The church of St. Genesius in the Horta/Vall d’Hebrón neighborhood is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in what is now the much larger city of Barcelona. During the Moorish conquests, the tiny settlement of Horta was a safe haven for Christians fleeing up into the mountains around Barcelona to escape attacks by the Muslims. It is known that the first parish church in what later became the village of Horta, a building named for St. John the Baptist, was in existence by around 910 A.D. The first documentary evidence for the church of Sant Genís dates to 931 A.D., when Bishop Theodoric (ruled 904-937 A.D.) came up from Barcelona to consecrate the completed building. In 1028 A.D. it was raised to the level of a parish.
In the 11th century, and again in the 13th century, the church was significantly expanded, although many architectural elements from the pre-Romanesque and the Romanesque-era expansion have been preserved in the present building. In 1396 Pope Benedict XIII made the parish a dependent of the Hieronymite Monastery of Saint Jerome nearby, which stood from 1393 until it was closed in 1835. More building reforms were completed in 1671.
By 1770 due to monastic decline, the Archdiocese re-assumed the task of appointing pastors to the parish. Like most ecclesiastical buildings in Barcelona, the church suffered significant damage to its interior during the Civil War, but it has since been restored and remains in active use today. The parish cemetery next door is of particular interest, since it is the only remaining church burial ground in the city, as all burials now take place in the large city cemetery located on Montjuich, in the SW quadrant of Barcelona.
A sad incident occurred at the parish during the Civil War. A number of nuns attached to the parish were rounded up and executed by the Leftists on July 23, 1936. This was described by the lone survivor of the massacre, Sister Joaquina Miquel:
We were stopped for being nuns. Mother Mercedes confessed
clearly that we were religious educators, and the gang boss led us to
a house where there were many men, all armed. They pretended to shoot
us (…). We passed through some very bad times; sometimes they
pointed rifles at us, other times they threatened us with blows strong
enough to crack a skull, others so oppressing us to the extent that we
could not even breathe…
At nine o’clock that night we forced into a truck to drive us at high
speed to a field situated along a highway. There they had us get down
from the truck…Many bullets were rained down on us…and when we all
fell to the ground, they withdrew and left us. I saw that Mother
Mercedes was in such a bad state that I took her head in my
lap…being so tall and having received the hail of bullets while
standing, she was completely riddled and cried loudly, praying the
“Our Father” and to Jesus, Mary and Joseph; I could do nothing more
than recommend she keep her voice down in case the Reds came back
What I had feared came to pass, because a single man came back in a
car and when he saw that we were still alive he took out his gun and
shot, hitting Mother Mercedes again; I had laid down and played dead
when I heard the car returning. Another Franciscan sister who was in
our group of nuns did not die, at least not then, and she fled (she
died some hours later in the Hospital Clinic); I wanted to flee with
her, but I refused to leave Mother Mercedes while she was still
alive…She died in much peace and before I left her I arranged her
garments to make sure she was covered modestly. She looked like an
angel of sorrow. We were shot around 10:00 the night of Thursday,
July 23, and Mother Mercedes died at 2:00 in the morning.