Practical guide / Ciutat Vella / La Ribera / Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar

The basilica of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, also known as the "cathedral of La Ribera", is one of the most perfect examples of Gothic style architecture due to its harmonious proportions and the serenity of the ensemble.

In the Middle Ages, the long periods of time it took to build a church – often more than a century – usually involved changes in architectural style. Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona is an exception. It was built in just 55 years, from 1329 to 1384, and is the only surviving church in the pure Catalan Gothic style. Its structure comprises three naves of the same height, underpinned by very tall columns set 13 metres apart, a distance unsurpassed by any other existing medieval building. This gives the impression of sublime width, height and airiness, as if gravity had been reversed and pulled the immense blocks of stone upwards. The many stained-glass windows of the church of Santa Maria del Mar play an important role in giving this impression.

The window of the Ascension, in the chapel of Santa Maria, and the Lavabo in the chapel of Sant Rafael, as well as the great rose window are some of the most outstanding examples of the church. The latter was destroyed during the earthquake that shook Barcelona in 1428, and remade in the mid-15th century. If you look at the floor you'll see private tombs and those of Barcelona's medieval guilds and brotherhoods. The basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, which was designed by Berenguer de Montagut, was the place of worship for the shipwrights and merchants of Gothic Barcelona.