Santa Maria del Mar (Saint Mary of the Sea), located in the Ribera quarter, was built between 1329 and 1383, a considerably short period of time for such a church. Designed by Berenguer de Montagut, Santa Maria del Mar was built during the reign of King Jaume II to commemorate the recent Catalan conquest of Sardinia. All the guilds of the Ribera were involved in its construction. Its name derives from its representation of maritime success, its location on the seashore (at the time of building), and its use by the merchants and sailors of medieval Barcelona.
In the 1960s, excavators found that the church was built on the site of a Roman cemetery in use from the 4th to the 6th centuries.
The exterior of Santa Maria del Mar has remained largely the same and is therefore a great example of Catalan Gothic. Its outer walls display features which differentiate Catalan Gothic from European. In the Catalan style, there is a predominance of horizontal lines, of solid panels over empty spaces, of flat terraces without roofs, and a preference for large bare surfaces. The buttresses are without flying buttresses as in the European Gothic cathedrals, and the towers are octagonal and flat-topped.
Much of the cathedral’s interior was destroyed in a fire in 1936. Much lighter than expected for the exterior, the basilica-style interior forms a single undivided space and is particularly favourable for classical music or jazz.