Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia | 14th-Century Neo-Gothic Cathedral in Barcelona
Barcelona Cathedral or Catedral de Barcelona is in the heart of the Gothic Centre, a prime location in the city. The stunning Gothic-style church is a must-visit when you’re in Barcelona. Here’s everything you need to know about the Barcelona Cathedral, including its history, what to see, and so much more!
Barcelona Cathedral | Quick Overview
Year of construction: 1298 - 1448
Architectural style: Gothic architectural style and Gothic revival architectural style
Architect: Josep Oriol Mestres and August Font I Carreras
Interior dimensions: 79 meters long and 25 meters wide and each Chapel is 9 meters high
Exterior dimensions: 93 meters long, 40 meters wide, and 28 meters high
Materials used: Various types of sandstones and granite were used to build the Barcelona Cathedral, as well as reinforced concrete for the naves. Thin masonry timbrel makes up much of the vaulting.
What is the Barcelona Cathedral?
Why is the Barcelona Cathedral famous?
Although often overshadowed by the La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Cathedral is an important landmark in Catalonia for many reasons.
The church was built on the same site as a former Roman Temple back in the 12th century. It is proudly dedicated to Saint Eulalia, who was tortured to death during the reign of the Roman Empire. Her tomb lies buried beneath the main altar inside the church.
Its Gothic and Neo-Gothic style of architecture is truly outstanding. The intricate details, statues, pinnacles, and arches, are a testament to its overall beauty.
The Cathedral is also the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona and an important house of worship for residents.
Plan Your Visit to Barcelona Cathedral
Who built the Barcelona Cathedral?
Construction of the present Cathedral began on May 1, 1298, when James II the Just was King of Aragon at the time and Bernat Pelegri was the Bishop of Barcelona. Built completely from its east end to the west end, the cathedral was finally established in the year 1417 with a simple west facade and a cloister added in 1448. In total, it took about 150 years for the complete construction of the Catedral de Barcelona.
Much later in the late 19th century, Josep O. Mestres rearranged the original design of master Carli of the central tower and the Neo-Gothic facade. Miguel Girona I Agrafel offered to complete the construction, which was eventually taken over by his children. The work was finally completed in the year 1913.
Barcelona Cathedral Highlights
Inside the chapels of Barcelona Cathedral are many Gothic paintings that form altarpieces. Some noteworthy artists involved were Guerau Gener, Gabriel Alemany, Bernat Martorell, Lluis Borrassà, and many others. One such masterpiece is by Bernat Martorell called the Altarpiece of Transfiguration. It shows a series of paintings including Christ on a crucifix surrounded by his followers as well as his resurrection. The museum of the Cathedral also houses an exquisite collection of paintings by artists like Jaume Huguet, Pere Destorrents, and Bartolomé Bermejo who created the masterpiece - The Pieta. La Pieta is a powerful piece showing Mary holding the body of Christ after his crucifixion.
The chairs or the choir are located in the heart of the Cathedral and date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. On the backs of the seats, there are images of the Order of the Golden Fleece from the 16th century, forming the coat of arms. Another highlight of the choir is the pulpit or high chair created between 1394 and 1499 by Pere Canglada and Maties Bonafė along with John Lambert and Anthony Claperós. The pinnacle canopies around the choir were created by Kassel and Michael Lochner, both commendable artists from their time. Finally, you will notice the retrochoir, which is closed off by a marble wall. On the wall are reliefs created by Bartolomė Ordóñez and Pedro Villar.
Many stained-glass windows adorn the walls of Barcelona Cathedral. All of them have 3 panels, where the central panel displays an image of one main character, while the side panels contain geometric designs symbolizing royal families of the city, angels, etc.
The windows can be divided into 4 periods. The earliest from the years 1317 to 1334 is shown by a figure of Bishop Ponc de Gualba along with the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The second period was around 1400 as depicted by Saint Andrew surrounded by other significant individuals of the time. The third period is from the 15th century and forms the most important window representing Saint Michael and Noli me tangere. Finally, we have windows from the 19th and 20th centuries, forming part of the sidewalls and the facade.
One of the main highlights of the Cathedral is the glorious Custody. It is made completely of gold and silver and is adorned with jewels, which were donated as a symbol of devotion. Since the middle of the 15th century, the Custody has been made to rest on the throne of King Martin, which serves as its base. It is believed that this throne was given to the church as a donation by King Martin himself in the 14th century.
In total, there are 215 vault keys inside the Cathedral, dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. After being restored in 1970, the keys were discovered to be polychrome. The vault keys of the central nave include many symbols including Christ being crucified with the Virgin and St. John by his side, Saint Eulalia with the coat of arms of Blance of Naples, and the Virgin of Mercy in her cloak surrounded by the Pope, Kind, Cardinal, and others. One key found in the crypt of Saint Eulalia depicts the Virgin and her Child.
Barcelona Cathedral Architecture
Catedral de Barcelona is known for its Gothic-style architecture. The Cathedral consists of 3 naves and one apse and an ambulatory. This is the typical structure used in Catalan Gothic constructions, which allows for the use of the spaces in-between to have smaller chapels in the Cathedral. There are 2 chapels in each of the naves with 2 large bell towers on both ends without any side chapels. One tower lies above the door of Saint Ivo, while the other is above the entrance to the Cloister. From the terrace of the Cathedral, you can get a close look at the octagonal shape of the bell towers. Large windows adorn the walls of the Cathedral, illuminating the chapels within.
