Church of Mare de Déu de Betlem
In 1553, the Company of Jesus, founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, obtained permission from the city's councillors to build the first church of the order in Barcelona, on the site of a former chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Bethlehem. It was consecrated in 1555 but was destroyed by a great fire in the 17th century. A new baroque-style church was built in the early 18th century but was closed to worshippers following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain in 1767. The parish church of Mare de Déu de Betlem was founded in 1835 but, unfortunately, suffered a second fire in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. The roof and sumptuous baroque interior were consumed by the flames.
The baroque façade and side walls survive today as living witnesses to the past. The main façade, on Carrer del Carme, has a curved pediment and is framed by Solomonic columns. They are embellished by beautiful sculptures of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and the nobleman and Jesuit saint, Francisco Borja. Above the door is a bas-relief featuring a Nativity scene. Every Christmas, the church of Betlem holds a major exhibition of Nativity scenes which are a popular attraction. The interior of the church consists of a basilica-type single nave and a semi-circular apse, side chapels with a narthex or vestibule below the choir stalls, covered by a cylindrical canopy. The side chapels are interconnected and have elliptical domes with lanterns.
Listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest.
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