The parish of Sant Ramón Nonat is named for St. Raymond Nonnatus, a 13th century Catalan shepherd. Upon hearing of the work St. Peter Nolasco was doing to ransom captive Christians from the Muslims, Raymond applied to and became a member of the Mercedarians, who were founded and headquartered in Barcelona; eventually he took over as Master-General of the Order. He spent decades presenting himself as a hostage throughout North Africa for the liberation of Christians, and was tortured on numerous occasions because of his success in bringing about the conversion of Muslims. He died just a few miles outside of Barcelona in 1240 following his return from his most recent trips.
The first structure on the site of the present church was a small chapel built in 1888 and dedicated to Mare de Déu de la Mercè, in honor of Our Lady of Mercy whose Basilica down in Barcelona’s port district was the headquarters for the Mercedarian Order. At the time the population in this northwestern area of the city was somewhat small, and the chapel served as a mission for the much larger parish of Santa Maria de Sants some distance away. By 1920 however, the congregation had increased to such a significant extent that it was formally raised to the level of a parish, and re-dedicated to Sant Ramón Nonat.
Not only was the connection of the original chapel, dedicated to the patroness of the Mercedarians, part of the inspiration, but the location for the parish, close to the city maternity hospital complex, helped lead to the choice of patron saint. Saint Raymond received his last name “Nonnatus” (or “Nonat” in Catalan) because he was “not born”: he was delivered by Cesarean section following the death of his mother in childbirth. In Catalonia he is the patron saint of pregnant women, midwives, and newborns. Today the entire neighborhood is named for St. Raymond as well.
The present Romanesque Revival church, built to replace the original chapel, was designed by Enric Sagnier, probably the most preferred church builder in Barcelona during the early part of the 20th century. Construction took place between 1924 and 1935; a parochial school, founded in 1928, was built as well and is still popular today. As too often happened, the church and its buildings were burned and sacked by Left-wingers in 1936, but subsequently restored after the Civil War.