The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of the comparatively newer churches in Barcelona, as it was built in the early 20th century at a key location along the Avenguda Diagonal, the main thoroughfare laid out in the 19th century. The Diagonal cuts across the city grid diagonally from NW to SE, and connects the newer parts of Barcelona – the so-called Eixample or “Expansion” district – to some of the older parts of the city and the seafront. A host of new parishes had to be built in the Eixample as people began to move out of the old city into the new, and with the arrival of thousands of immigrants this need continued to grow.
This particular church and the convent attached to it were originally founded by Archbishop Laguarda to serve as a home for a community of Carmelite nuns, although they left the parish during the Civil War. It is one of the few examples of the Neo-Byzantine style in Barcelona, a form which proved more popular in the U.S. and Northern European countries than in the Iberian Peninsula. Here in Washington, D.C., for example, both St. Matthew’s Cathedral and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception were built in a Neo-Byzantine style.
Catalans tend to prefer pointy buildings to domed ones, for one thing, and there are comparatively few domed churches in Barcelona. The juxtaposition of this church close by the Casa de les Punxes – a Gothic Revival turreted fantasy of an apartment building – shows how cosmopolitan Barcelona’s architects were in the late 19th and early 20th century as they explored many types of building styles. From an architectural standpoint, one either loves the strangeness of these places – the richness of the mosaics, the darkness of their interiors – or one is put off by them.