Sculptural fragments

  • Barcelona 1st-2nd centuries AD
  • Stone of Montjuïc
  • Found in the filling of the Roman tower number 6. Second half of the 3rd century AD
  • MDB 1718 and 1719


Joan of Genoa and Arnau of Camprodon

Reliquary casket of Saint Cucuphas

  • Barcelona. 1312
  • Silver embossed, chiseled and partly gilded on wood
  • It comes from the parish church of Sant Cugat del Rec (Barcelona), and originally from the Monastery of Sant Cugat del Vallès
  • MDB 679

According to tradition, at the end of the third century, Cucuphas (“Cugat” in Catalan), originally from North Africa, preached in Barcelona, where he died a martyr already in the fourth century, during the persecution of Diocletian, probably in the eastern part of the walls of Barcelona, in the place where the church of Sant Cugat del Rec was. His remains were moved during the Muslim invasion to Saint Denis in Paris, and later returned to Catalonia, but not to Barcelona but to the monastery that had been dedicated to him in the current town of Sant Cugat del Vallès, the Roman Castrum Octavianum.

His relics are currently venerated in Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona.

The silver plates in the casket represent the life, miracles and martyrdom of Saint Cucuphas.


Saint Pacian, altarpiece compartment

  • Barcelona. Circa 1500
  • Tempera painting on wood
  • From the Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor in Barcelona
  • MDB 14

Among the first known bishops of the diocese, Saint Pacian (360-386), a great Christian writer who in his texts portrays what Barcelona society was like, deserves special attention. In his writings on baptism (De baptismo), addressed to catechumens, and penance (De poenitentia) he shows his eagerness to help form a critical and committed spirit in the Christians of his diocese.


Roman mosaic fragment

  • Fourth-fifth centuries
  • Opus tessellatum polychrome
  • It comes from the Roman villa located in the rectory of Pacs del Penedès, excavated in 1926.
  • MDB 407

Picture: Excavation plan of the Roman villa Pacs del Penedès (1926).


Fragment of funerary tombstone

  • Fourth-fifth centuries
  • Marble
  • From the paleochristian necropolis of Tarragona
    Translation: “What, alas, the sad Festela Quomia, your wife, has given you; this should rather have been a gift from you”
  • MDB 1748

The Chi-Rho is an unequivocal symbol of Christianity. It is formed by the first two letters of the Greek name of Christ (XP), often in the form of a cross and flanked by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (Alpha and Omega); these symbolize the beginning and the end.


Fragment of a tombstone of a Christian child

  • Sixth century
  • Marble
  • From the church of Sant Esteve de Castellet i la Gornal (Alt Penedès)
    […]Pu)ER CRISTI
    (ANUS, qui uixit annos) TRES. MEnses. DVos”
    Translation inscription: “Rest here in peace…, Christian child, who lived three years and two months”
  • MDB 1749

The Christians of antiquity called his death birth-day, which means the day of birth to eternal life. Eternal life is understood as an endless rest. The cross is the quintessential Christian sign, which still today presides over liturgical celebrations; an instrument of torture that went to symbolize eternal life.


Frieze with geometric decoration from Al-Andalus

  • Twelfth-Thirteenth centuries
  • Carved and polychromed wood
  • It comes from the Episcopal Palace in Barcelona
  • MDB 1225

The connection between the Church of Barcelona and the House of counts made it common for bishops to take part in confrontations promoted by the counts. The raids they carried out, military expeditions against Muslim neighbours, were no different from those of the Arabs in Christian lands, with booties, slavery, war, death… The most notable ones were those of Al-Mansur in the year 985, which razed the city of Barcelona, and that of 1010 in Córdoba, in which Bishop Aetius of Barcelona participated.


Beam decorated with Kufic writing and noble coats of arms

  • Thirteenth century
  • Carved and polychromed wood
  • From the Episcopal Palace in Barcelona
  • MDB 2268

It is part of a set of beams discovered during works at the Episcopal Palace around 1973. Its original location is unknown. They were reused in the roof of the room that served as the episcopal bedroom, now the Archive room, and are decorated with Kufic Arabic script and feudal heraldry of the time. The message is the repetition of the Qur’anic-inspired ejaculatory al-mulk li-llāh (“power is from God”).

The integration of Arabic expressions with Islamic content in medieval Christian buildings was common and responded to the taste of the time for Andalusian handicrafts and other North African or Eastern peoples. Many Muslim artists lived in Barcelona.


Fragment of impost from the Romanesque cathedral of Barcelona

  • TLocal workshop. Circa 1040-1050
  • Bevel cut Montjuïc stone
  • From the old Romanesque cathedral of Barcelona
  • MDB 257

The baptistery of the first cathedral of Barcelona, from between the fourth and the seventh century, located four meters deep at the feet of the current cathedral, is the only visible part of the building that probably survived until the Al-Mansur raid of 985. In the same space, Counts Ramon Berenguer I and his wife Almodis built the new Romanesque See, consecrated on November 18, 1058 by Archbishop Guifré of Narbonne and Bishop Guislabert of Barcelona, assisted by numerous archbishops and bishops, before the attentive gaze of a large crowd of people.


True Cross from Riells del Fai

  • Catalonia. Thirteenth century
  • Wood core covered with pressed silver plates and retouched with a chisel
  • From the parish church of Sant Vicenç de Riells del Fai
  • MDB 101

During the Middle Ages many relics of the true cross (or fragments of the cross on which Jesus of Nazareth died) travelled all over Europe in the context of the Crusades to the Holy Land between the 11th and 13th centuries. The cross contains the relic of the true cross in the centre, and is exposed for the veneration of the faithful in worship, blessings and processions.

This piece must have belonged to the Monastery of Sant Miquel del Fai and passed to the parish of Sant Vicenç de Riells del Fai when the monastery was confiscated and privatized.

“The True Cross replaces the Crucified with the relic of the Savior’s cross. This favoured the manufacture of jewels of incalculable value, which follow the style of the time” (Manuel Trens, El Arte en la Pasión de Nuestro Señor).

Picture: Currently, on May 3rd the blessing of the municipal boundary continues to be celebrated with the True Cross from Barcelona Cathedral’s roof.


Processional cross from Riells del Fai

  • Catalonia. End of the twelfth century
  • Wood covered with pressed silver plates, retouched with a chisel and partly gilded
  • From the parish church of Sant Vicenç de Riells del Fai, previously from the Monastery of Sant Miquel del Fai
  • MDB 100

The monasteries of Sant Cugat del Vallès, Sant Pere de les Puel·les, Sant Llorenç del Munt or Sant Miquel del Fai experienced a great boost thanks to the patronage of the counts and the nobility.

Sant Miquel del Fai was one of the most important monasteries in the county of Barcelona, and this large cross must have presided over the presbytery of its church. It is one of the few pieces of Romanesque goldsmithery that have been preserved in Catalonia.

During the processions, these crosses are carried to a certain height on a pole, followed by all the participants. They preside over all kinds of celebrations: solemn masses, burials, feasts of saints… and are often a very identifying element of the community.

Picture: Sant Miquel del Fai Monastery.