Sant Agustí Nou

Sant Agustí NouEsglésia de Sant Agustí
Built: 1728-1750
Founded: 1309
Function: Parish church; former monastic community
Address: Plaça Sant Agustí, 2

Sant Agustí Nou, the “new” Monastery of Saint Augustine, was built between 1728 and 1750, after Sant Agustí Vell, the “old” Monastery of Saint Augustine near the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, was bombed repeatedly during the Wars of the Spanish Succession in 1714. The Catalans had backed the Hapsburg claimant to the throne, and paid for backing the losing side by forfeiting all of their autonomous rights, once the centralized government in Madrid was formed under the Bourbons. To add insult to injury, the original site of Barcelona’s oldest Augustinian monastic community was then abandoned and mostly demolished in 1716, as the crown built a giant new military fortress-garrison to keep the city under control.

The monks then moved to a new site close to the Hospital of the Holy Cross, in the west end of the old city, just off the Ramblas. The Baroque structure which rose on the site featured two separate cloisters, and a grand, domed basilica-style church. The facade was never fully completed, only the lower story having its full dressing of stone ornament and carvings. Part of the unfinished state has to do with what happened to the monks after they moved in.

When Napoleon occupied Barcelona in 1808, the monks were forced to share quarters with French troops, but by 1813 it was reported that all of the monks had left. With the routing of the Napoleonic forces the following year, the monks returned and set about trying to rebuild their community, but locals accused them of having cooperated with the French and relations with their neighbors never recovered. During anti-religious violence in 1835 Sant Agustí was burned, along with a number of other convents and monasteries in the city, and the cloisters were pulled down. The chapel subsequently became a parish church.

During the Civil War, the church became the headquarters of the Graphic Arts Workers’ Union, which produced those charming banners of Lenin, Marx, and Stalin that draped many of the public buildings in Barcelona until the Left was finally overthrown. Much of the interior was looted and burned by the Leftists as they abandoned the building. Today it has been restored, although most of its Baroque decoration is lost.

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