domingo, 4 de julio de 2010


- Preface
- Roman Foundation
- Visigoths and Muslims ‘sine vestigium transe’
- The birth of a Nation; a Capital to prevail
- The Head of a maritime Empire; the Gothic splendour
‘Art, religious and civil architecture’
- Gargoyles ‘When the stone becomes alive’
- Cathars, Black Friars and Jewish
- The reinvention of Barcelona during the Hispanic Empire
- A city of convents ‘Barroque’
- Absolute defeat and take over
‘La Ciutadella, La Barceloneta, the military grip’
- The industrious era ‘A touch of neoclassicism’
- Down with the Convents
‘Modernisation and urban reform’
- New horizons ‘Down with the Walls’
- Streets mentioned and its location


Preparing your holiday in Barcelona; already here? Interested in History and Art? Certainly knowing the background of the things helps much to make the most of the buildings, making sense of monuments, people and traditions that one finds abroad. For a better understanding of the streets you are bound to promenade, let me introduce you the old Barcelona, that spring on the bay of the remote Iberians, that early Roman city, a sturdy fortified town in the Dark Ages, the Chief and Commander of a maritime empire in Medieval Times, the industrious and commercial emporium touched by the spirit of Hermes, endowed with the perseverance of his mythological father Hercules, the place of all the people that once had a good dream.
This book pretends to offer an agreeable historical walk. A practical guidebook with background is what the following pages offer.

Roman tower part of a section of the Wall of Barcino.

(Licensed Tourist Guide from Catalonia)


It was back 2100 years ago, in the Roman times, when ‘Barcino’ was founded. The new city was on the way of the Via Augusta. Like a stop on a highway, Barcino was providing some services to the travellers. Apart, the Roman town played the role of market for the commercialisation of products from the surrounding territory. Thus, manufacturing and shipping activity could be developed.

It might seem unjust that we start this history with the Romans, ignoring the preceding Iberians. They were the first people of this area. The Iberian had a settlement in nowadays Barcelona and the probe of it is the silos found in the hill of Montjuïc. But few traces of that civilisation have remained. Nonetheless, the very name of Barcelona might come from the Iberian language: Barkeno (the spring on the bay). Complying with all due protocol, that name was latinised and completed with a nomenclature including all required honours and legalities. Thus the Romans came up with the name ‘Colonia Iulia Augusta Paterno Faventia Barcino’. The term colony makes reference to the settlement of retired legionary. Iulia was the family of the Emperor Augustus and Faventia means that it was blessed by the gods. That was in the I Century B.C.

Just in front of the Cathedral, at the right and left hand-side, still resist a section of that Roman wall, with towers coming out every 15 metres. Following the streets Tapineria, Sots tinent Navarro, Correu Vell, Avinyó, Banys Nous, de la Palla you will be able to draw up the perimeter of the very first Barcelona populated with around 1.500 inhabitants. To delimitate this area with the help of the aforementioned streets it is basic to locate the core of the old town, home of most of the ruling institutions of the city and the country until our days. Notwithstanding, Barcelona remained into this perimeter until the end of the 9th Century. To follow the said streets will reward you with the sight of some sections of that imposing Roman Wall, more or less untouched since then, more or less painfully restored.

From that Roman city, what is left of Roman heritage still standing in Barcelona? Apart from the extramuros (outside walls-outside the town) walk along the mentioned streets, one can also walk along the two main streets that ordered the city. The Decumanus would be the streets or ‘carrers’ (C/) Bisbe, Ciutat, Regomir. The Cardo Maximo now lies under the ‘carrers’ Call and Llibreteria. We say “lies under” because civilisations and centuries normally put much ground on the past. So the soil where the Barcelonians step on nowadays is a few metres higher than the one that the Roman citizens had under their feet. That can be seen in the audio-guided tour in the Museum of History of Barcelona which takes you underground, to help you figure out Roman launderettes, a factory of fish sauce and a winery.

