Thursday, August 2, 2012

Touring in Barcelona (La Ribera)

Started my Barcelona tour in "la Ribera" quarter. This was an important part of the old city mainly inhabited by fishermen, artisans and porters. Later, a thriving new class of merchants moved away from the old city walls and started to build quite remarkable palaces in  Gothic style. The jewel of the crown is, of course, the imposing church of Our Lady of the Sea whose bell tower was a reference point for sailors but whose real purpose was to show off the military and commercial pre-eminence of the Catalans in the Mediterranean during the late Middle Ages (In fact the church was commissioned by King Alfons III after the conquest of Sardinia)
Building the church took just 54 years (from 1329 to 1383) quite a feat for such a huge building. This short construction time explains the purity of the style thus regarded as the paradigm of religious Catalan Gothic. The church ( a basilica, in fact) was known among the lower and merchant classes as the "Cathedral of la Ribera" and probably meant some kind of counterbalance to the official Cathedral located half a mile away and attended by the noble upper classes.
Visiting the inside is a real must; I could only describe it as the "church of space and light". The wide central nave is  not only spacious but harmonious, the cross-vaulted ceiling is supported by a surprisingly scarce number of slender columns and the soft light filtered through the coloured stained glass windows pervades all the interior with a feeling of calmness. If anyone has ever visited "la Chiesa di San Leo" in Venice probably understands what I'm saying.

My short ride took me through narrow medieval streets -mostly pedestrian areas nowadays- which strongly reminded me of strolling through Venice (no canals though...)

After dodging hoards of tourist for a couple of hours cycled home uneventfully