The beautiful little parish church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, located not far from the Sagrada Familia basilica, is actually a combination of the work of two important Catalan architects, due to the vicissitudes of history. The parish itself was the fruit of the demographic growth of Barcelona as it entered the 20th century, following the explosion of the city’s fortunes during the industrial revolution of the previous century. Originally founded as a mission or dependency of Sant Pere de les Puel.les, the original members met in a small chapel located near that ancient Benedictine monastery in the old city. Hereabouts, there were not only a number of factories and factory workers’ residences – particularly in the textile industry – but also large numbers of immigrants from Spain who were in need of pastoral care.
Attendance grew until by 1920 it became clear that the community would need a larger building, and efforts began to find space and funding for the construction of what would ultimately become the present parish. Following a two-year fundraising campaign, work on the present building commenced in 1923, located on land purchased along the eastward expansion of the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. The Gran Via, as it is more commonly called, is one of the largest of the boulevards laid out in the Eixample, stretching from the far western to the far eastern ends of Barcelona, and more or less separating the old city from the then-new. The building itself, designed by the prolific architect Enric Sagnier, who built many early 20th century churches in the city, was in a somewhat unusual castellated neo-Gothic style. In his design Sagnier paid partial reference to the exterior of the Chapel of Santa Agata at the old Royal Palace behind Barcelona’s Cathedral, particularly in his handling of the campanile.
The church was officially declared an independent parish by the Archdiocese in 1936, but only a few weeks after the ceremonies marking this event, the Spanish Civil War officially arrived in Barcelona. Leftists burned and desecrated the building, and many of the materials were then hauled away by local officials to use in other, secular building projects; what was left was little more than some of the exterior walls of the building. Following the victory of the Nationalists in 1938, the parish retook possession of the church.
Because of the extent of the damage to the structure, it was decided that, for the sake of economy, a simpler building would replace the Gothic remains of the old church. The parish selected a Renaissance Revival design by architect Isidre Puig i Boada, an important pupil of Antoni Gaudí, though the architect was asked to incorporate, wherever possible, what remained of the old church. This rebuilding took place during the 1940’s, although the redecoration of the interior took longer to complete. After the completion of this work Puig i Boada was made co-director of the works at the Sagrada Familia a few blocks away, a project he had first begun to work on as an architecture student and which he continued to work on after Gaudí’s death. He subsequently became the sole architectural director on the project for many years until his retirement, and completed the building of the basilica’s Passion facade.