Barcelona, a photo a day


Sant Jaume


Probably the very first church in BCN… Sant Jaume, well hidden in plain sight, on Carrer Ferran, just inside the gates of Barcino, the roman Barcelona, 1 mn from the Ramblas. It was renovated in 1388, but the earliest mention dates back to 985 AD, where it was called the old church…

Sant Pau del Camp monastery and church.

The oldest church in town, by a mile. St Paul in the Field was founded in 897 AD by the Earl Guiffre Borrell.

And it’s just around the corner, our parish church.

Sagrada Familia, the latest update

The Cathedral, as seen from my wife’s office. Well, what can I say…

It still isn’t finished.

El Camino

So I went on a kind of pilgrimage to the small galician town of Santiago de Compostela. The name means St James of the field of stars. Nice.
Let me tell you what it is all about.
The Way of St. James or St. James’ Way (Spanish: El Camino de Santiago)
is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.
The Way of St. James has existed for over a thousand years. It was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem, and a pilgrimage route on which a plenary indulgence could be earned; other major pilgrimage routes include the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. The Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one’s home and ended at the pilgrimage site. However a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation and political unrest in 16th-century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago. Later, the route has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
There are several Ways, from all through Europe. Ideally, you should walk…

From, for example, Paris, it should not take you more than 2 months…I went by plane, so it doesn’t count!
The weather last Tuesday was absolutely miserable, so I saw very few pilgrims around.

 There is of course much much more to say about El Camino, please google it, you’ll find thousand of pages.

Fernando loves Rosa

At the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Saint James of the field of stars.

Splish splash… The end of the Camino, in the field of stars

I went to Santiago de Compostela yesterday, at the other end of Spain, 1100km/770 miles away, as a pilgrimage to my youth. I will come back to the long history of the place, let’s just say for today that it is the place where Saint James is supposed to be buried. And many many people go there on pilgrimage, ideally on foot, from far away. They call it the Way, El Camino.
As for my trip… I am always complaining about the lack of rain in Barcelona… During the 12 hours I spent in Santiago yesterday, the first 2 hours were heavy drizzle, and the last ten torrential downpour. My plane back to BCN was delayed due to the flooded runway… Anyway, I managed a miserly 200 photos, and my camera still works!


…in the Montserrat mountain range, 50 km from Barcelona.

Montserrat BW

A good view of the extraordinary settings of the Montserrat Abbey, for Skywatch Friday and the Weekend in Black and White.

Chocolate with olive oil and salt

Sounds very weird, but it’s actually really good (I tried a small piece). 73% cocoa, 5% olive oil, 0,4% salt. Would you eat it? It is sold in the shops of Montserrat Abbey, providers of fine foods since 1025 AD.

Santa Maria de Montserrat

Shame on us! After almost 4 years in Barcelona, we finally went to one of the top places to see in Catalunya: Montserrat. More specifically to the benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat.

The monastery is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia’s favorite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the Mare de Déu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestling in the towers and crags of the mountain. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica. Montserrat, whose name means serrated mountain, is 48 kilometres (approx 30 miles) west of Barcelona, and can be reached by road, train or cable car. We took the train, no Harley available.

We’ll be in France for a couple of days, for a well earned but short rest, so we will be blogging from there. After the beach, of course.

Anyway, click here to check out the English version of the abbey’s website.

Sagrada Familia: the doors

Josep Subirachs, author of the Passion facade, also made some truly fantastic bronze doors for the cathedral, based on the gospels of St Matthew and St John, and depicting Jesus’s last days. Here are some more details. All inscriptions are in Catalan, not Spanish.

Sagrada Familia: staircase to… heaven?

One fine spiral staircase, if I ever saw one! But wait… What could entice an adventurous mind more than a staircase to… where? Heaven? But no. Access forbidden. What a shame! But this makes it mysterious, and this is… nice. What might there be up there, in this place so different from any other churches?

