This jewel box of a building, a teeny-tiny chapel hidden away in the tangled web of the Gothic Quarter, is located among the remains of one of the four original Roman gates of the city walls, known as the Portal del Regomir, which gives the neighborhood its name. The word “Regomir” probably comes from “Rei Gamir” or “King Gamir”, a reference to the Moorish ruler who was in possession of Barcelona at the time it was taken by King Louis the Pious around 804 A.D. It is believed that Regomir made his last stand here before surrendering the city to the Franks.
The entrance to the chapel bears the date of its construction, 1503, but devotion to St. Christopher from this gate was known to have existed well before this time. It is probable that the chapel began life as a roadside shrine for travelers on the way in or out of the city, since it was the main gate of access to Barcelona’s port area. Although some scholars point out that the structure is at least partially composed of 16th century elements, the present Neo-Gothic interior dates primarily from the 19th century and is the work of the architect Joan Matorell.
The doors to the chapel are often left open during the day, with the exterior iron gates locked, so that passersby may stop and pray. The main reason for this appears to be local custom, which says that stopping here to pray before departing on a trip will prevent you from being killed on your journey. Occasionally candles or votive offerings will be seen before the gates or tucked into the iron railings.
Locals praying for the intercession of St. Christopher in this chapel during an infestation of plague in the Middle Ages believed that his prayers spared the city from the worst of the disease. As a result, his feast day, celebrated in Catalonia on July 10th, became popular in the old city and was marked with celebrations and traditions such as the covering of the surrounding streets with carpets of flowers and aromatic herbs. A fruit pastry named in his honor, looking something like a giant vol-au-vent, is baked especially for and sold in surrounding bakeries and pastry shops on this day. The first written mention of these traditions around the chapel occurs in the early 18th century, although the practice began much earlier.
Beginning in 1907, it became the custom for automobile owners in Barcelona to have their vehicles blessed at this chapel, a tradition which continues to the present day. The more devout members of the transport industry, such as truck drivers and deliverymen, continue to come to the chapel during the feast day celebrations to have their vehicles blessed. Because of the very cramped quarters, however, most of these drivers take their vehicles to a larger site located in a more car-friendly part of the city, where blessings also take place.