The first mention of a church of Santa Maria by the sea dates from 998. The construction of the present building was promoted by the canon Bernat Llull, who was appointed Archdean of Santa Maria in 1324. Construction work started on 25 March 1329, when the foundation stone was laid by king Alfonso IV of Aragon (III of Barcelona), as commemorated by a tablet in Latin and Catalan on the façade that faces the Fossar de les Moreres.
The spacing of the columns is the widest of any Gothic church in Europe—about forty-three feet apart, center to center.
The church has a serious claim to have the slenderest stone-built columns in the world