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How Barcelona FC’s crest got into a medieval stained-glass window

You may find it shocking to see the coat of arms of a football team in a stained-glass window in a late medieval church. But for the people of Barcelona, this is far from surprising. In contrast to the typical depictions of local saints or Gospel scenes, the emblem of the famous Barcelona FC graces one the windows in the Santa María del Mar church, in the touristic neighborhood of El Born –a holy goal indeed. 

Now, before you imagine the bishop leading a classic football chant, here’s the lowdown. This is in fact an old tradition: since the very early days of Christianity, donors would include their names on church goodies they generously provide. The presence of the team’s crest is not at all a manifestation of local loyalty to the club –it is, indeed, the other way around. They were just keeping with the long tradition of patronage. 

Basilica of Santa María del Mar

The simple explanation is that FC Barcelona financed the reconstruction of the window in the late 1960s. This initiative followed the decision to restore the cathedral’s windows –a project made necessary by the destruction caused by an 11-day fire in 1936.

Santa María del Mar is one of Barcelona’s most iconic churches, dating back to the 14th century. A mandatory stop in the Ignatian Way, the church is dedicated to Saint Mary, the patron saint of sailors –most likely because of its proximity to the sea. Throughout its history, the church has survived earthquakes, the Napoleonic occupation, bombings, and the Francoist era.

However, the most serious blow came in 1936, when anarchists set fire to Santa María del Mar during the Spanish Civil War. The resulting devastation left the interior of the church in ruins, with the stones still bearing the blackened scars of the inferno.

Although renovations began in 1938, it was not until the 1960s that the damaged windows were replaced. Faced with financial constraints, a fundraising campaign sought contributions from various organizations, including the Barcelona Football Club. The club agreed to contribute, on the condition that its coat of arms (as tradition commands) be incorporated into one of the stained-glass windows.

The casual visitor may not notice this detail, but a careful observer will discover the FC Barcelona crest discreetly embedded in one the magnificent windows of this historic church. It is the most sacred cameo you never knew you needed. Score one for divine décor!

Begging for money like a saint –in Barcelona


This post is also available in: Español Italiano

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