Cathedral of the Sea by Idelfonso Falcones Book Review


Cathedral of the Sea was the second novel I read while in Barcelona. It has added such a richness to the experience of being in Barcelona and visiting Santa Maria Del Mar (original church built in 998 and then the cathedral built over it between 1329-1383). See below for photos. Also, learn more about this book’s namesake in my travel post.

Taking place in Barcelona, this fantastic historical novel starts with a peasant’s wedding-turned-tragedy and follows his future son, Arnau Estanyol, through 14th century feudal Spain.  We follow his character and growth through tragedy and injustice and then as the youngest bastaixo-the group of men who voluntarily carry the heavy stones used to build “the peoples’” church into a well-respected and wealthy merchant. No matter his success, he never forgets where he came from and is a tireless supporter of the working class, at his own perilous expense as he alienates and angers rich aristocrats and makes powerful enemies.

Throughout the novel, we follow Estanyol’s life alongside the creation of one of Spain’s most important cathedrals-the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. We see how his life intersected with the Spanish Inquisition.  Cathedral of the Sea allows us to feel what it was like in medieval Spain, gain a better understanding of the military history of the time, the caste system, and the cultural and financial importance of the Catalan region.

Hold up. Do you really care? This subject/era didn’t really interest me. Unless it was going to be like when Bill and Ted met those bodacious babes, or when Inigo Montoya avenged his father. But it came highly recommended when visiting Barcelona from locals and I’m always open to learning new things.  So the war history and battle specifics were not super interesting to me so I skimmed over those parts-it was not over the top or anything and didn’t really cut into the enjoyment of the rest of the story.

Turns out, this is an epic adventure, a history lesson, and a love story. Not just a romantic love story but one that will make you fall in love with the region and the heart of it’s predecessors.

If or when you have read this novel, please share your comments below. What are your thoughts? What was your favorite part? Who was your favorite character? I am dying to know, literarily, but not literally. Be sure to share with your friends!


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