L’Esperança

L'EsperançaCapella de la Mare de Déu de l’Esperança
Built: 18th Century
Founded: Before 1600
Function: Parish church; former convent chapel
Address: Palma de Sant Just, 4

The small Baroque chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Hope in the old, Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is located close to the Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor, and has become a location popular with classical musicians for its remarkable acoustics. The chapel was part of a larger convent of the same name, about which I have been able to find very little information, which was torn down in the mid-19th century. After this, a smaller establishment to house elderly, retired sisters was built, and which still stands today. Although there are still some sisters in the convent, much of that residence is now rented out for use as a dormitory for female university students.

The Feast of Our Lady of Hope was, until changes were made to the Latin calendar, celebrated locally in Barcelona on December 18th. Popular belief was that if an expectant mother would visit this little chapel to pray the rosary every day between December 18th and Christmas, that Our Lady would protect the mother and child during delivery. However, this was not the usual rosary containing fifty Hail Marys. Instead of the Hail Mary, the expectant mother would recite the following prayer (rough translation, mine):

Our Lady of Hope,
in you I have faith and confidence;
Mother of God I believe in you
and in your Precious Son.
The holy night of Christmas
You gave birth to the Celestial King,
The birth of joy,
Bring us joy, Virgin Mary,
Amen.

The chapel was also the starting point for an ancient Advent custom in the city, which ended in the mid-to-late 19th century. On each of the four Sundays before Christmas, a procession of penitents dressed in black would emerge from the chapel and visit four of the major churches of the Gothic Quarter: the Basilicas of Santa Maria del Mar, Santa Maria del Pi, and Sants Just I Pastor, as well as the church of the Holy Trinity monastery (now the parish church of Sant Jaume.) In the course of the procession they would chant the more penitential of the Psalms from the Divine Office, as well as taking popular songs and changing the words to Advent or penitential themes.

During the Civil War, the chapel initially escaped damage from the Leftists because in 1936 the nuns were moved out, and the local government turned the convent into its document archive. And indeed, many of the records from the Archdiocese, the Cathedral, and the Monastery of Montserrat were kept here as well. However this time it was the Conservatives who would damage the building. Toward the end of 1938, as Franco’s troops neared the city, the documents archived at the convent were moved again; the convent was then mostly destroyed by a bomb dropped by the Franquist forces, although much of the chapel remained intact.

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3 thoughts on “L’Esperança

  1. Pingback: BACHCELONA – Festival Bach de Barcelona 2014 mit bewegenden Konzerten! | Volkers Klassikseiten J.S. Bach

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