HDR photography

I have been meddling with HDR for a while now, even though I really don’t have the time to really learn it, read the books or websites. So basically, I am learning it the hit and miss way. Here is a detail of a church in the old town. Hit or miss?

Santa Eulalia, aka Laia

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (Catalan: Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, Spanish: Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia), also known as Barcelona Cathedral, is the Gothic cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain. The cathedral was constructed throughout the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. The cloister, which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) was completed about 1450. The neo-Gothic façade was constructed over the nondescript exterior that was common to Catalan churches in the 19th century. The roof is notable for its gargoyles, featuring a wide range of animals, both domestic and mythical.
The cathedral was constructed over the crypt of a former Visigothic chapel, dedicated to Saint James, which was the proprietary church of the Viscounts of Barcelona, one of whom, Mir Geribert, sold the site to Bishop Guislebert in 1058. Its site faced the Roman forum of Barcelona.
It is a hall church, vaulted over five aisles, the outer two divided into chapels. The transept is truncated. The east end is a chevet of nine radiating chapels connected by an ambulatory. The high altar is raised, allowing a clear view into the crypt.
 The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.

SOOC versus HDR

A few more trade secrets… Above, a photo processed with Artizen, a High Dynamic Range program.

In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allows a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.

The two main sources of HDR imagery are computer renderings and merging of multiple low-dynamic-range (LDR) or standard-dynamic-range (SDR) photographs. Tone-mapping techniques, which reduce overall contrast to facilitate display of HDR images on devices with lower dynamic range, can be applied to produce images with preserved or exaggerated local contrast for artistic effect.

Sounds complicated, but it isn’t really. Basically, it allows you to recreate on your photos what you’ve really seen. Up to a certain point, of course.
There are many places where you can learn more about it, for example here. If you want to start doing it, I would suggest a little free program called EasyHDR. Or Photomatix.

And you can find many fantastic examples right here.

Below, the original SOOC, or Straight Out Of the Camera picture.

Poble Espanyol: the romanic monastery

Just outside the village at Poble Espanyol, there is this wonderful 11th century romanic monastery, with it’s sculpture garden. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went there. This is where yesterday’s fountain is situated.

Mousteiro dos Jeronimos

As promised, here are some more pictures of the beautiful St Jerome’s Monastery aka Jeronimos Monastery, aka Hieronymites Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal, starting with the entrance to Santa Maria Church above.

 Detail in the monk’s refectory.

 The pulpit.

 The fantastic ceiling. And of course, the beautiful cloister.

Vasco de Gama‘s tomb.

St Piggy?

Our Lady of Bethlehem parish church… Sounds serious, catholic, etc. But… What is this strange window on the church??? OK, I can imagine who’s the guy with the beard on top, and who’s the one with the halo, underneath. But what of the thing in blue on the photo, wearing trendy shades? Can someone explain??? Don’t want to shock anyone with christian sensibilities, but any way I look at it, any way I turn or twist it, I only see a piglet! This is bizarre!

The Filipino church

Saint Augustine, the roman catholic Filipino parish church in the Raval. It is quite a new church, as it is barely 260 years old.
The Filipino community is quite big, over 15000 of them. 

Santa Maria del Mar

The beautiful church of Saint Mary of the Sea, in the Ribera area of Barcelona. It is Catalan Gothic, and the church was built between 1329 and 1383. A very tall and very elegant church, a beauty.

This, by the way, is for My World Tuesday. Much more my world than yesterday’s beautiful but bellicose airplanes. Please click here to see more photos. 

Kahal, El Call, la Sinagoga Mayor

Friday morning. The weekend starts in a few hours, and we will be off to Lourdes. Sabbath also starts today by sundown for some. Which makes it a very good day to show you one of Barcelona’s finest gems, the Sinagoga Mayor, also called Shlomo Ben Adret synagogue. Just happens to be one of the oldest in the world, parts of it dating back to the 3rd century, roman times. It is situated in El Call, the old Jewish quarter. The word Call comes from the Hebrew Kahal, community.

