The Knights Templar had some considerable influence on and holdings in the Crown of Aragon and its capital of Barcelona beginning in the 12th century, as indeed was the case in most major European cities of the Middle Ages. The earliest record of the encomienda of Santa Maria de Palau dates from 1134, when the Templars established one of these garrison-fiefs along the city wall, subrogated to their larger establishment at the castle of Palau-Solità, some distance outside of the city. The present church was originally the Templar chapel, built between 1246 and 1248.
In 1282, the Commander of the Knights Templar left the castle and moved into the urban complex, at the zenith of the Templars’ influence in Barcelona. However, with the expulsion of the Templars in the 14th century, the complex was confiscated by the Crown and became known as the Palau Reial Menor, or Lesser Royal Palace. Despite its “lesser” name, contemporary descriptions describe a group of buildings which were, in fact, more luxurious than those of the Palau Reial Major, or Greater Royal Palace, next to the Cathedral. It became the preferred residence of the royal family, and remained so until Barcelona’s eclipse in the 15th century. In fact, the palace held a zoo, whose memory remains in the name of one of the streets nearby the chapel, Devallada dels leons or “Path of the Lions”.
Sometime between 1354 and 1357, the chapel and part of the palace was given for the use of the Dominican Sisters, who remained in residence until around 1400 while their new convent was being built. By the 16th century, the powerful Recasens family assumed control of the complex and it remained in their hands until the mid-19th century. In 1542 the Recasens made some additions to the chapel, including a larger bell tower and some late-Gothic vaulting and stonework.
In 1859, the crumbling and abandoned old palace was torn down as part of the efforts to demolish the old city walls and expand the city, and the chapel moved to its present location. It was renamed for Our Lady of Victory, and handed over to the Jesuits, who in 1920 demolished the bell tower and added a second story to the chapel, which now houses their library. Restoration work on the chapel was performed in 2000-2001, and mass is held here once a day.