When people think of Barcelona, they usually think of Gaudi and his unfinished masterwork, La Sagrada Familia. While it is incredibly stunning and 100% worth visiting, there’s also Barcelona Cathedral, the little cathedral that could. It holds a lot of historical importance to the city and has its own unique quirks that help it stand out from the crowd.
Dead Saints, ahoy!
Barcelona Cathedral hosts the remains of the two patron saints of the city: Eulalia and Raymond of Penyafort.
Eulalia was a Roman girl who, at the age of 13, was killed for her Christian faith at the tail end of the Roman persecution under the emperor Diocletian. Raymond of Penyafort was a Spanish Dominican friar who helped write the Decretals of Gregory IX. He is the patron saint of canonical law in Catholicism, even though his own laws were removed from the records in 1917. Regardless, both cozy up in Barcelona Cathedral.
The crypt of Saint Eulalia has beautiful decoration and is situated below the main floor of the cathedral. The cathedral is actually built to honor her more so than Penyafort, who seems to have been a much later addition. The full name in Catalan is Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulalia, or Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.
There are also geese at this cathedral, in the cloister, for a good reason: 13 pristine white geese are kept there to honor Eulalia, who was martyred at age 13.
A Rich History
Barcelona Cathedral, because it is so old, hosts a lot of history within its walls. It was visited by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, in the 1510s. He declared it the official site for his order, the Order of the Golden Fleece. You can see this order’s coats of arms on some of the chairs in the choir.
The overall look of the cathedral is very impressive: High vaulted ceilings, a big, beautiful golden altar, and colorful stained-glass windows. It was chilly inside when we visited one cold February morning, monastic chanting playing through the speakers in the main hall. We also went up on the roof to get one of the best views of Barcelona in the city. You can see the exquisite details of the stone work on the towers and spires outside, replete with natural imagery and geometric shapes.
It was a nice, relaxing trip. It’s definitely less crowded and hectic than La Sagrada Familia and has a much longer history to explore. The neighborhood is nice and welcoming and I felt very much at home walking the stone streets. All in all, a fantastic place to visit if you’re in Barcelona!