Catedral de la Seu is one of the most visually stunning sites in Barcelona. It´s official name is Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia (Catalan for Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulàlia). The commonly used name La Seu refers to the status of the church as the seat of the diocese, and also to the plaza in which it´s located.
It is a gothic cathedral, appropriately located in the Barrio Gotico (Gothic quarter) of Barcelona that dates back to the 14th century. Construction began in 1298 and was completed in 1448, although the gothic facade, including the central spire, was not completed until the beginning of the 20th century. In true Gothic fashion it features spires, pinnacles, arches, and of course, bell towers.
The site where it was built has always been a spiritual center for Barcelona. A Roman temple was built there during the Roman Empire which was destroyed by the Moors in 985 and replaced with a mosque. Later, between 1046 and 1058, the mosque was razed and a Roman chapel was built. The chapel still remains today, added to the cloister.
The interior has a large nave and high ceilings (84 feet high in some places), all of which were cleaned during a recent period of renovation, and is divided into three aisles. On the side aisles are chapels from the 16th and 17th century which include some impressive works of medieval art. Also worth mentioning is the Cappella de Sant Benet, a 15th century altarpiece by the artist Bernat Matorell which depicts the crucifixion of Christ.
Beneath the high altar there is a staircase illuminated by candles which leads to the crypt. The body of Santa Eulàlia, the children´s saint and to whom the cathedral is dedicated, is entombed there. She is considered the children´s saint as she was killed by the Romans at the age of 13 for her Christian beliefs. The crypt also contains an alabaster sarcophagus of her; an Italian work by the sculptor Lupo di Francesco which dates back to 1330.
The cloister is considered one of the best parts of the cathedral and was referred to as “the loveliest oasis in Barcelona” by the historian Cirici. It was built in the 15th century and is lined with chapels containing alters of various saints, and the tombs of members of the ancient guild of the Barri Gòtic are underneath the stone floor. The cloister overlooks a beautiful garden filled with orange trees, palm trees and a pond with fish.
In the center there is a Gothic fountain crowned with a statue of Sant Jordi (Saint George). The cloister is also home to a gaggle of white geese, and has been for the last five centuries. No one is sure how they came to live in the cloister but there are several theories, one of which suggests that thirteen geese were placed in the cloister to represent the age of Saint Eulàlia when she died, and another that says that they represent her purity.
From Monday to Saturday visitors can take an elevator (ascensor als terrats) to the roof. It is located just to the left of the crypt steps and has amazing views of the neighborhood and the cathedral towers. There is also a museum, the Museu Diocesá, which contains a collection of medieval art and church treasures from around Barcelona.
Every Sunday, normally at 12:00pm, a group of locals meet in front of the cathedral to dance the Sardana, which is the traditional dance of Catalonia, while band members play on the front steps. The dance is not nearly as vibrant or flamboyant as some of the other Spanish dances, such as flamenco, but its intricate steps still make it worth watching. An antiques market is also held here every Thursday, and the Christmas fair each December.
During the feast of Corpus Christi in June a unique Catalan tradition takes place, known as “l’ou com balla” which means “how the egg dances”. It consists of an empty eggshell being placed on top of the fountain in the cloister and left to “dance” on the water, while the fountain itself is decorated with flowers. The tradition dates back to 1637 but no one is sure of the significance. Some say that the egg represents spring and the beginning of a new life cycle, and others believe that it represents the Eucharist.
A view of the Cathedral at night is breathtaking, you can sit on one of the benches at the Plaça de la Seu looking at the subtly lit up façade.
All visitors should dress conservatively in order to enter the cathedral, and this is strictly enforced. Both men and woman must cover their shoulders, and shorts and skirts above the knee are not acceptable. If you visit in summer the general rule is to make sure your knees are covered and if necessary bring a scarf or sweater to cover your shoulders before entering.
