What to visit / Barcelona, district by district / Ciutat Vella / Barri Gòtic / Church of Sant Felip Neri

Church of Sant Felip Neri

The tiny church of Sant Felip Neri is tucked away in a hidden corner of the Gothic Quarter: a little square with a romantic atmosphere which bears the same name. The austere-baroque style façade bears the scars of bombing. The restoration and cleaning of the building sought to preserve the painful memory of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

The church of Sant Felip Neri was built as an annex to the convent of the "felipons", the followers of the saint, who settled on this site in 1673. The baroque church was built a few years later, in around 1750, and was one of the few examples of this style in Barcelona. The building has a single cross-vaulted nave and rectangular apse, and features side chapels with neoclassical altars and paintings by the catalan art nouveau or modernista artist Joan Llimona. The main façade has simple lines and the doorway is crowned by a semi-circular form surmounted by the figure of Saint Philip Neri.

The deeply pitted walls are the one of the most eye-catching aspects of the building. These wounds etched into the stone of Sant Felip Neri are a reminder of the aerial bombardment that took place in January 1938 at the height of the Civil War, ending the lives of 42 people, many of them children, who had taken shelter in the basement of the convent. The finger of fate dictated that a bomb would fall right on top of the shelter.

This painful memory contrasts today with the peace and quiet of a shady spot with its trees and a cooling fountain in the centre. The buildings in the square once housed the city's guilds of coppersmiths and shoemakers.

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