Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia
That Barcelona has a famous church--the Sagrada Familia--that has been under construction for 130 years (and is now within two decades or so of completion) is fairly common knowledge. Less well known is that the jewel of the Gothic Quarter--the ostensibly 13th century Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia only acquired its Neo-Gothic main façade in the 19th century, while its piercing spire (currently encased in the scaffolding of long-term restoration) was unveiled in its full glory less than a century ago, a delay that explains the emphatically Modernista stained glass.
In fact, Christian worship has been conducted on or around this site for almost 1,500 years. Today's structure succeeded a Visigothic basilica and Romanesque cathedral. There's an immense nave and soaring Gothic buttresses arch over 16 side chapels, most notably that which houses the Christ of Lepanto, said to have been carried into the 1571 battle on the prow of a ship. Legend has it that the contorted rightward slant of the Christ figure is due to a deft move to dodge an approaching cannonball--a sign of impeding victory over the enemy Turks.
Elsewhere--in the choir stalls--check out the 14th century misericords (the small wooden shelfs on the underside of folding seats that aid perching during lengthy prayers), which show slightly surreal scenes--like a woman tying the devil to a cushion and a man with leg extended as if to don his stockings. The choir also features later gilded armorial crests in honor of the Order of the Golden Fleece; facing the high altar you can find that of England's Henry VIII, who attended here in 1519.
Best of all are the cloisters, which feature not only palm trees but a gaggle of 13 geese, their color and number a nod to the virginity of Santa Eulàlia, who was reportedly sadistically tortured and then martyred at that age during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
Get a real sense of the medieval core of the city by taking the elevator up to the roof.
Plaça de la Seu
Guided visits 933-428-260
Sundays, holidays 2-5pm
Monday-Friday 8am-12:45am, 5:15-7:30pm
Saturday 8am-12:45pm, 5:15-8pm
Sunday 8am-1:45pm, 5:15-8pm