Barcelona churches

 

 

Barc Faith Tile

 

My trip to Barcelona was one of my lovely surprises in 2014. I had a big year of travelling for work – Bali, Taiwan, Silicon Valley – and didn’t really expect more. But in December, DAPHNE Diaries in Barcelona happened. This was the initiative of Lifestyle Network, supported by Samsung Digital Home Appliances, which I had been a long-time brand ambassador for. It is my first collaboration with a TV network as a blogger (I have been a presenter and producer before).

The days leading up to our trip, Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) was brewing near the Philippines. Reports said it would be another deadly storm. I was scared. I didn’t want to leave my family knowing that the storm could potentially directly hit Metro Manila. But I couldn’t bail out of the trip. A lot of prayers were said before, during and after. I believe a miracle happened. Typhoon Hagupit got weaker as it hit land.

I share this little anecdote because I really believe in the power of prayers. Ok the typhoon weakening may not have been due to divine intervention, but I have been blessed with a few real miracles already. I also think that everything happens for a reason. While I was full of anxiety as our plane took off before the storm hit, I was a picture of calmness on our first full day in Barcelona. The travel agent “coincidentally” planned our Montserrat visit on December 8th, the Feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, not knowing that I have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary.

My DAPHNE Diaries will give small portraits of the city of Barcelona – food, museums, urban life. I didn’t actually mean to do a whole story on churches in my blog. But as I was reviewing my photos, I found I had more than enough to piece this blog entry together. Don’t worry, I don’t get preachy. This is an architecture and design story… with a little history.

 

DSC01959
The morning of December 8th, 2014, our car brought us to Montserrat. You can take the train or cable car to go up the mountain. Our car brought us right up to the monastery.

 

DSC01958
Montserrat actually means “saw (serrated, like the common handsaw) mountain” in Catalan. Source.

 

PC081448
The mountain tops look so surreal with its many peaks, some look like silos.

 

DSC01962
The monastery began in 1025 as the Hermitage of Santa Maria, the Mother of Christ. It became a very well known shrine in the Christian world. In the early 1800’s, most of the monastery was destroyed during the Napoleonic wars. The church and monastery we see now is a result of rebuilding.

 

DSC01965
The short walk to Santa Maria de Montserrat. This is a good tip. Try getting there no later than 9am. Trust me, the crowds get thick.

 

DSC01963
The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of Saint James). Montserrat is part of the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela.

 

PC081457
There are some restaurants, a hotel and a museum in Montserrat. But we only went there for the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat itself and went back to explore the city.

 

DSC01998
The medallion in the centre of the atrium has an inscription around that reads, “Only those baptized and born in the water like fish can understand the meaning of the fish of the Eucharist.” I had to wait 10 minutes for a group of tourists to get off the circle before I could get my chance. This exact spot is believed to be very powerful.

 

DSC01978
The basilica has a neo-Plateresque design (a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance) and was rebuilt in 1900. During the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, the French destroyed most of the abbey.

 

DSC01972
We went along the right aisle past the altar to see the statue of the Virgin called “La Moreneta.”

 

20141208_103441
There is a giant clam converted into a holy water font — a gift of the the Filipino people to the abbey. (La Sagrada Familia also has one.)

 

DSC01977
The La Moreneta or the Black Madonna is a 12th or 13th century Romanesque statue housed in this alcove behind the main altar. It usually is filled with pilgrims and tourists. The normal wait is over one hour. Our guide, Fabio Bugna, anticipated the crowd, that being December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a national holiday in Spain. We arrived at the abbey around 9am. As you can see, we had the alcove all to ourselves.

 

20141208_102835
There were no crowds. It was calm, solemn, and peaceful. I was so moved by the experience.

 

20141208_102714
And there she is. The Black Madonna. The statue is made of carved wood from the 12th century Romanesque period. It appears black because the varnish on the statue has oxidized from the effect of candle and lamp smoke. The Virgin has a ball in her hand, which sticks out of the glass compartment. I held it as long as I could until I shed a tear. I had enough time to say the Hail Mary.

 

DSC01982
After my close encounter with the Black Madonna, I turned to the small oval chapel below the altar. It had a full view of the Black Madonna from behind.

 

20141208_103229
Again, the room was practically empty. Here, I was able to pray longer.

 

DSC01991
And I lit candles for my friends and family.

 

DSC02002
That morning in Montserrat was really magical. After my prayers at the altar, we even heard the Montserrat Boys Choir sing. They usually sing in the afternoons. But that morning of December 8th, they had a special performance. Nothing in life is a coincidence. I was meant to be there.

 

20141208_001511
Another church in the old town of Barcelona, Santa Maria del Mar.

 

PC081623
Santa Maria del Mar’s interior shows incredible Catalan Gothic architecture.

 

PC081622
The vaulted ceiling of Santa Maria del Mar.

 

PC081618
Santa Maria del Mar, 14th century.

 

PC081614
Santa Maria del Mar is beautiful despite and because of its austerity.

 

PC081617
Whether you are religious or not, Santa Maria del Mar is worth a visit even just for its architectural merit. It is a pure example of Catalan Gothic.

 

PC081616
I was so taken by this beautiful image of the Virgin Mary at Santa Maria del Mar.

