The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is located in the medieval Ribera section of Barcelona, among small, narrow cobblestone streets. There was an original, smaller church there built in 998 (freaking old!). The current structure was built relatively quickly for the time period, between 1329 and 1383. It was considered the people’s church in a time where the nobility often claimed ownership to sections of the church, where they would pray. This church was built by the various workers’ guilds of the time. I’ve seen a lot of churches and cathedrals but this one was more meaningful, having read The Cathedral of the Sea an historical novel that follows the life of the people of the time and the construction of the church. The main character was a bastaixo, the porters who carried on their backs the large stones brought by boat and used to build the church. I had a feel and appreciation for how much this place meant for those people who did this work voluntarily out of love for their church. (see my book review here)
The structure itself is unique in that it was designed in the Catalan Gothic style. It suffered some destruction over the centuries, first from an earthquake and then a fire and required some rebuilding. Because of this, there are different styles reflecting different periods.
Most moving to me was the floor, filled with burial markings, some difficult to read because they were so old. The marks seemed chiseled by hand and simplistic yet they were alongside others from much later, more advanced time periods, like the 18th century. I could feel our mortality and how we are merely on leased time here. Try to imagine being forgotten centuries from now, having strangers look on your grave (really, waking over it) with little knowledge of how you lived, who you were, what your life was like. But also, wondering in what ways we could be connected without even knowing. These are our ancestors we never knew. We descended from these faceless strangers.
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