Barcelona Cathedral (also known as La Seu), the city’s main cathedral is built in the Catalan Gothic style, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. Its basic constrution was begun in 1298 under King Jaume II and was completed in 1448, although the fanciful front facade dates from the 19th century. The cathedral was built over the site which was successively a Roman temple, the crypt of a former Visigothic chapel, a mosque, and a church.. It has a secluded Gothic cloister, completed in around 1450, home to 13 white geese, after Saint Eulalia who was 13 when she was martyred nearby.
A blending of medieval and Renaissance styles, Barcelona’s cathedral features large bell towers covered in Gothic pinnacles, high Gothic arches, a handsomely sculptured choir and many side chapels with rich altarpieces. The interior was recently cleaned. Especially notable is the Cappella de Sant Benet behind the altar, with a magnificent 15th-century interpretation of the crucifixion by Bernat Matorell.
The crypt beneath the high altar contains the impressive alabaster sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia, patroness of the cathedral and co-patroness of the city. The virgin daughter of an upper-class Barcelona family, Eulalia was burned at the stake for her beliefs under the Romans (traditionally dated to February 12, 304). Drop some coins in a slot to light up the crypt.
The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called ‘Baixada de Santa Eulalia’). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.
One side chapel is dedicated to “Christ of Lepanto”, and contains a cross from a ship that fought at the Battle of Lepanto (1571).Catalan legend states that during the battle, the corpus suddenly and miraculously shifted to the right to avoid being hit by a cannonball, a miraculous sign from God that the Ottomans would be defeated.
I have spent hours in La Seu, an amazing example of Gothic architecture, studying the paintings, the side chapels, the tombs, the statues and one of the most beautiful cloisters I have ever seen – 13 white geese have inhabited it for over 400 years. La Seu has been Barcelona’s iconic cathedral since the dawn of European Christianity, and the remains of one of the city’s patron saints, the teenage girl martyr Santa Eulàlia (Laia is her local name), are interred in the crypt underneath the exquisite altar. She was martyred brutally in the fourth century and was the inspiration for a famous painting by John William Waterhouse, one of the great pre-Raphaelites. Legend has it that she was rolled up the hill close to the cathedral in a wooden barrel filled with broken glass