01 June 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
3, Barcelona Cathedral

The Gothic splendour of Barcelona Cathedral dates from the 13th to 15th centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

To mark Trinity Sunday (30 May 2021), my photographs were from the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar. For the rest of this week my photographs are from six cathedrals in Spain.

Earlier in this series, I returned to the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela (31 March 2021, HERE), and the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (10 April 2021, HERE). This morning (1 June 2021), my photographs are from Barcelona’s great Gothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.

The cloisters of Barcelona Cathedral include side altars and side chapels, an enclosed garden, and a fountain a pond (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This cathedral dates back to 343, and some claim it stands on the site of an earlier Roman temple. The present cathedral was built in the 13th to 15th centuries, with the main work carried out in the 14th century.

Barcelona Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulàlia (Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia or Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia) is a fine example of Catalan Gothic architecture, seen in its roof, cimborio or octagonal lantern, the choir area, the side chapels and its gargoyles, featuring a wide range of domestic and mythical animals.

The choir stalls display the coats-of-arms of the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, whose Spanish chapter meet here. The roof is known for its gargoyles, depicting a wide range of domestic and mythical animals. The neo-Gothic façade was completed in the late 19th century.

An interesting part of the cathedral is the cloister, with its own series of side altars and side chapels, an enclosed garden, and a fountain a pond.

The secluded Gothic Cloisters were completed in 1448. At the heart of the cloisters is the Fountain of the Geese (Font de les Oques), the fountain and pond that provide a home to 13 white geese.

The sound of the loud cackling of the geese can be heard throughout the cathedral. In the past, they warned against intruders and thieves, but the number of the geese is explained variously by the story that Saint Eulàlia was 13 when she was martyred or that she suffered 13 tortures while she was being martyred by during a persecution of Christians by Romans in the reign of Emperor Diocletian.

Saint Eulàlia is the co-patron saint of Barcelona, alongside Saint George. She was a young teenager when she died a martyr’s death after refusing to deny that Christ is the Son of God.

Saint Eulalia (Aulaire, Aulazia, Olalla, Eulària) – her name means ‘well spoken’ – was born ca 290. In late third century Barcelona, the Roman Consul Dacian was engaged in the relentless persecution of local Christians. Saint Eulàlia presented herself before Dacian to proclaim her Christian faith and to rebuke him for his harsh treatment of Christians.

Dacian is said to have condemned her to 13 tortures, each one marking a year of her age. At first, she was exposed naked in the public square but a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. She was then put inside a barrel filled with glass (or knives) and rolled down the street now known as Baixada de Santa Eulàlia or Saint Eulàlia’s Descent, and where there is now a small chapel.

She survived and so her persecutors tried to burn her alive. But she survived this torture too, and emerged unscathed as the flames miraculously drew away from her body and instead headed for the soldiers.

Despite her sufferings, the girl’s faith never faltered, and her ordeals never led her to recant her Christianity. Her other tortures included having her breasts cut off, and being crucified on an X-shaped cross. She is often depicted with this cross as one of the instruments of her martyrdom.

Finally, she was decapitated. A dove is said to have flown out from her neck after her head was severed. The date of her martyrdom is given as 12 February 303.

Her body was originally kept in the church of Santa Maria de les Arenes (Saint Mary of the Sands), now Santa Maria del Mar (Saint Mary of the Sea). It was hidden in 713 during the Moorish invasion, and was only recovered in 878. In 1339, she was moved to an alabaster sarcophagus in the crypt of the newly-built Cathedral, before the High Altar.

As well as Saints Eulàlia, the cathedral houses the tombs of Saint Olegarius, Saint Raymond of Penyafort, Count Ramon Berenguer I and his third wife Almodis de la Marche, Bishop Berenguer de Palou II, Bishop Salvador Casañas y Pagés, and Bishop Arnau de Gurb, who is buried in the Chapel of Santa Llúcia, which he had built.

The square in front of Barcelona Cathedral, the Pla de la Seu, is a popular meeting place, but also acts as a stage for some of the best buskers in the city. On Sunday mornings, the square also provides a stage for the Sardana Dances, a unique Catalan folk dance that anyone can join.

The panels on the alabaster sarcophagus of Saint Eulalia recall her tortures and martyrdom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 12: 13-17 (NRSVA):

13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ 17 Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.

A flock of 13 white geese has permanent sanctuary in the cloisters of Barcelona Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (1 June 2021) invites us to pray:

We give thanks for the work of Hope for the Future. May we encourage churches to become more involved in the fight against climate change.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Catalan national dance, the sardana, is performed by hundreds of people in the Plaça de la Seu every Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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