Pla de la Seu
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The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, also referred to as the Cathedral of Barcelona, is a Gothic cathedral and the Archbishop’s seat of Barcelona. The sanctuary, containing the “Font de les Oques”, was built in 1448. At the end of the nineteenth century, the neo-Gothic façade was installed on a non-described exterior that was typical to the Catalan churches. The roof is noteworthy for its gargoyles, with a wide variety of animals, both domestic and mythical.
The Cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia, the patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, endured martyrdom in the city during Roman times.
One report says she that Eulalia of Barcelona was nude on the public square, and a magical snowfall in the middle of the spring covered her nakedness. The furious Romans put her in a barrel with knives stuck in it and rolled her down the street (according to tradition, the one now named Baixada de Santa Eulàlia). The body of Saint Eulalia is buried in the crypt of the Cathedral.
The choir stalls hold the coats of arms of the Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece. During his first journey to Spain, Charles, the future Holy Roman Emperor, chose Barcelona as the location of the chapter of his Order. The King had arrived for his inauguration as Count of Barcelona, and the city, as a Mediterranean port, offered close contact with other far-flung Hapsburg dominions, while a large proportion of the Cathedral would accommodate the necessary grand ceremonies. In 1518 the herald of the Order, Thomas Isaac, and his treasurer, Jean Micault, were commissioned to plan the sanctuary for the first session of the chapter in 1519. The painted decoration of the sanctuary was done by Juan de Borgonya.
A cross dating back to the battle of Lepanto (1571) is contained in the side Chapell of the Holy Sacrament and of the Holy Christ of Lepanto.
The Cathedral includes the tombs of S. Raymond of Penyafort, Count Ramon Berenguer I, and his third wife, Almodis de la Marche, as well as Bishops Berenguer de Palou II, Salvador Casanas and Pagés and Arnau de Gurb, buried in the chapel of Santa Llúcia, which he founded.
The Cathedral was elevated to the status of a Minor Basilica roughly 150 years ago (in 1867) by Blessed Pope Pius IX. During the Civil War, the Cathedral experienced some slight arson, as well as damage to the roof by both sides of the war, but generally speaking it stood in good condition relative to most of the other churches in the region. As a result, many Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque altarpieces and shrines were preserved within the Cathedral, as well as some of the royal tombs on the site.
A program for the cleaning and restoration of the Cathedral was carried out between 1968 and 1972.
What to see
It’s hard to miss the beautiful exterior of the Cathedral Square (Pla Seu).
You ’re going to be drawn to the front door and the massive Gothic arch above. The stone sculpture of Christ keeps watch over the entrance, while the twelve apostles stand on either side of the doors. You’ll find 75 figures and 8 stained-glass windows running from the Renaissance to the Modernist.
You can see two side towers (built between 1896-1898) scouting the dome of the church topped with a statue of Saint Helen.
The Gate of Sant Ivo (on the left side of the church on the central square) has been the main entry to the church for over 500 years. It was made from Montjuic marble. Look for the inscriptions here marking the beginning of work in 1298.
You will find monuments and chapels dedicated to more than 140 saints at the Barcelona Cathedral.
Besides the highly-represented Virgin Mary, you will see a great deal of attention paid to Santa Eulalia, a local girl martyred in Barcelona during Roman times who became the patron saint of the city. In front of the key alter, you can enter the crypt of Santa Eulalia.
One of the most important elements of the interior is the choir. Most of the finest examples of Catalan Gothic art can be found in the stalls. A highlight is the wooden pulpit carved by Pedro Çanglada in 1403.
The Chapter Hall Museum used to be a soup kitchen for poor people. It’s host to some pretty interesting things today, including the baptismal font of the first Gothic cathedral of the 11th century.
The Lepanto Chapel is decorated with paintings in honor of Santa Eulalia and is a tribute to the crucial naval battle in which the Holy League defeated the Ottoman Empire. This is where tourists can pray in silence.
The inner courtyard is the most popular part of the cathedral without any doubt.
You enter the cloister through a white marble door, which is said to be a remnant of the original Romanesque cathedral built on the site in 1046.
The rectangular cloister, made up of four galleries, shows pillars depicting scenes from the Old Testament, while the vault keystones show scenes from the New Testament.
The main garden is full of palm trees, citrus flowers, magnolias and a fountain of the 15th century. This is also the location of the pond where 13 white geese live, reflecting the 13 years of survival of Santa Eulalia.
The utter must for anyone visiting the Cathedral of Barcelona is to ride the elevator to the top.
From here you get a stunning 360-degree view of the city. There is also a closer look at the bell tower and the famed gargoyles.
Roof entry is from one of the chapels on the left side of the church – just follow the signage.
Dress code and behaviour
Make sure you enter with your arms are hidden and your have knee-length dresses / shorts / skirts. You ’re also going to have to remove any caps or head wear of any kind to get in.
If you don’t have one, there’s a woman selling shawls for a couple of euros right outside the entrance – just make sure your shorts are long enough or you don’t get in anyway.
For worship and prayers, it’s free!
With your free entrance, you have access to the cathedral floor and the cloister – the inner courtyard / garden of the famous 13 white geese. Again, this should be prayer and worship so I advise you to take a caution to just take pictures.
During the free time of entry, you will have to pay € 3.00 to access the roof or the choir (€6.00 for both).
- Typically, the cloister closes 15-30 minutes before leaving a lot of time.
- Children under the age of five go free to the rooftop and choir.
- Close the doors five minutes before the closing time.
The paid entrance to the Cathedral is done by “donation” although the €7.00 is absolutely mandatory. You can book your tickets online in advance.
With a paid entrance you will have access to the cathedral floor, the cloister, the choir, the roof, the Chapter Hall Museum and the chapel of Lepanto – plus a free brochure filled with a ton of information.
Unlike many Barcelona attraction tickets that can be bought online the cathedral is strictly walk up – expect to wait no longer than about 15 minutes at peak times.
How to get there
The Catedral de Barcelona is right in the heart of the Gothic Quarter at Pla Seu, 3.
It’s about 150 meters from the metro station Jaume I (yellow line L4) and about 350 meters from the metro station Liceu (green line L3) and La Rambla. Expect a 3 to 8 minute walk from either station.
It’s 2 minute walk from the Barri Gotic, just take the red line of the Bus Turistic.