Things to do in Cadaqués – Visit the Church of Santa Maria
The dominant feature of the Cadaqués skyline is the 16th century Church of Santa Maria (Iglesia de Santa María de Cadaqués). Perched on the highest point overlooking the village, this ‘new’ church in late-Gothic style was built with funding from local fishermen to replace the previous church destroyed during an attack, in 1543, led by pirate Khayr al-Dïn, aka Barbarossa.
The off-white somewhat-fortress-like exterior features and octagonal bell tower and an austere façade with central bull’s eye window and twin lancet windows above the entrance. If the church is open, step inside for a look at the remarkable gilded woodwork.
The single-nave interior with several side chapels reflects, by contrast, a measure of the gilded flamboyance of the Baroque period. Some of what you’ll see includes:
El Retaule Major – dedicated to Our Lady of Hope, this almost over-the-top, intricately sculpted 18th-century altarpiece framing the rather simple stone High Altar is decorated with paintings of biblical scenes, gilded statues of angels and saints, and uniquely decorative pillars supported by atlantesdepicted as brawny fishermen. (In order to see these details, be sure to drop a coin in the coin-op light switch.)
Retaule de Sant Joan Baptista i de Sant Josep – this late-17th century altar is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint Joseph, and features statues of the saints, decorative columns, carvings of cherubs, reliefs depicting biblical scenes, and the coat of arms of Cadaqués;
Retaule de Sant Pere – constructed in the mid-17th century, this altarpiece features several statues among which is the central figure of Sant Pere (Saint Peter);
Retaule de Sant Sebatià – this, one of the smallest of the altarpieces, dates to the late-17th century and is dedicated to Saint Sebastian (depicted at center impaled by arrows);
Retaule de la Mare de Déu del Roser – the late-17th century work, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, features gilded columns decorated with reliefs of cherubs, garlands, grape vines, and roses;
Retaule de Sant Antoni de Pàdua – crafted in the early 18th century and dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, this piece includes a number of statues, carved angels, and columns;
Retaule de Sant Isidre i de la Mare de Déu de Montserrat – dedicated to Isidore, the patron saint of farmers (that’s him at the top of the altarpiece), and to Our Lady ofMontserrat (she’s the Black Madonna at center), this more colorful altarpiece dates to the year 1718;
and the Retaule de la Mare de Déu del Carme – this early 18th-century piece, another of the smaller works, is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel; a small wooden ship, a votive offering, hangs from the ceiling next to a uniquely designed light fixture.
In addition to these glimmering wooden altarpieces, you’ll also see:
The more humble painted panels of the 16th-century Retaule de Sant Baldiri (Altarpiece of Saint Baudelius), which stands next to a sculpture of Saint George slaying the dragon;
Several painted reliefs depicting the Stations of the Cross;
Beautifully carved wooden pews;
A number of paintings, including a depiction of the Divine Shepherdess, a Dali-esque painting of Madonna de la Speranza, and a few Byzantine-style icons;
an ornate golden tabernacle set into a niche in the wall;
anda 17th-century pipe organ – one of the oldest in Catalonia – which sits on a cantilevered platform on the side wall,
rather than on the gallery above the main entrance (where you’ll see instead a statue of the Virgin Mary framed by the stained glass windows).