The backwall of the choir in the cathedral of Barcelona is one of the great arstistic wonders preserved. We find it as soon as we enter trough the front door. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the cathedral, Saint Eulalia
Eulalia was a thirteen year old Christian girl that lived in Barcelona in the fourth century AD. In 303 AD, Emperor Doiocletian declared persecution against Christians, and Eulalia became a target of those persecutions.
Since Eulalia’s family was a wealthy family, the governor of Barcelona wanted her to marry his son. But she refused. To make her change her mind, she was arrested and tortured thirteen times, once for every year she was. She was miraculously saved from all martyrdoms until she was crucified.
The four sculptural panels on the backwall of the choir in the cathedral tell us about the martyrdoms that Eulalia suffered. The first of them, on the left, represents Eulalia in court. The following three show some of the martyrdom she suffered. In the second she is whipped, in the third she is put on the coals and in the last she is crucified in an X-shaped cross.
In 1517 the Cathedral Chapter approves the hiring of Bartolomé Ordoñez, one of the best Hispanic sculptors of the moment. He was commissioned to decorate the backwall of the choir with the depiction of these martyrs. Ordoñez planned to build a large sculpture work made of Carrara marble, which had to be completed in eight years.
But in 1520 Ordoñez’s wife, Catalina, died and this caused a huge depression in the sculptor. It was then that he decided to move to Carrara and found a workshop there. In it he worked obsessively for some months, but in December of that same year, Ordoñez also died, at the foot of the quarries.
He could only complete two of the four panels. So the work was unfinished. It was not until 1562 that the Cathedral Chapter decided to hire a new sculptor, Pere Villar, to finish the project. He was in charge of completing the 2 missing panels. In fact, if we look at the work of each of them, it is very easy to notice the hand of different artists.
When we can go out again we propose a visit to the Gothic Quarter including the interior of the Cathedral to see these and other artistic works preserved inside.