BARCELONA CELEBRATES THE MISSA DEL GALL, A TRADITIONAL EVENING CHRISTMAS MASS
In most of the Christian world the most important Christmas celebration takes place during dinner on December 24. However, in Catalonia the big family celebration is the lunch on December 25, because on the night of the 24th families usually just have a light dinner and then go to Christmas mass.
That Christmas mass is called “Missa del gall”, which means “mass of the rooster”. It is said that the origin of this name may be due to an ancient legend according to which the rooster was the first animal to see Jesus and to announce his birth with his song. It is also possible that the name comes from being celebrated “ad galli cantus”, that is early in the day when the rooster sings.
Traditionally the Christmas mass begins right at midnight, but these last years in some parishes the schedule may be advanced or delayed depending on the activities that accompany the ceremony. Would you like to join one?
These are the 5 churches of Barcelona that we recommend you for a Christmas evening mass:
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
Any day of the year is a good time to visit Sagrada Familia, and Christmas is such a special time… An early Christmas Mass is celebrated on the afternoon of December 24 inside Gaudí’s unique basilica. Designed so that families with children can attend the service early and then go home to bed the little ones, instead of being called mass of the rooster this ceremony is known as “missa del pollet” (mass of the chick). If you attend this Christmas Mass you can contemplate Gaudí’s beautiful work as an authentic center of family worship rather than as a tourist monument. We recommend to get there well in advance, because it’s likely to be a long line. .
Santa Maria del Mar Church
Santa Maria del Mar is such a beautiful church that a bestseller of international success (“La Catedral del Mar” by Ildefonso Falcones) was written based on the years of its construction. A television series based on the book was also produced later. Its high arches, in addition to leaving us breathless for its beauty, provide magnificent acoustics. And Christmas mass is the perfect time to experience that, because the service is preceded by the concert of the Cant de la Sibil·la, a medieval musical piece performed by a choir with a woman (or a child) leading it representing the “Sibil·la” or diviner. She tells a prophecy about the birth of the Messiah and the end of the world. The atmosphere that ancient music creates within the temple is really unique and transports you back in time.
The Cathedral of Santa Creu and Santa Eulàlia, in the historical center of the city, remains the liturgical heart of Barcelona. Contrary to what many believe, there’s only one cathedral in town and it’s this one, since a “cathedral” is the seat of a bishopric (from catedra – seat in Latin). For this reason it is interesting to go to the Christmas mass of the Cathedral of Barcelona if you want to see the bishop officiating the ceremony. Also the interior of the church deserves a visit for its medieval elegance. The “Cant de la Sibil·la” is also sung before Christmas mass starts.
The Pedralbes monastery is located in the upper area of Barcelona, outside the usual tourist circuit. It is a medieval monastery which houses an interesting museum with pieces (paints, sculptures…) from its own collection. There still lives a community of nuns of the Order of St. Claire deeply rooted in the population of the city: even today there is a habit for brides to give the nuns a dozen eggs before their wedding so they pray that it does not rain. Each year for Christmas they exhibit a nativity scene that can be visited freely. During Christmas mass, the nuns sing as they have traditionally done for centuries, what makes it a very unique and spiritual celebration.
Caputxins de Sarrià Convent
Also in the upper part of the city we find the church of Sarrià of the Capuchin monks. It is not a particularly beautiful temple but it does have a very faithful community of parishioners from the neighborhood. The monks celebrate both the mass of the rooster (on December 24 at night) and the mass of the chick most indicated for children (on December 25). Bot get a large influx of families, making them happy and popular ceremonies where traditionally monks and parishioners sing popular Catalan carols.
AND BONUS! Dream of Christmas mass in Montserrat? Yes, that’s possible!
As a bonus we had to recommend the mass of the rooster in Montserrat. The Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat is located one hour from Barcelona (our top day trip out of town!), so this option is only for the more adventurous. You can get there by car or by train from Barcelona and then by taking the railway rack or the cable car (there is a special service for Christmas Mass). The Mass begins soon, around 9.30 PM, and extends until beyond midnight thanks to the musical performances of the famous boys choir. It is a memorable experience that any believer would want to experience once in a lifetime. BTW, we can also organize a private driver to take you there, if trains are not your thing. Ask us!
SO WHAT ABOUT YOU? HEAD TO THE COMMENTS BELOW AND TELLS US:
What’s the most beautiful Christmas mass you’ve ever attended?