Lecture: ‘Risky Investments? Mercantile patronage at Santa María del Mar in Barcelona’, Dr Tom Nickson, Thursday, 6 October 2022, 18:30-19:30 (BST)

Why give money to your local church? In this paper Tom Nickson focuses on the 14th-century parish church of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, and explores the risks and rewards it offered to the local merchant community who invested in its construction.

This will be a hybrid event, taking place online and in person at the Institute of Historical Research, Pollard N301.

The church of Santa María del Mar in Barcelona is justly famous for its soaring, spacious Gothic interior, a parish church that rivals Barcelona cathedral in size and splendour. The local merchants who sponsored construction of the new church in the 1320s and 1330s doubtless hoped for such an outcome, but it was far from guaranteed, and many other ambitious building projects of the period – including Barcelona cathedral itself – remained incomplete until the 19th century. In this paper Tom Nickson explores construction of Santa Maria del Mar, and the community of merchants, widows and civic officers who financed it. They were motivated by the promise that good works would be rewarded in heaven, but also by opportunities to colonise the church interior with family heraldry and create family burial chapels – opportunities hitherto restricted to the nobility. In this paper Tom Nickson explores the financing of Santa Maria del Mar in relation to new fiscal systems developed by Barcelona’s merchants in the 14th century. He compares the risks and rewards of sponsoring church construction with those of long distance trade, and consider the architectural consequences of new systems of finance.

Tom Nickson is Reader in Medieval Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. His research and teaching focus on the art and architecture of medieval England and Iberia, and his talk stems from research for one chapter of his forthcoming book, Architecture in Medieval Spain and Portugal: Seven Moments

Find out more information here.


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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