Barcelona cathedral, a beautiful example of gothic architecture
Article updated 15 April, 2019.
Barcelona is known for its spectacular architecture. The gothic quarter is packed with medieval masterpieces, and the cathedral is a magnificent example of the gothic style.
metro: Jaume I (L4)
Pla de la Seu
cultural visit: €7
for the architecture
Barcelona’s gothic-style cathedral is one of the city’s most majestic monuments, and the esplanade plays host to many important events throughout the year, such as the Santa Llucia Christmas market and groups of sardana dancers.
Barcelona cathedral: a historic site
Barcelona cathedral is a medieval edifice, but its foundations are much older. Archaeological research has shown the existence of a paleo-christian basilica beneath the existing building, originally constructed in the 4th Century and embellished over centuries by subsequent bishops.
The original building was seriously damaged during the Moorish attacks on the city, and a new cathedral was built in its place during the 11th Century, in the predominant romanesque style. Work began on the current gothic cathedral at the very end of the 13th Century, and went on for 150 years.
Barcelona cathedral: a treasure-trove of art and architecture
Barcelona cathedral is a superb example of Catalan gothic architecture. The building, which has an inward-looking structure, includes a number of small chapels arranged around a very pleasant cloister. You may be able to spot thirteen geese within the cloister, a reference to St. Eulalia, a goosegirl who became the patron saint of Barcelona. The cathedral carries her name.
Art and decorative work in the cathedral
The cathedral is not only fascinating from a religious and architectural perspective, but also from an artistic standpoint. The walls are hung with paintings by some of the great Catalan masters, whilst natural light floods into the nave through colourful stained glass windows.
The church also houses other treasures, including fabulous gold and gemstone artefacts, sculpted marbles and King Martin’s throne.
Legends and traditions associated with Barcelona cathedral
Geese in the cloister
13 white geese may be seen in the cathedral cloister, referring back to two legends. The first relates that when work began on building the cathedral, the man charged with guarding the site had a number of pet geese. One day, an attempted theft was foiled by the geese detecting the presence of the perpetrator. Since that time, geese have been considered to be the guardians of the cathedral.
The number of geese – 13 – is a reference to the story of St Eulalia, martyred at the age of 13 and buried in the cathedral crypt. The saint was tortured in 13 different ways for refusing to renounce Christianity.
L’ou com balla (the dancing egg)
L’ou com balla is an unusual tradition, reproduced each year in the cathedral cloister. It consists of placing an egg onto the water jet in the cloister fountain, which is decorated with flowers and fruit. The movement of the water makes the egg “dance”.
This peculiar custom dates back to the 15th Century, and its origins are uncertain. Some think that the egg represents the Eucharist, whilst others see it as a symbol of fertility.
Visiting Barcelona Cathedral
Timetable: cultural and tourist visits
- Monday – Friday: 12.30pm to 7.45pm (last access at 6.15pm)
- Saturdays and the day before public holidays: from 12.30pm 5.30pm (last access at 4.45pm)
- Sundays and public holidays: from 2pm to 5.30pm (last access at 4.45pm)
Barcelona cathedral: ticket prices
At times when entry is not free, tickets cost €7. The price includes access to the church, the cloister, the terraces, the choir and the chapel of the Holy Christ of Lepanto.
Barcelona Cathedral: worship and prayers
It is possible to gather in the Cathedral of Barcelona and access the temple at certain times of the day without paying entrance fees.
At these times, the visit of the choir costs €3 and the visit of the terraces costs €3 also.
- Monday – Friday: 8.30am – 12.30pm and 5.45pm – 7.30pm (inthe afternoon: access by the right door of the main facade)
- Saturdays and the day before public holidays: 8.30am – 12.30pm and 7.15pm – 8pm
- Sundays and public holidays: 8.30am – 1.45pm and 7.15pm – 8pm
Lift access to the terraces
This lift is in service during cultural tours and from 10am to 12am from Monday to Saturday.
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