The Church of Santa Maria del Mar: A Building By The People, For The People

Tucked away within the narrow streets of Barcelona's Born district, Santa Maria del Mar is one of the city's hidden Gothic gems.

As our local tourism board said, "the church is one of the most perfect examples of the Gothic style of architecture because of the harmony of its proportions and the serenity that it offers to all."

Construction on the church of Santa Maria del Mar began in 1329, just a few years after the devastating Black Death. The church was completed just 55 years later, a considerable feat in a time when churches of similar magnitude took more than 100 years to create.

The key to the quick construction lay in the able bodies of the craftsmen and workers who packed the streets around the church.

These workers, along with the huge numbers of haulers and porters who worked in the port, gave large cash contributions to the building's construction fund.

The church's large oak doors illustrate this story; two porters, cast in bronze, carry their eternal loads. There are several other such references, in the form of stone reliefs, found inside the church.

Built over a burial site that dates back to the first century, the church was designed to replace the old shrine with a new church dedicated to Christ's mother, Mary, in her role as patron of sailors.

If you have visited other Gothic churches such as those in France and England, you'll notice that Santa Maria del Mar is quite unlike them.

Where are the detailed facades, the gargoyles, the flying buttresses and the pointed spires? Nowhere to be seen.

Catalán Gothic architecture consists of wide structures that look more like fortresses. Gone are the long, narrow features of traditional Gothic style.

Santa Maria del Mar is plain and simple on the outside, but spacious and breathtaking within. Her inner space makes her northern counterparts, including Notre Dame, seem claustrophobic by comparison.

In Spain, there is no more grand or solemn architectural space than that of Santa Maria del Mar.

  • The church's magnificent rose window was rebuilt in the 15th century after an earthquake destroyed it in 1428.
  • King Alfons IV laid the foundation stone for the building.
  • It is the most popular church for weddings. If you are visiting on a weekend during the wedding season, you have a good chance of being a guest.
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola used to beg for alms just inside the main doors of the church.

One of Santa Maria del Mar's bell towers that are often visible between the narrow strees of the Born district.
One of Santa Maria del Mar's bell towers, often visible between the narrow strees of the Born district.

Opening Times for the church of Santa Maria del Mar:

Date Opening Times
Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m
Sundays & Public Holidays 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m and 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Please Note The church closes for siesta from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Location & contact information:

  • Santa Maria del Mar address: Pl. Santa Maria, 1, 08003 Barcelona
  • Santa Maria del Mar telephone number: +34 933 10 23 90
  • How to get to Santa Maria del Mar: You can take the yellow metro line to the "Barceloneta" stop. It is an 8-10 minute walk from there.