriol. Placeta del Pi was once the cemetery for the blind, hence the name of the little street leading in: Carrer Cecs de la Boqueria (Blind of the Boqueria). This little space with its outdoor tables is a quiet and cozy place for a coffee or tapas at El Taller de Tapas.
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