Don’t miss this little church
It’s such a thrill when you are travelling to visit places you have dreamed about since forever. But there’s a different kind of thrill that comes from finding little forgotten corners that surprise, delight and amuse. And the big bonus is the absence of crowds there. Santa Anna Church was such a place. We went there because it is the first stop in Barri Gòtic on Rick Steves’ audio tour, but with little idea about what to expect.
Church of Santa Anna
The small Church of Santa Anna was founded in 1141 by the monks of Order of the Holy Sepulchre, who were sent to Barcelona from Rome to settle in the city. The church was originally part of their monastery. The cross next to the entrance (it’s a replica, the original is in a museum) dates from 1300. The interior of the church is mostly bare, and features an unusual octagonal wooden roof and wrought iron chandeliers. The lovely leafy cloister dates back to the 15th century, and shows both Gothic and early Renaissance features. There were is a little chapel containing a life-sized sculpture group of the “Holy Sepulchre”.
Because of its historical significance, Santa Anna was declared a “National Monument” in 1881, and more recently it has been named a “Bien Cultural de Interés Nacional” (similar to a National Heritage Site) by the Catalan government.
I always knew sport was a religion!
Tucked away in the back of the church was (for us) the highlight, and we almost missed it. In a little chapel in the corner we found copy of the famous black virgin of Montserrat. Since we didn’t get to Montserrat on this trip, that was an unexpected bonus. Even more surprising was that the walls of this chapel were painted with some surprisingly modern images of athletes. We learned that it is the chapel of the Catalan Federation of Sports, which aimed to remind athletes that their success ultimately comes from God. At a ceremony in 1953 the Virgin of Montserrat was proclaimed “celestial patron of athletes”. The chapel is no longer in use, but its treasures remain for all to enjoy.
- Location: Click map for details. Even google maps describes it as “hidden away”. It’s an easy walk from Plaça de Catalunya.
- Cost: Apparently there’s a fee of €2, which includes an informative booklet in English, Catalan, Spanish, French and Italian. When we were there the church was unattended, so we didn’t pay, but also didn’t get any information.
- Time needed: Allow 20-30 minutes for an in depth visit.