Verge de la Salut

Verge de la SalutSantuari de la Mare de Déu de la Salut
Built: 1864
Founded: 1864
Function: Former private chapel; mothballed parish church
Address: Mare de Déu de la Salut 42

This teeny-tiny shrine to Our Lady of Health (“La Salut”) is now in the care of the local Franciscans, who run a parish of the same name just down the street; unfortunately, the future of this historic structure, built out of an act of thanksgiving to God, remains uncertain. Located in the northern Gràcia district of Barcelona, the neighborhood around the church is known as “La Salut” after the chapel. At the time, the area was sparsely populated with a few large farms and workshops, and known mainly for its mineral water spring, which had a high iron content due to the presence of iron mines in the area. These were thought to bring medicinal properties.

Local landowner Anton Morera originally built the chapel in 1864 next door to his home for the private use of his family. The impetus for its construction was that they had survived an horrific cholera epidemic which swept through Barcelona that year. Inside the chapel, in addition to the high altar with a statue of Our Lady, he built side altars to St. Anthony of Padua (his patron saint) and St. Joseph (that of his wife Josefina.)

Because of the lack of churches and the difficulty of transport in this part of the city – for indeed, at the time this was outside of Barcelona proper – the Archdiocese convinced the Moreras to open the chapel for use of the local people. In addition, the Archbishop granted a partial indulgence to those who would pray before the image of the Virgin. For many years it was the only easily accessible way for the locals to be able to get to mass on Sunday and for Holy Days of Obligation, as a series of visiting priests would come up to say mass here.

As one might expect, in 1938 the chapel was burned by the Leftists, but fortunately the statue of Our Lady was hidden from their lawlessness. The Morera family returned after the Civil War, and took on the task of bringing back the chapel, with restoration completed by 1945. With the subsequent explosion of immigration from all parts of the Iberian Peninsula into Barcelona, this area quickly filled up with new parishioners and the chapel became too small.

A new parish church dedicated to Our Lady of Salut was built just down the street, while the old shrine continued to be used for daily mass, baptisms, and for veneration of the image of the Virgin and Child in order to obtain the indulgence. Unfortunately, the chapel was recently closed, because a local developer may be seeking to have it razed in order to build an apartment block. Its future as of this writing is uncertain, though the statue of Our Lady has been moved to the local parish for veneration. Its loss would be a significant one, historically and architecturally, for there are few of these quaint private chapels still standing in Barcelona.

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