Barcelona Travel Guide

Barcelona Sights

Santa Maria del Mar

  • Pl. de Santa Maria 1 Map It
  • Born-Ribera
  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 08/20/2018

Fodor's Review

An example of early Catalan Gothic architecture, Santa Maria del Mar is extraordinary for its unbroken lines and elegance. At what was then the water's edge, the church was built by stonemasons who chose, fitted, and carved each stone hauled down from the same Montjuïc quarry that provided the sandstone for the 4th-century Roman walls. The medieval numerological symbol for the Virgin Mary, the number eight (or multiples thereof), runs through every element of the basilica: the 16 octagonal pillars are 2 meters in diameter and spread out into rib vaulting arches at a height of 16 meters; the painted keystones at the apex of the arches are 32 meters from the floor; and the central nave is twice as wide as the lateral naves (8 meters each).

The church survived the fury of anarchists who in 1936 burned nearly all of Barcelona's churches as a reprisal against the alliance of army, church, and oligarchy during the military rebellion. The basilica, then filled with ornate side chapels

and choir stalls, burned for 11 days, nearly crumbling. Restored after the Civil War by a series of Bauhaus-trained architects, the church is now an architectural gem. Climb the towers for magnificent rooftop views (guided tours only), or join a guided tour for entrance to other areas that are usually closed to visitors, such as the crypt.


The paintings in the keystones overhead represent the Coronation of the Virgin, the Nativity, the Annunciation, the equestrian figure of the father of Pedro IV, King Alfons, and the Barcelona coat of arms.

The 34 lateral chapels are dedicated to different saints and images. The first chapel to the left of the altar (No. 20) is the Capella del Santo Cristo (Chapel of the Holy Christ), its stained-glass window an allegory of Barcelona's 1992 Olympic Games.

An engraved stone riser beside the door onto Carrer Sombrerers commemorates where San Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, begged for alms in 1524 and 1525.


Set aside at least a half hour to see Santa Maria del Mar. La Catedral del Mar (The Cathedral of the Sea) by Ildefonso Falcons chronicles the construction of the basilica and 14th-century life in Barcelona. Check the leisure announcements in weekly magazines for concerts in the basilica; the setting and the acoustics here make performances an unforgettable experience.

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  • Ceiling, Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona, Spain

    © Halie Cousineau/ Fodor’s Travel

Sight Information


Pl. de Santa Maria 1, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08003, Spain

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Sight Details:

  • Tour from €10

Published 08/20/2018


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