Built with private money to offer religious services to the workers of Portbou, this is a neogothic building of a considerable size. The octagonal belfry is not joined to the church but stands a few metres away behind the apse.
The closeness of the Portbou district to the French border made it necessary for the train line built at the end of the 19th century to pass through this area. The company in charge of building the railway asked Joan Martorell i Montells, an architect from Barcelona, to build the Santa Maria church so that workers living in the town were able to attend religious services.
The building is Neo-Gothic and work began in 1878. The church is located on the esplanade close to the station. The building is large. It is 20 m high and 33 m long and there is just one nave facing north.
There are three large openings on the façade underneath an enormous rose window. This window is decorated with sculptures of the sun and moon and also several pieces of relief work. The entrance is presided over by a figure of the Virgin with angels on each side.
The octagonal bell tower is finished off by a large iron cross and there is a spectacular floor in the highest part of the tower that is made of several arches. One curious thing about this building is that the impressive bell tower is not attached to the church. It stands several metres behind the apse.
During the Spanish Civil War, Santa Maria church suffered much damage. Frederic Marès i Deulovol, a sculptor born in Portbou, was the person in charge of rebuilding the heads and hands on all the figures on the outside of the building. Marès also created the image of the Virgin that is above the altar inside the building.