Inside Barcelona Cathedral
The altar is 3 meters long and rests on 2 capitals. Behind the altar you will find a large image of the Cross surrounded by 6 angels, sculpted by Frederic Marés.
Crypt of Saint Eulalia
Beneath the high altar lies the crypt of Saint Eulalia, constructed at the start of the 14th century by the renowned architect, Jaume Fabré.
Constructed between 1390 and 1519, under Bishop Raymond d’Escales. The stalls, pinnacles, and canopies are in an exceptional Catalan Gothic design.
The Cloister consists of 4 galleries with ogive arches and pillars. Sculpted into the pillars of the arches are scenes from the Old Testament and legends about the Holy Cross, while the keystones depict scenes from the New Testament.
The sacristy with 3 rooms was the result of expansions that took place in 1408 and 1502. The sacristy is also where masses are recorded for the deceased and where the faithful are attended to.
Sepulcher of Saint Raymond of Penyafort
Above the altar of the Chapel of Saint Raymond of Penyafort, you will find a Gothic sepulcher depicting scenes from his life. While under the altar resides a sepulcher showing a prone figure of the saint along with a tomb from the convent of Saint Catherine.
What was once the site for a soup kitchen is now an elegant museum at the Barcelona Cathedral. Inside the museum, you will find a range of collections from the 11th-century.
Chapel of Saint Lucia
The chapel of Saint Lucia was built between 1257 and 1268 in late Romanesque style. It was originally dedicated to the Virgin Saints, but since 1296 it has solely been dedicated to Saint Lucia, known as the protector of sight.
Located next to the chapel of Saint Lucia is the Chapterhouse of Barcelona Cathedral, built in the 17th century. It is a rectangular space covered by a barrel vault with lunettes that can be accessed through the Cloister.
The facade of Barcelona Cathedral was constructed by outstanding architect José Oriol Mestres under the guidance of Manuel Girona. It took almost 3 years to complete the construction between 1887 and 1890.
Once you get to the top, you can see the two bell towers, the two pinnacles, the cimborio crowned by the Holy Cross, the Cloister, and some unforgettable panoramic views of Barcelona.
Door of Saint Ivo
For about 500 years, the Door of Saint Ivo was the main entrance to Barcelona Cathedral, located under one of the bell towers. It is the oldest door in the Cathedral, dating back to 1298 when it was built.
Chapel of Lepanto
Constructed in 1407, the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament or the Holy Christ of Lepanto is a rectangular space covered by a large star vault. At the center resides a keystone sculpted by Joan Claperós in 1454, representing the Pentecost. Inside the Chapel is a Baroque sepulcher of Saint Olegarius and one of the Holy Christ of Lepanto.
History of Catedral de Barcelona In A Nutshell
3rd - 4th centuries:
Although there are no proven historical records of the early presence of Christianity, the martyrdom of Saint Eulalia and Saint Cucuphas bear witness to the existence of Christians in Barcelona during the 3rd and 4th centuries. Recent excavations of the eastern wall of the Cathedral revealed a building with 3 naves separated by white columns - a classic symbol of the paleo-Christian basilica that stood here during the 4th century.
7th - 10th centuries:
Initially, the relics of Saint Eulalia were hidden in the early basilica to avoid desecration by the Arab invaders in the 7th century. A century later, her relics were miraculously found inside the temple of Santa Maria de Les Arenes. During the Arab invasion, one of the chiefs named Almanzor burned and destroyed the whole city. The basilica, however, remained standing strong until the 10th century.
When the Romans invaded Barcelona, Roman Berenguer the Old and his wife Almodis along with Bishop Guislabert commanded the construction of a Roman temple on the site of the basilica. Towards the middle of the 10th century, the Roman temple was declared consecrated by the Archbishop Wilfred of Narbonne. This signified the end of the Roman regime in the city.
12th century - 1913
The present Gothic cathedral was built on the site of the Roman Temple in the 12th century under the reign of King James II of Aragon. About 150 years later, its construction was finally complete when King Alfonso V was in power. Keeping in mind the original designs of Josep O. Mestres, industrialist Manuel Girona Agrafel took charge of adding the central tower and neo-Gothic facade of the Cathedral. This was eventually completed in 1913 by Girona’s children.
All Your Questions Answered About Barcelona Cathedral
A. Barcelona Cathedral is an ancient church, located in the heart of the Gothic Center in Barcelona. Its Gothic architecture, dating back to its construction between the 12th and 14th centuries, is truly a majestic sight to behold. It also holds the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, making it an important structure in the city.
A. Construction of Barcelona Cathedral began in1298 and was completed in 1420. The central tower and the facade were added much later in 1913.
A. Catedral de Barcelona has existed since the 14th century when its construction was complete.
A. Barcelona Cathedral is famous for its remarkable gothic and Neo-gothic style architecture. It is a popular tourist attraction, and one of the most important churches in Barcelona.
A. Barcelona Cathedral is built in a Gothic Architectural style, also known as the Gothic Revival style.
A. Yes, Barcelona Cathedral is open throughout the week. The Cathedral is open Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 12:30 PM and 5:45 PM to 7:30 PM. On Saturdays and public Holidays, the Cathedral is open from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 5:15 PM to 8 PM, while on Sundays and religious holidays, it remains open from 8:30 AM to 1:45 PM and 5:15 PM to 8 PM.