This church is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Zaragoza, a deacon who was martyred under the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian in 304 A.D., as were both St. Eulalia and Barcelona’s bishop St. Severus. St. Vincent’s shrine is in the Catalan city of Valencia, but his popularity extends throughout Spain and Portugal. St. Vincent is a very popular boy’s name among Catalans.
The first documentary evidence of this church of Saint Vincent dates from 987 A.D., describing how the original church standing on this site was sacked and burned by the Muslim warrior general Al-Mansur of Cordoba, during a raid in 975 A.D. At that time, Sarrià was a village some distance from Barcelona, not the northern end of the city as it is today. The old church was torn down and a new, Romanesque church was built to replace it, and consecrated in 1147.
The village came under the jurisdiction of the Monastery of Pedralbes, not far away, and a new, larger Gothic structure was built between 1373 and 1403 to replace the earlier Romanesque church. An altarpiece for the high altar was commissioned from the great Catalan medieval painter Jaume Huguet in 1458, showing scenes from the life of St. Vincent, parts of which have survived and are preserved in the National Museum of Catalan Art on Montjuich. The area continued to grow, however, and eventually the church became too small.
In 1779, the citizens of Sarria requested and obtained permission to tear down the Gothic church and build an even larger, neoclassical building, which was completed in 1789. The baroque interior of the church was burned by the Leftists during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The sanctuary area was redecorated in 1954, and most of the art in the church dates from this period, with the exception of a couple of 17th century altarpieces that were donated from other institutions or individuals after the Civil War.
Of note in the church is the tomb of Blessed Pere Tarrés Claret (1905-1950), a doctor who later became a priest. He managed to survive the Civil War despite a period in which he was conscripted into serving as a medic for the Communists. He was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, and more details of his biography can be read on the Vatican’s website.