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Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar

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Basilica de Santa Maria del MarThe Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most representative examples of Catalan Gothic architecture, it features a sombre but beautiful interior. The upsweeping verticality and lightness of the interior are especially surprising considering the blocky exterior surfaces. Built between 1329 and 1383, it was once was home to a Christian cult in the late 3rd century. The church is dedicated to Saint Mary of the Sea, since the quarter where is located (Born) was dedicated to the jobs related to the sea.

Next to the church, you can see a monument, called Fossar de les Moreres, which is the place where many fighters where buried after the Barcelona defeat in 1714, so it's an important monument for Catalan nationalism.

Santa Maria del Mar History

The first mention of a church of Santa Maria by the sea dates from 998. The construction of the present building was promoted by the canon Bernat Llull, who was appointed Archdean of Santa Maria in 1324. Construction work started on 25 March 1329, when the foundation stone was laid by king Alfonso IV of Aragon, as commemorated by a tablet in Latin and Catalan on the facade that gives onto Fossar de les Moreres. The architects in charge were Berenguer de Montagut (designer of the building) and Ramˇn Despuig, and during the construction all the guilds of the Ribera quarter were involved. The walls, the side chapels and the facades were finished by 1350. In 1379 there was a fire that damaged important parts of the works. Finally, on 3 November 1383 the last stone was added and on 15 August the first mass was celebrated. In 1428 an earthquake caused several casualties 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. The images and the Baroque altar were destroyed in a fire in 1936. The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, adjacent to the apse, was added in the 19th century.

Exterior

From the outside, Santa Maria gives an impression of massive severity that belies the interior. It is hemmed in by the narrow streets of the Ribera, making it difficult to obtain an overall impression, except from the Fossar de les Moreres and the Plaša de Santa Maria, both of them former burial grounds. The latter is dominated by the west end of the church with its rose window. Images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul occupy niches on either side of the west door, and the tympanum shows the Saviour flanked by Our Lady and Saint John.

The north-west tower was completed in 1496, but its companion was not finished until 1902.

Interior

In contrast with the exterior, the interior gives an impression of light and spaciousness. It is of the basilica type, with its three aisles forming a single space with no transepts and no architectural boundary between nave and presbytery. The simple ribbed vault is supported on slender octagonal columns, and abundant daylight streams in through the tall clerestorey windows.

The interior is almost devoid of imagery of the sort to be found in Barcelona's other large Gothic churches, the cathedral and Santa Maria del Pi, after the fire which occurred in 1936 during anticlerical disturbances. Amongst the most notable of the works destroyed at that time was the Baroque retable by Deodat Casanoves and Salvador Gurri.

Some interesting stained-glass windows have survived from various periods.

 
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