Sant Pau del Camp
A delightful Romanic corner in the bustling heart of El Raval, Sant Pau de Camp (St Paul of the Fields) is one of the oldest churches in the Barcelona. Its name gives away its original rural location outside the city of Barcelona, like perhaps St Mary of the Fields in London.
The original church was destroyed when Almanzor sacked the city in AD 985, described by contemporary propagandists as The Day the City Died. The church was later rebuilt in the 11th and 12th centuries with a Greek-cross plan, and all that survives of the Visigoth temple are the columns and lintel of the main door (usually closed). The rest of the church is pure Romantic and I think would seem more at home on a Pyrenean mountainside.
Outside note, the hand of God with its two-fingered gesture, a typical early Christian symbol denoting power. Carved symbols can also been of the evangelists Mark (lion) and Luke (ox) on either side of the door; Matthew (winged man) and John (eagle) above. There are also simple 13th-century carvings of fish, birds and faces around the portal, whose meaning I am unsure.
Inside there is also the tomb of the original builder Count William the Hairy, but the highlight is the lovely cloister with its Moorish arches, a central fountain, and animals adorning the capitals.
St Pau del Camp functioned as a Benedictine monastery for many centuries, which owned many of the surrounding fields, orchards and gardens all the way to Les Rambles. For a time, the institution was connected to the powerful Monastery of Montserrat but the ecclesiastical authorities there broke off the relationship, after losing many of their monks to Sant Pau, where life was easier and frankly more fun (as it is today).
During the Peninsula War, French troops used the church as a hospital, and it was later occupied by Italian forces as a barracks. Having survived the Napoleonic boot, it finally became a parish church in the 1830s, and lost its remaining lands through the Disentailment of Mendizábal. Urban development marked it down for demolition at the end of the 19th century, but it was saved by the concerted efforts of the Catalan Hiking Club, a hotbed of bourgeois nationalist pride. Sadly, in 1909 during the Tragic Week and then again in 1936 in the early days of the Civil War it was burnt by masses, venting their anger on the reactionary Catholic Church. All the historical and parish records stored within went up in smoke and so there are large gaps in the historical knowledge of the building.
It’s worth paying the entry price (3 euros) to visit the peaceful chapel and cloister, where it is difficult to believe you are in the centre of Bareclona.
Photo by TenOfAllTrades on Wikipedia
- Wikipedia on Sant Pau del Camp
- Sacred-Destinations.com: Sant Pau del Camp – nice description
- Detailed site about the monastery (Catalan and Spanish) from where I got this excellent map of the monastery in 1835 with its still extensive lands, just before the desintailment. “Hortes” means vegetable gardens and orchards. Extramurs means outside the city walls
Places in El Raval