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Sant Pau del Camp
Sant Pau del Camp Review
Barcelona's oldest church was originally outside the city walls (del camp means "in the fields") and was a Roman cemetery as far back as the 2nd century, according to archaeological evidence. A Visigothic belt buckle found in the 20th century confirmed that Visigoths used the site as a cemetery between the 2nd and 7th centuries. What you see now was built in 1127 and is the earliest Romanesque structure in Barcelona, redolent of the pre-Romanesque Asturian churches or of the pre-Romanesque Sant Michel de Cuxà in Prades, Catalunya Nord (Catalonia North, aka southern France). Elements of the church—the classical marble capitals atop the columns in the main entry—are thought to be from the 6th and 7th centuries. The hulking mastodonic shape of the church is a reminder of the church's defensive posture in the face of intermittent Roman persecution and, later, Moorish invasions and sackings. Check carefully for musical performances here, as the church is an acoustical gem. (Rebecca Ryan's Mercyhurst Madrigal Singers sang American composer Horatio Parker's "Lord We Beseech Thee" here in 2009.) The tiny stained-glass window high on the facade facing Carrer Sant Pau may be Europe's smallest, a bookend to Santa Maria del Pi's largest. The tiny cloister is Sant Pau del Camp's best feature, and one of Barcelona's semisecret treasures. Sculpted capitals portraying biblical scenes support tri-lobed Mudéjar arches; birdlike sirens tempt monks from prayer on the southwestern corner capital. This penumbral sanctuary, barely a block from the frantic Avinguda del Paral.lel, is a gift from time.
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