In the Raval neighborhood, in the heart of the city centre, the church of Sant Pau del Camp is one of the few examples of Catalan Romanesque architecture that still remains in Barcelona. Its name, which in Spanish translates as San Pablo del Campo and English ‘St Paul of the Fields’, comes from the site on which it was built in the year 911 AD, outside the city walls, and in an area which was then nothing but fields.
The current church was initially a Benedictine monastery. It was abandoned for around 100 years after the destruction caused by the troops of Almanzor in 985, but was rebuilt and the monks eventually returned. The monastery then remained active until 1835, at which point the so-called ‘desamortización de Mendizábal’ or Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal took place, a set of decrees that resulted in the privatisation of Spain’s monastic properties. This forced the Church to divest several of its properties, the church of Sant Pau del Camp included.
Despite the fact that the church is of Romanesque origin, it went through several refurbishments and extensions over the years, so elements of other architectural styles can be found, as is the case with the Visigothic facade of the church’s entrance, which dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
Before entering the church we recommend that you have a wander round the outside, which was the church’s old cemetery. In doing so, and in seeing it from a slight distance, you’ll see that it was built in the form of a Greek cross. When you walk round the church you will see its three apses, featuring some very interesting architectural elements, including the Lombard Romanesque style hanging arches, decorated with faces of people and animals, and all sorts of vegetables.
The interior and the cloister
When you enter the church, you’ll find yourself in intimate surroundings. The Gothic chapter house, the Romanesque cloister and the tombstone of Guifré Borrell (Wilfredo II Borrell) are the most interesting architectural and historical elements.
Thanks to its perfectly preserved state, Sant Pau del Camp’s Romanesque cloister is considered to be one of the best in Catalunya. Adding to this the uniqueness of the structure of its arches, which have a clear Muslim influence, we are talking about a cloister that is unique in the whole of Europe.
Some of the capitals are from the Corinthian era, whilst many are the monastery’s original Romanesque capitals. In all of them you’ll see a great deal of decoration, full of biblical representations, animal and plant forms. You will also see a series of tombs around the cloister, the vast majority of them belonging to noblemen of the time who, because of being benefactors of the monastery and donating large amounts of money, were granted the privilege of being buried inside the church.
The church is located within a small enclosure, protected by a fence. Entry to the site, as well as to the church, is free of charge if you are attending one of the masses, but we do recommend taking a guided tour or paying a small amount to go on the tourist visit of the inside of the church and the cloister, which is one of the most impressive features of this small church.
To visit the inside of the grounds and the church for masses
Opening hours: during the religious services the church stays open, but it’s not possible to visit the cloister or go on the tourist visit at these times.
Entry: free of charge.
To visit the cloister and the church
Opening hours: from Monday to Saturday, 10:00 to 13:30 and 16:00 to 19:30.
Entry price: €3.00.
Entry price for groups and retired people: €2.00.
Entry price for students: €1.00.
Guided tour of the church and the cloister
Tour times: Sundays and holy days at 12:45 (advance reservations are required). During August there are no tours on the two or three central Sundays of the month.
Price of tours: The guided tours are free of charge, although there is a suggested donation towards the work and maintenance of the church. It’s very interesting, full of anecdotes and historical details, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know the history of this magnificent church. You can find out more information in the article that we wrote about the guided visit of the monastery when we went on it ourselves.
Duration of tours: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Language: It’s usually in Catalan, but if people who are on the tour don’t understand Catalan, the guides will speak in Spanish or a combination of the two languages.
Reservations: In order to sign up to one of the existing guided tours, or to request a visit at another time, you need to contact Jordi-Xavier Romero, on +34 606.45.28.06, or send him an email at email@example.com.
Here at irBarcelona we recommend you to take part in the guided tour, since there’s no doubt that it will enable you to get to know the history of the old monastery and of the current Sant Pau del Camp church, as well as hearing all sorts of interesting facts about Barcelona and Catalunya in centuries gone by.
carrer (street) de Sant Pau 101, Barcelona.
You’ll find all the necessary information above.
How to get there?
Metro: Paral·lel (líneas 2 y 3).
Autobuses: líneas 20, 21, 36, 64 y 91.
By foot: Less than 100 metres away from the Rambla de Raval, we recommend you to arrive on foot if you’re already in the city centre.