 

20141208_001717
Santa Maria Del Mar is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors.

 

PC081462
Of course, no visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s 133 year-old work-in-progress masterpiece. It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since its beginning in 1882, the church has been built purely from donations. I will save an entire post and video blog on La Sagrada Familia.

 

20141210_180443
Not many people highlight the chapel at the crypt of La Sagrada Familia. It was built by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1882. By the end of 1883, Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to take over the project, where he worked on his modernist masterpiece for over forty years.

 

PC091580
One can have a glimpse of the neo-Gothic chapel underneath the apse.

 

20141210_181044
A view of the apse above can be seen from the crypt’s highest arches.

 

20141210_180733
In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the yet-unfinished La Sagrada Familia as a minor basilica, a place of worship.

 

20141210_181222
Antoni Gaudi is buried in the crypt of La Sagrada Familia.

 

20141209_142331
Our walks in Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) led us to many sacred sites. I couldn’t stop being in awe. (My chukka boots have been getting a lot of FB and IG love. It is a two year old Cole Haan.)

 

PC091446
The church of San Felip Neri is in a quaint square with a fountain and some buildings dating back to the Renaissance time. Its facade shows shrapnel from a bomb thrown by Franco’s forces during the Civil War, killing 42 people, mostly kids.

 

PC091583
A definite must-see is the Barcelona Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia, established in the 15th century. Couldn’t help but pose for a touristy shot in front of the Gothic facade.

 

PC091454
The cathedral’s cloister houses 13 geese at the Well of the Geese. This represents the age of Santa Eulalia when she was killed by the Romans.

 

20141209_120719
So much beauty in this 14th century cloister courtyard.

 

PC091471
The cloister of Barcelona Cathedral.

 

PC091472
While the cloister courtyard is charming, the interior of Santa Eulalia is majestic.

 

PC091474
The entrance to the crypt is right in front of the altar, at the centre of the church.

 

PC091480
Here at the crypt, you will see the tomb of Santa Eulalia of Barcelona, a young girl who died as a martyr during the Roman period when she refused to dismiss Jesus as the Son of God.

 

PC091491
Back up, I explored the different chapels surrounding the nave.

 

PC091492
There are 28 chapels flanking the nave of Santa Eulalia, all illuminated by beautiful stained-glass windows.

 

PC091596
As we walked around the Gothic Quarter, I found these little charming places of worship, such as the small cappella in Placeta d’En Marcús.

 

PC091597
Little chapel at Placeta d’En Marcús had a Romanesque figure of Our Lady in an outdoor niche.

 

PC091534
We chanced upon La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs, though the caretaker was closing up.

 

PC091526
This pretty image of Our Lady at La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs caught my attention. I just love the pop of her blue veil against all that gold. So pretty.

 

PC091532
One doesn’t have to be particularly religious to appreciate these churches.

 

20141210_174258
We were lucky that during the time of our visit, there was a 2-week Christmas market outside the Barcelona Cathedral and La Sagrada Famlia. I had lost sleep over these miniature hand sculpted terracotta Nativity figurines I saw at the market, so we went back another night.

 

20141210_175246
The little terracotta figurines wasn’t all about the Holy Family and Three Kings. The local artisans sculpted Catalan villagers and village scenes.

 

20141210_175206
I bought a miniature stable and nativity scene. The clay pottery was made by this woman. I asked her to give me her name and she wrote it on the brown bag packaging. But sadly, we were careless when we unpacked and I lost her name.

 

20141226_142821
There is our miniature Catalan nativity scene. I also bought a smaller matchbox nativity.

 

For my blog on Barcelona food and restaurants, click here.

 

 

Leave a comment

  • Valerie Caulin

    Love the photos! My husband went to Spain last September, not Barcelona but in Madrid, Valencia and he even went to Aragon province. Above all things, he was in awe with the churches.

    • Anonymous

      They’re so beautiful.

  • http://meikah.blogspot.com/ Meikah Ybañez-Delid

    Love your shots and story, Daphne… very inspiring as always! :)

    • Anonymous

      Thank Meikah

  • http://www.christinelovestotravel.blogspot.com/ Christine loves to travel

    Love both places! We went to the very top of the mountain in Monserrat. Lovely views and the clouds would sometimes roll in. It was very calming.

    • Anonymous

      Sounds amazing. I’ll take your word for it. The only mountain i ever climbed was the one leading to Tigers Nest in Bhutan. Haha.

  • Elna Smith

    Beautiful photos. A few years ago the wife of the Filipino ambassador had organised a ladies trip to Barcelona and I was invited to join but I couldn’t go. After reading your post, am now determined to go visit Barcelona sooner than later.

    • Anonymous

      It is beautiful. Lucky you, it’s so close.

  • Marie Mangalao

    Hi Daphne, where did you get your shoes? Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      I bought it in wisconsin 2 years ago.

  • http://verabear.net Vera

    Beautiful structures.

    • Anonymous

      yes they are :)

  • Mary Ann Alcantara

    This is one of your best entries. Happy to learn we share the same devotion to Our Lady. Thanks for posting this! ????

    • http://daphne.ph Anonymous

      Thanks for reading.