Cathedral of the Sea (La catedral del mar #1) by Ildefonso Falcones. Translated by Nick Caistor

Published 2009. First published in Spanish in 2006 as “La catedral del marin” 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Penguin Random House 3. View of Barcelona 1563 [Public Domain] via Wikipedia 4. Detail from “Medieval Spanish Literature” [Public Domain] via Wikipedia 5. Background: Medieval Spanish Literature [Public Domain] via Wikipedia 6. Margarita Philosophica [Public Domain] via Wikipedia 7. “The Friars and their Influence in Medieval Spain” book cover [Fair Use] via Degruyter

In 14th century Spain, Arnau Estanyol escapes a life of serfdom, by fleeing to Barcelona with his father where they can be free. He befriends a homeless boy called Joanet who is adopted into Arnau’s family. Joanet and Arnau are fascinated with the building of the Cathedral of the Sea and watch the stonemasons and stone-carriers at work. Arnau becomes a stonecarrier, and Joanet goes away to study to become a priest. From his humble beginnings, Arnau becomes a rich man, but others are out for revenge.

“The past doesn’t exist. There is nothing to be sorry for. Today is when we start to live.”

BOOK SNAPS: There is a depth to this book that makes it more intelligent than the average beach book.(Kirkus) It was a bestseller in the Spanish language, winning the Euskadi de Plata for Best Spanish Novel (2006), but I don’t agree with Historical Novel Society‘s comment that “an additional bonus is the light it throws on the situation in Spain at this period.” I felt that the details, even though they have been meticulously researched, slowed the story considerably, particularly in the middle.


“They went round a bend, and there the royal quarry lay in front of them.” …. “On a flat expanse of ground, the king’s officers were dealing with everyone who had come seeking tone. Carts and mule trains were lined up on one side, where the walls of the mountain had not yet been excavated. The rest looked as though it had been sliced through, and was a mass of glittering rock. Countless stonemasons were dangerously levering off huge blocks of stone; down on the flat ground others cut them into smaller stones.”

“This church will be for the common people, not for the greater glory of any prince.”

Adaptation: Cathedral of the Sea (Spanish: La catedral del mar) is a Spanish historical drama television series directed by Jordi Frades.

Author: Ildefonso Falcones

Awards: Euskadi de Plata for Best Spanish Novel (2006)

Audio Sample of “Cathedral of the sea” by Ildefonso Falcones

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s