Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral dedicated to Santa Eulalia, Barcelona´s patron. Located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

The Cathedral of Barcelona – A Gothic jewel

The Barcelona Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, is an essential construction of Catalan Gothic architecture. Despite remaining in the shadow of the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral has enough entity to be among the essential visits. 

barcelona cathedral mayor altar

On top of the primitive Paleo-Christian basilica (you can visit the remains through the underground of the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona) and the later Romanesque Cathedral, the current Gothic-style Cathedral was built. The works lasted 150 years. They began in 1298 and were practically completed in the middle of the fifteenth century. And in 1929, it was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument.

barcelona cathedral gothic architecture

The Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Cruz and Santa Eulalia, patron saints of Barcelona (currently, the Virgen de la Merced is more celebrated, who is the patron saint of the diocese of Barcelona, ​​but not of the city). Some of the Cathedral’s points of interest are:

Crypt of Santa Eulalia – Located under the main altar and where the old crypt of Santa Eulalia, virgin and martyr of the fourteenth century, is preserved. There is also the exceptional polychrome alabaster Gothic coffin in which the remains of the saint rest.

Choir – With magnificent carved wooden stalls, the choir makes up one of the most valuable corners of the Cathedral’s interior. 

Terrace – Through the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, you can access the terraces with an elevator. From the terraces, you can see the two bell towers, the two lateral pinnacles, the dome crowned by the Holy Cross supported by the image of Saint Helena, the abbey, and some views of the city, although they are not very spectacular.

Museum of the Cathedral – it is located in the same gallery of the abbey where the chapel of Santa Lucía is located. Initially, it was where the old dining room for the poor was located.

Cloister – The cloister is a space that we love because it is far from the typically quiet and meditative cloister we are accustomed to. And if you go with children, it is the space they will like the most. In the centre of the abbey, there is a garden with palm trees, orange trees, and a fountain dating from the mid-15th century. The traditional «ou com balla» (the egg as it dances) takes place on the occasion of the Corpus Christi festival. There is also a large pond where the thirteen white geese of the Cathedral roam freely; yes, geese, you heard correctly, then we will explain why.

In one of the corners of the central patio, we can also find a fountain with a small statue of Sant Jordi killing the dragon, where people throw coins to make a wish and touch the water, believing that it brings good luck. Distributed on the ground, you can see a symbol of the guilds of medieval Barcelona; they belong to members of those guilds who, for their collaboration in the economic support of the Cathedral, earned the privilege of being buried in such a symbolic place. A nativity scene is installed in the abbey for Christmas, with prominent figures.

The Geese in the cloister –  The presence and number of geese are attributed to two legends. The first tells us that, when the Cathedral’s construction began, the guardian of the works lived accompanied by some geese. One day, some thieves broke into the works, and the geese began to crow, preventing the robbery.

barcelona cathedral cloister

Since then, they have earned the honour of staying permanently in this place. A number of animals, 13, is due to the legend of Santa Eulalia, who rests in the crypt of the Cathedral. During Roman times, little Eulalia was condemned for refusing to renounce the Christian faith, and 13 martyrdoms were applied to her, as many as she was years old. «According to tradition, as a first torment she was imprisoned in a dark prison, to later be flogged. On her colt the flesh was torn with hooks. She then stood on a burning brazier and had her breasts burned. Her wounds were rubbed with a rough stone, then boiling oil and molten lead were thrown at them, as well as being thrown into a pit of quicklime. The ninth torture, one of the most popularly known, consisted of putting her naked inside a barrel full of glass, nails and other sharp objects, being thrown down a downhill street (according to tradition, it would be Baixada de Santa Eulalia). Afterwards, she was locked in a pen full of fleas. Finally, she was paraded naked through the streets of the city to the place of execution where she was crucified on a cross in the shape of a cross (which is the emblem of the Cathedral and the diocese, as well as the iconographic attribute of the saint). According to legend, during her crucifixion a snowfall occurred, covering the purity of her naked body. Popular tradition, end of her prayer that the Lord would take her to the Kingdom from her, the people saw a white dove fly to heaven from her mouth.»

The tradition of L’ou com balla (the egg as it dances)

Every year, during the Corpus Christi festival, the “ou com balla” tradition is installed in the cloister of the Cathedral. It is a custom that consists of making an egg dance in the fountain of the cloister, decorated with flowers and fruit. Placing the egg on top of the fountain spout is emptied and sealed with wax to cover the hole created for its emptying. It is then placed on top of the fountain, and it begins to turn and turn, giving the sensation that it is dancing, hence its name, «l’Ou com Balla». Barcelona Cathedral was the first to present the «Ou com Balla» in Barcelona in 1636. However, this tradition has spread to other suppliers in the city. In the tradition “Ou com Balla”, the first theories indicate that the egg represents the Eucharist during Corpus. In contrast, the second emphasizes that it represents fertility and the rebirth of a new life. Initially, everything seems to indicate that it took place in the Cathedral of Barcelona between the 15th and 17th centuries, depending on the sources.

Gargoyles

barcelona cathedral gargoyles

Another the curiosity about this Cathedral is its gargoyles. Macabre, in appearance, represent witches and evil spirits. According to tradition, these evil beings laughed at the procession of the Blessed Sacrament held on Corpus Christi. They were turned to stone and placed inside the sacred enclosure as punishment. The gargoyles had a practical function as drains and sank through which rainwater was expelled, preventing it from falling down the walls and eroding the stone.

Exorcisms

According to legend, this Gothic Cathedral, whose decoration is made up of images and paintings that tell the story of the martyr Santa Eulalia, was the scene of innumerable exorcisms. Currently, the Cathedral of Barcelona has one of the few exorcists left in Spain.

VISITING SCHEDULE

8.00-12.45 (Cloister: 8.30-12.30): Free admission
13.00-17.00: Entry with donation (€6 per person)
17.15-19.30 (Cloister: 17.15-19.00): Free admission

SUNDAYS AND HOLIDAYS

8.00-13.45 (Cloister: 8.30-13.00): Free admission
14.00-17.00: Entry with donation (€6 per person)
17.15-19.30 (Cloister: 17.15-19.00): Free admission

BARCELONA CATHEDRAL
Pla de la Seu s/n 08002 Barcelona

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