According to historians, there have been Jews in Spain since before the Diaspora, AD 70. In his Letter to the Romans, dated A.D. 54, St. Paul reveals his interest in coming to the Iberian Peninsula to preach .

This below was the Kotel Mizrah, the eastern wall, facing Jerusalem.

On August 5th, 1391, after an uprising in the Old Town, the Sinagoga Mayor and other Jewish property were confiscated by the King of the time. The Synagogue ceased to be, and was forgotten. It was found again in 1996.

Nowadays, you can visit it (2euros donation for the upkeep), and it is like traveling back in time.

Strangely enough, in the same street, literally 10 meters away, there is this sign saying that Saint Domingo de Guzman opened the first Barcelona convent of his Dominican order in 1219, in the building next door.

And Santa Eulalia, Barcelona’s holy patron, was martyred 2 streets away.

More information on the synagogue here.

Well, everybody, have a wonderful weekend, and a good shabbes!

Window shopping

One of many religious shops in the old town

Holy Family

A very small part (compared to the rest, anyway) of the nave in the Cathedral of the Holy Family, better known as the Sagrada Familia.


…et dixit illi haec tibi omnia dabo si cadens adoraveris me

“And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9)

This is the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, the Catholic Temple of the Sacred Heart. It is the highest point in Barcelona. Whatever the heat in town, you can be sure it will be nicer up here, 512 meters higher (and even higher if you pay the 2 euros to take the lift which brings you almost to the top of the church).

About the name Tibidabo itself: this phrase, meaning I will give to you, was said to Jesus by the Devil as they looked down from an exceeding high mountain upon all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. The name of Barcelona’s hill thus refers to the popular tradition that it was in fact the exceedingly high mountain itself. In other words, the Devil tried to tempt Jesus by showing him Barcelona… Barceloneses think very highly of their town!

Surprisingly, there is a popular amusement park just next to the church. Sign of times, I suppose.

If you want to know more about it, please click here.

Heaven and Hell?

Today, exceptionally, 2 pictures.
Walking through the Raval part of Barcelona, I saw this building. Interesting, a metal bar, with a curious name. I’ve read somewhere that there are several Hell’s Angels gangs in Barcelona. Maybe this is one of their places.

What makes it a bit more interesting is this next photo. Same street, maybe 10 meters away.

I wonder what they think of each other? Maybe the hard rockers think the Church is Hell, and the bar is heaven, and vice versa. The Church goers might think the name of the bar is very appropriate. Who knows.
And yes, the Nestle sign is weird… I can’t really see them rockers drinking milk… But why not.

Collioure, Catalunya, France

Well, this is Collioure, one of the prettiest towns in France. The village (2750 inhabitants) had quite a strong impact on 20th century European paintings. People like Derain, Braque, Matisse, Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to quote only the most famous, lived and painted here. Just google around, you’ll find their Collioure paintings quite easily.
The church in the foreground is called Sainte Marie des Anges, Saint Mary of the Angels, and the square building just behind is the Royal Castle, with quite a long story. More about the castle here.
Collioure is basically an extremely pretty holiday spot, laid back, with many many restaurants, bars, 1 disco at least, many hotels, several beaches (gravel, no sand), a short distance from Spain and from Perpignan (Perpinya, the other capital of Catalunya). I didn’t know the place, and I loved it!
Amis d’outre-Pyrenées, une fois de plus, toutes mes excuses pour avoir empieté sur votre territoire!

Santa Eulalia

Shady place in the cloister, Santa Eulalia Cathedral

Sagrada Familia

Yesterday, together with 24431 more people, I went to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, aka the organic cathedral. The Cathedral had it’s annual Open Doors day. Hadn’t been inside for 5 years, although I live just around the corner, and I could see the progress, changed a lot in 5 years. In october this year, the central nave will finally be opened for masses, after 127 years (building started in 1882). This is a shot of the ceiling in the central nave.
Should be finished around 2150, or so they say, due to the traditional way of building.