Essential Architecture-  Barcelona

Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral












Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral

One of the most impressive works of Gothic architecture in Barcelona is the Santa Maria del Mar cathedral. The term "del Mar" translates to something like "of the sea". Modern Barcelona feels like it looks away from the sea on which it resides. There is Port Vell and Barcelonetta, but they still feel like the suburbs they were at one time.

In Gothic times Barcelona was more directly involved with the sea, both as a trading port and through its fishing fleet. Santa Maria del Mar is the cathedral that was built by those involved with the sea.

Santa Maria del Mar is filled with light, in contrast to Barcelona's somewhat dark Le Seu cathedral. Even for an atheist like me, Santa Maria del Mar felt like a sacred space. The cathedral is beautiful in its simplicity. There are no frescoes or other art beyond the alter. What you see is the expanse of the cathedral lit by the stained glass windows and the beautiful clean lines of the supporting pillars and arches.

French and English Gothic cathedrals like Notre Dame and Canterbury have walls that are supported by external buttresses. The walls in turn support the roof. This architectural style creates an interior that is open and airy, existing with out support when seen from inside. In contrast, both Le Seu and Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona are supported by internal pillars, arches and the domes on either end of the cathedral. I thought that the explicit architectural structure of the Barcelona cathedrals was beautiful. The pillars bifurcate into the intersecting arches that support the roof in a lovely symmetry.