Basilica of Santa Maria

The Basilica of Santa Maria, in Castelló d’Empúries, is the second most important religious building of the Costa Brava, after Girona Cathedral. Also known as the Costa Brava Cathedral, the building did not ever hold this title, despite its large size.

La fachada de la Basílica de Santa María, en Castelló d'Empúries

Basilica of Santa Maria facade, in Castelló d'Empúries

The Basilica is a prime example of how important was the Gothic architecture in Catalonia. The church was first built in the XIIIth century, in 1261, on King Ponç IV d’Empúries years. However, this construction was build on a Romanesque church built in 1007, more than two centuries before. The baptismal font shown inside has its origin in those beginning years.

Nave interior de Santa Maria del Mar, la "Catedral de la Costa Brava"

Interior nave of Basilique of Santa Maria of Empuries, also known as "Costa Brava Cathedral"

The basilica was completed in early XVth century, when was finished one of its greatest artistic works: the facade adorned with a stone portal and with six archivolts. On each side of them Apostles are represented with a large profusion of detail. The central tympanum represents the Adoration of the Magi.

La fachada central representa la Adoración de los Reyes Magos

The central facade represents the adoration of the Magi

The basilica structure is formed by a central open plan, with two aisles. It also has a 12th bell tower, five floors high and 36 meters: it was designed under Romanesque inspiration and has a clear architectural composition of Lombard influence.

Campanario de la Basílica de Santa María, en Castelló d'Empúries

Bell tower of Basilique of Santa Maria, in Castelló d'Empúries, Girona, Costa Brava

If the building from the outside is already an architectural and sculptural jewel, the interior of the basilica is still more impressive. It has two 11th baptismal fonts, made from a single block of stone and two sarcophagi with county Empúries family (Ponce IV of Empúries and Pedro IV of Ribagorza).

Tumba real en la Basílica Santa Maria

Royal grave of Basilique of Santa Maria

Another of the masterworks that has the Cathedral of the Ampurdán is a beautiful alabaster altarpiece built in the mid 15th century, in a flamboyant Gothic Renaissance style. With a height of 6.5 meters, at the bottom you’ll find a relief of ten angels next to the symbols for those organizations which once paid the altar: the shield of Castelló de Empúries, the bread of charity, etc.) In the upper part are represented scenes from the Passion of Jesus and, above all, there is a soft sculpture of the Candelaria Virgin holding the holy Child in her arms. The level of detail and realism, for example in the folds of the clothing, is very high, and shows the dedication of the artists in the execution of the work.

Retablo de la Basílica de Santa Maria, en Castelló d'Empúries

Basilique of Santa Maria altarpiece

Other masterworks of interest are the organ of the 19th century and the museum known as the Treasury, which contains, among other gems, an image of the Inmaculada Virgin made in embossed silver in Plateresque style, from the XVIIth century.

Detallo del retablo

Detail of the altarpiece

The Basilica of Santa Maria de Castelló is an architectural work of reference in the Catalan Gothic, and is one of the main artistic attractions of the Costa Brava.


Post Author

This post was written by Alex Rigola who has written 60 posts on Costa Brava Blog.

Alex Rigola is Costa Brava's editor and an ampurdan passionated who enjoys sailing his little boat through the Costa Brava coast. He currently lives in Pals and if you use to ride along cycling routes in the area, it's very likely that you encounter him at some point. When asked about his favorite spot on the Costa Brava he never hesitates for a moment: Cala Montjoi.

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