Cardinal Martínez Sistach was born on 29 April 1937 in Barcelona, with two sisters. He studied for the priesthood in Barcelona and Rome.
He was ordained on 17 September 1961 by the Archbishop of Barcelona and held various pastoral and judicial roles in the diocese.
Pope John Paul II appointed him as Auxiliary Bishop of Barcelona on 6 November 1987 and he was consecrated on 27 December 1987 in the Cathedral of Barcelona by Cardinal Jubany Arnau, with the titual see of Aliezira.
He was transferred to be Bishop of Tortosa on 17 May 1991, then Archbishop of Tarragona on 20 February 1997. Finally, he was made Archbishop of Barcelona on 15 June 2004.
Pope Benedict XVI made him a Cardinal on 24 November 2007.