The Chapel of Marcús was built by a wealthy banker and merchant named Bernat Marcús, who did a roaring trade with the Byzantine Empire. Marcús donated some of his land holdings for the construction of the Hospital de la Bona Sort (Hospital of Good Fortune), an almshouse and hospital for travelers who had arrived in Barcelona after the city gates were shut for the night. The chapel was dedicated to La Mare de Déu de la Guía – The Mother of God the Guide – appropriately enough, given the function of the institution.
At the time, the hospital stood on the old Roman road out of the city. Today, the hospital is gone and the city has swallowed up the formerly open space, leaving only the chapel hemmed in by taller buildings. Miraculously, the chapel managed to survive urban development, perhaps because the land it occupies is so small. In the early 19th century the interior was remodeled in Neoclassical style, and although pretty as a jewel box, it now bears no stylistic relation to the aged exterior.
This Romanesque-Byzantine chapel was also the city’s equivalent of FedEx beginning in the 12th century and continuing until around 1400. The Confraria del Correus a Cavall (Mounted Couriers Guild) used the chapel as their local place of worship, and during the Middle Ages the porch of this chapel was where you went if you wanted to send a letter or a parcel to somewhere else in Catalonia via the medieval equivalent of the pony express. It was the central dispatch and receiving point for all correspondence crossing the Pyrenees between France and the Iberian peninsula.