Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia: Barcelona Cathedral
CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY CROSS AND SANTA EULALIA: BARCELONA CATHEDRAL
The cathedral was named after Barcelona's patron Saint Eulalia; its official name - Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulalia - is Catalan for Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The commonly used name La Seu refers to the status of the church as the seat of the diocese. The cathedral is located at the Plaça de la Seu, in the Barri Gòtic district.
Barcelona Cathedral is a celebrated example of Catalan Gothic architecture dating from the 14th century. Its graceful highly pointed spires can be seen from throughout the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.
During the Roman Empire in around 343 AD, a basilica was built at the site of the current cathedral. In 985 the basilica was destroyed by the conquering Moors. It was replaced by a Roman cathedral, built between 1046 and 1058. A Roman chapel, the Capella de Santa Llucia, was added between 1257 and 1268 and was later incorporated in the cloister next to the cathedral.
The High Altar – Photo by Scott
The much elevated space occupied by the cathedral has always been the spiritual center of Barcelona. First there was a Roman temple here, then a mosque, and then a church. The construction on the present cathedral began in 1298 under the influenced of King Jaume II, known as the “Just” and was completed in 1448. The Gothic facade was finished much later, in 1889 and the last part, the central spire, was completed in 1913. The design of both the facade and the spire were based on the original design from 1408 by the French architect Charles Galters.
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia may be Barcelona's most famous landmark, but Barcelona cathedral still holds it own as one of the most impressive cathedrals in Spain.
A graceful blending of medieval and Renaissance styles, Barcelona's cathedral features large bell towers covered in Gothic pinnacles, high Gothic arches, a elaborate sculptured choir and many side chapels with rich altarpieces. Especially notable is the Cappella de Sant Benet behind the altar, with a magnificent 15th-century interpretation of the crucifixion by Bernat Matorell.
The crypt beneath the high altar contains the impressive alabaster sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia, patroness of the cathedral and co-patroness of the city. The virgin daughter of an upper-class Barcelona family, Eulalia was burned at the stake for her beliefs under the Romans (a traditional date on February 12, 304). There was a slot for pilgrims to drop coins to light up the crypt.
The Tomb of Santa Eulalia
Most probably the best part of the cathedral is the 14th-century cloister, which the historian Cirici called "the loveliest oasis in Barcelona." Its vaulted galleries overlook a lush garden filled with orange, medlar and palm trees and a mossy central pond. The tombs of key members of the Barri Gòtic's ancient guilds are located underneath the slabs of its stone floor.
A most unusual view, the cloister is home to a flock of white geese whose ancestors have lived here for five centuries. There you will find a ‘garden within a cathedral’ with magnolias and tall palms, and area known as the Fountain or Well of the Geese (Fuente de las Ocas) completed around 1448. How they originally came to be here remains a mystery and they are certainly an unusual feature for a cathedral. Some says that there were always 13 geese in the courtyard each one representing one year in the martyr life of Santa Lucia. Various legends have it that they represent the virginity of St. Eulalia or the former splendor of Rome.
On the northern side is the chapter house, which contains a small museum of religious artifacts. The highlight is the 15th-century La Pietat of Bartolomé Bermejo. The elevator ride to the roof provides a fine view of Gothic Barcelona.