Entry to the church and cloister is free but entry to the museum costs €2, to the choir €2.20, and the roof elevator €2.50. There is a combined ticket available from 1:00pm to 5:00pm Monday through Saturday and from 2:00pm to 4:45pm on Sunday for €5 which gives you entry to everything. The normal hours, without the combined ticket, are 8:00am to 12:45pm and 5:15pm to 7:00pm Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to 12:45pm and 5:15 to 6:00pm on Saturday and Sunday. The cathedral is located in Plaza de la Seu in the Gothic Quarter, and the nearest metros are Jaume I (the yellow line L4) and Liceu (the green line L3).
Even in winter, there is plenty to see and do in Barcelona. Below is a list of some of the city´s most interesting events taken place in February:
- Calçots, February and March
It´s Calçot season in Catalonia! A calçot is a long green vegetable (a sort of cross between a leek and an onion) which ripens in February and March. The eating of calçots is a time-honored Catalan tradition known as a Calçotada which can either take place at a barbeque or in a restaurant. The onions are put on the grill until the outsides are charred, and then brought to the table in large piles on plates. To eat them you first peel off the outer layer, then dip them into a sauce known as Romanesco sauce.
Mussol and El Glop are two restaurants known for good quality and reasonable prices where you can find calçots served in the traditional way. For locations and reservations see their websites at http://www.mussol.angrup.com and http://www.elglop.com/
Carnaval is one of Spain´s biggest events of the month, and possibly even the year. It takes place the week before Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on 17. For more information check out our full length article at http://www.way2barcelona.com/travel-guide/barcelona-events/carnival-2010/one-of-the-most-popular-celebrations/
2nd Rebaixes, through February
The sales officially began on January 7 and now that we´re into February the “2nd Rebaixes” (Second Sales) have begun. That means big discounts on your favorite brands (up to 70%) so if you´re looking for a cheap pair of campers or something original for Desigual, now is they time to get it. All major stores will have sale items, just look for the “Rebaixes” or “Rebajas” signs in the windows.
- DocsBarcelona, February 2-7
DocsBarcelona is an international documentary film festival which will take place this year from February 2 to February 7. Catalan Day, which is a tribute to the region´s best filmmakers, will take place on February 5. This is a great film festival for documentary lovers, although those who don´t speak Spanish and Catalan should make sure to check the schedule to find out which films are shown in English. For more information and schedules check out the official website at www.docsbarcelona.com
- Les Festes de Santa Eulàlia, February 12-14
The Festival of Santa Eulalia is Barcelona´s biggest children´s festival. The festival celebrates the legend of thirteen year old Eulalia who became a martyr after being killed by the Romans during the persecution of the Christians in the early 4th century. Activities include parades, human castles (castells), story-telling, puppets, concerts, and other events. For more information you can visit the official website at http://www.bcn.cat/cultura/santaeulalia/2010/ca/index.html
- De Cajón! Flamenco Festival, starting February 11
De Cajón! Flamenco festival began in 2006 and is the most important Flamenco festival in Barcelona. 17 different performances will take place at various locations around the city until April 15, including the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Gran Teatre del Liceu. This year´s festival features world renowned Flamenco artists such as Niña Pastori and Farruquito. This is a great opportunity to see world-class flamenco and visit Barcelona´s most famous theaters at the same time.
- Fotopres, until February 21
Fotopres is an exhibition of prize winning photographs by Spanish press photographers from the past year. It features 135 photos from six projects which have been awarded and grants examining countries with high incidences of conflict and violence. The exhibition is on display at Caixa Forum Barcelona, Monday to Saturday 10:00am to 8:00pm until February 21 and entrance is free.
- Cerdà i la Barcelona del future, until February 28
This is a four month exhibition that will come to a close on February 28. The exhibition focuses on Ildefons Cerdà, the man who designed the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona in the 19th century and compares the present condition of the Eixample and the future possibilities for Barcelona. It is a must see exhibit for anyone with an interest in urban planning. The exhibition is on display at the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona). Museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday 11:00am to 8:00pm.
- Convidats d´honor, December 2 to April 11
MNAC, the Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Convidats d’honor is an exhibition being shown in its honor, and features a selection of Catalan art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, all of it on loan from museums, private collections, and religious archives. The MNAC is located in the Palau Nacional in Montjuic and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00am to 7:00pm and Sunday 10:00am to 2:30pm.