Up in the Collserola Mountains which ring the city of Barcelona, stands the late Gothic church of Santa Maria de Vallvidrera. As is true of many of the city’s churches, this parish is far older than the current structure which it occupies. The first documentary evidence for a parish community in the Vallvidrera district comes from 987 A.D., when an inventory lists a church that existed on the site as being a mission or satellite parish of the very ancient parish of Sant Cebrià (St. Cyprian) of Valldoreix, a town on the other side of the mountain range.
What is interesting is that there is some written mention as early as 1058 A.D. that this church was a basilica. This poses an interesting historical question: was the structure built in the style of a Roman basilica, or did it have an important religious significance or canonical distinction that caused people to refer to it as a basilica? The question will likely always remain unanswered, given the far-distant time period involved, the fact that Lefists burned many of the parish records in 1936, and the structure as it stood in the 11th century no longer exists.
By the 12th century there was a large enough population in the still-sparsely populated Vallvidrera district for the church to become independent of Valldoreix, and come under the direct jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Barcelona. The community continued to worship in the old church until the structure became impractical. This was then torn down and replaced with a Gothic structure in the mid-to-late 16th century, which is the building that visitors see today.
During the 19th century with the arrival of the locomotive and better roads up into the mountains, the area became a popular place for wealthy city dwellers to build their weekend or summer houses. The higher altitudes and verdant vegetation provided a cooler place to spend the hot and humid Barcelona summers. The arrival of tramways and the construction of the nearby Basilica of Tibidabo also helped to being more residents into the area.
With the arrival of the Civil War in 1936, the church was trashed and burned by the Leftists, and among the losses were a number of very esteemed 17th century altarpieces that poor foresight had prevented from being moved to the National Museum on Montjuich, where they might have been saved. The church remained in disuse for over a decade afterward, before popular attention was drawn to the sad state of the building. It was subsequently partially restored and re-opened by the Archdiocese, and mass continues at the present with the assistance of the local Capuchin friars.