In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say that we don't often find ourselves in churches. I blame residual church-fatigue from our two weeks in Vatican City. However, when the rain in Spain had washed away any hopes of hitting the nearby Costa Brava beaches, and soaked us in our effort to find the town's cork museum, we sought refuge in the Church of Saint Martin.
It's odd shape and mix of styles attracted our interests right off the bat, but with the market in the foreground, we always managed to get distracted. The original structure was built between 993 and 1019, but underwent two big periods of extension and redesign, first in the 15th century and then in the 17th through 18th. So, half of Saint Martin's is late-Gothic and the other half is Baroque. The church feels frozen in time, between eras - a feeling only added to by the fact that its octagonal body and main tower remain unfinished.
While the outside is faded and partially moss-covered, the inside feels shiny and new. This is thanks to a post-Civil War renovation in the early 1940s. It's grander than you'd expect, with high, intricate vaulting covered with murals stretching down the long nave. There is art absolutely everywhere. The altar is decorated with a Dali-style landscape, that may or may not have been done by the man himself. Every style of art is represented somewhere in the church and admiring the details can keep you out of the rain for a good long while.
Bright and beautiful, it feels more celebratory than solemn, more dynamic than dour. The side chapels are each totally unique. Light, dark, modern, contemporary, whimsical, simple, traditional, masculine, feminine, natural - whatever atmosphere one would like to pray in, there's an alcove for it. There were pop art paintings of multi-cultural cherubs and crucifixes galore. There were Christmas lights, paper lanterns, tea-lights and candelabras.
Sure, if the cork museum hadn't been closed for the season or had we known that the room full of cages we spotted through the window of a warehouse was actually the 24th Annual Ornithological Exhibition and not some creepy animal testing lab, we may not have visited Saint Martin's. But I'm glad we did.