The skyline of the city of Barcelona cannot be conceived without the intricate cut of the domes of the Sagrada Familia. The architect Gaudí's crowning temple has always been, along with the Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra Palace in Granada, at the top of the most visited monuments in Spain.
Before the pandemic, one out of every three tourists visiting Barcelona's monuments and places of interest opted for the city's ecclesiastical heritage, especially the Sagrada Familia and the Cathedral.
The arrival of the Covid pandemic radically changed the situation: the closure of some temples in the state of alarm, the suspension of visits and the lack of foreign tourism have taken their toll on the entire national tourist scene, hitting the Catalan Church hard.
For this reason, one of the latest initiatives of the Catalan archdiocese, its Secretariat for the pastoral care of Tourism, Pilgrimages and Shrines, has been the creation of the website https://turismoreligioso.barcelona, a pastoral tool that puts its cultural heritage at the service of the recovery of the tourism sector in the diocese.
Priest Josep Maria Turull, director of this Secretariat, emphasizes that this website "offers information on religious elements of the Catholic Church: international masses, masses in foreign languages, emblematic churches, music in churches, religious accommodations, religious events. The objective is that they can adequately celebrate their faith in Barcelona or that they can know where it is celebrated if they want to know it".
In fact, through the website you can know the Mass schedule of the Sagrada Familia or the Sacred Heart of Tibidabo... etc, as well as the Mass schedules in languages such as English, French, Chinese, Polish, Portuguese or Tagalog.
The website is not only intended to be used by those who visit the city, but, as Turull points out, "for the parishioners of the archdiocese, it offers a list of all the pilgrimages that are organized by the archdiocese to facilitate their participation in them and also the list of all the shrines available to facilitate the maintenance of these multi-secular devotions". Therefore, the pilgrimages are offered in agenda, according to the date of their celebrations, as well as a brief history and information links for each one of them.
A way of evangelization
In addition to being a support for tourism, the Secretariat for the Pastoral Care of Tourism, Pilgrimages and Shrines is very clear that the different artistic manifestations echoed in the new website: temples, festivities or music, can be a way of encountering God or a starting point for the rediscovery of the faith. As the Pontifical Council for Culture pointed out in the document dedicated to the Via pulchritudinis: "Works of art of Christian inspiration, which constitute an incomparable part of the artistic and cultural heritage of humanity, are the object of authentic enthusiasm on the part of multitudes of tourists, believers or non-believers, agnostics or those indifferent to the religious fact". In this line, Josep Turull expresses himself: "Pope Benedict XVI was a great promoter of the 'via pulchritudinis' (the way of beauty) as an access to God in our time. That is why he himself came to dedicate the basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We believe that the contact with the beauty of the churches, allows to open the heart to the mystery that is celebrated in them. The "admiration" is a door of access to God". The commitment of the Secretariat for the pastoral care of Tourism, Pilgrimages and Sanctuaries joins previous initiatives such as Catalonia sacra, a project created and directed by the Interdiocesan Secretariat for the Promotion and Custody of Sacred Art (SICPAS), a secretariat of the Episcopal Conference of Tarragona (CET) that brings together the Episcopal Delegates for Cultural Heritage of the ten bishoprics with headquarters in Catalonia.
The post covid era
Barcelona has suffered, as in the rest of the world, the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the suspension of tourist visits in temples such as the Cathedral or the Sagrada Familia since March 2020. In addition, the virulence of the pandemic in the diocese has led to having to close the doors to tourist visits on several occasions in recent months.
Josep Turull emphasizes that indeed "the pandemic has affected Barcelona enormously in the whole tourist area and also in the tourist area of the church, since the income from this concept has been drastically reduced. The situation is being faced by preparing for the recovery of tourism, bearing in mind that it is not expected to be either rapid or total".
The Barcelona diocese is convinced that "the pandemic situation will increase the desire for religious tourism, a tourism that brings peace and comfort at a time when this is more necessary than ever".
As symbols of hope, also in this time of pandemic there are hopeful projects such as the progress in the works of the Sagrada Familia that, presumably, will be able to enjoy the completion of the tower of the Virgin. A tower, of which work is being done on the shaft, and which is expected to begin next December with the placement of the twelve-pointed star that will illuminate the temple from the inside. An added curiosity is due to the fact that this Tower of the Virgin will raise the profile of the Sagrada Familia to 127 meters in height.
Bringing faith to life in the temples
The director of the Secretariat for Pastoral Ministry of Tourism, Pilgrimages and Shrines of the Archdiocese of Barcelona points out another challenge for the faithful: the need to "make the faith alive in the temples" so that they do not become mere museums or art spaces, empty of content. Initiatives such as the tourism website can help Catholics themselves to be witnesses of the faith lived in their temples. This is the idea emphasized by Turull: "The most important thing is to continue going to churches to pray and to practice one's devotions, so that tourists can see and experience the purpose for which these temples were built. It is very convenient for tourists to experience how believers live their faith in churches".
You can access the website through this address: