Saint Joseph Oriol (1650-1702) was a Barcelona native who became a priest and earned his Doctorate in Theology from the University of Barcelona. He was known to be very humble and dress shabbily, was popular among the poor and the sick, for whom he worked miraculous cures through God’s Grace, as well as for being a holy spiritual director. He is buried in Santa Maria del Pi, the parish he served (along with the church of Sant Felip Neri nearby) from 1686 until his death.
As Barcelona expanded in the 19th and early 20th century, new churches needed to be built to serve the ever-increasing population. In 1907 Cardinal Casanyas of Barcelona announced that a large church dedicated to (then) Blessed Joseph Oriol would be built in one of these new neighborhoods. Upon the canonization of St. Joseph Oriol in 1909 by Pope Pius X, fundraising for the project attracted more subscribers and the cornerstone of the present structure was laid in 1911.
The Basilica was designed in a Neo-Renaissance style by the important Catalan architect Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia, who also designed the basilica at Tibidabo and worked on a number of ecclesiastical and other buildings in Catalonia. His style is somewhat clumsy, but during his lifetime he was heavily favored with many ecclesiastical commissions. The church was elevated to the status of a Minor Basilica in 1936 by Pope Pius XII. It was burned by the Leftists that same year but later restored.