Another of the Roman remaining worth to visit is what is left from the temple dedicated to the emperor August in the Carrer Paradís. The monumentality of the compost order, how the power expressed itself through the stones, comes out from its millenary dwell. Outside the walled perimeter, in what nowadays is the Plaça de la de Madrid we can find an example of how the Roman buried their people, next to the ways that leaded into the cities. This elementary principle of public Hygiene was lost with the switch from Paganism to Christianity. Only many centuries afterwards, by the late 18th Century, Barcelona and Christendom in general learned again of the advantages to bury the people outside the inhabited areas.

And back to the walls we can easily appreciate the different size of the stone used in the lower section and in the higher one. The reason, by the 4th Century A.D Barcino had to strengthen its defences. The Romans from Barcelona, a mix of Roman immigrants and Iberian natives urbanised and Romanised, decided that if their city had to stand the attacks of the Barbarian people, the city walls had to be brought higher and thicker. All the new upper section of the walls was built with smaller stones than the ones used in the lower section for the first wall two centuries ago, in the Republican times.

These walls, along the centuries, as they were losing their defensive purpose were progressively used for housing. Easy to empty as the walls were filled with a mix of mortar and constructive waste, we can appreciate a profusion of different types of windows corresponding to different periods. Likewise, the shortage of housing intramuros (inside the walls-inside the town)
leaded to imaginative constructive ways as the one of stretching an arch in between the projecting towers of the walls. Right above the arch a house could be built, thus gaining space and housing on the void.

The wine that is consumed in homes, bars and restaurants, the olive oil spread on a toast in any meal, the Christian believes, many things from the Romans are now a fundamental part of the habits of the Barcelonians. But above all, we have to remember the language, Latin. Despite further influences along the centuries, whether we are talking about Catalan or Castilian (Spanish), Latin as father of Catalan and Castilian languages, is the main heritage of that very first Romans that founded Barcino.

That Roman city also left us a heroin, a 13 year old girl still celebrated and remembered nowadays. In the times when the Christian faith was outlawed, a girl from Barcelona called Eulàlia was caught by the authorities embracing the new religion. It was the time of the emperors Dioclecian and Maximinian who commanded all the governors of the Roman Provinces to persecute the Christians. The Christian teenager, to obtain the pardon, was requested to renounce to her faith. She refused to back down her beliefs and the consequence of that were an awful series of tortures inflicted on her. She endured whipping, her skin was tore apart, hot lead was thrown on her, she was put inside a barrel full of nails and broken glasses and let rolled down through a street. Like this, a total of 13 different tortures were inflicted on her. But always when she was up to die, an angel came to her rescue. So the puzzled Roman Governor finally decided to stick her in an X shaped cross.

Eulàlia or Laia turned into a martyr, an example of rectitude and courage despite her tender age. Later in the middle ages her bones were found, and the very same crypt of the cathedral under
the altar was built to shelter her venerated bones. There, as in the traschoir of the cathedral or in a little corner of the Baixada de St. Eulàlia we can see represented the story of that brave girl. The funny geese from the cloister of the cathedral, besides being an alarm system against robbery, also pay an homage to St. Eulàlia. Count the geese. For sure you will find exactly 13, the age of the martyr when she was killed.

And to end up with the traces of the Roman civilisation, let us have a look to what is left from the Aqueduct. The way the Roman cities provided themselves with water was through a elevated canal supported by a series of semicircular arches. Thus, water from distant rivers could be conducted into the city and once inside carried through ground level canals. If you go to the street Duran i Bas you will see a small section of Barcelona’s aqueduct incrusted into a building. The last bit of that aqueduct, in the exact point when entered into the fortified city, can be seen at the beginning of C/ Bisbe.

(Licensed Tourist Guide from Catalonia)

VISIGOTHS and MUSLIMS sine vestigium transe

As we mentioned concerning the walls, and as happened in all the Roman Empire from the 3rd Century AD, the so-called barbarian people started to enter into the Roman provinces. In most of the Iberian Peninsula it was the Visigoths the ones who settled down, running a kingdom with Germanic Laws while adopting the Christian faith and Latin language. It was during this time that Barcino started to become important. It was the time of the king Ataulf and its mythic wife Gala Placídia. Then, the Visigoth Kingdom extended to the whole Provence and most of the Iberian Peninsula.

It was the time when small, compact and well fortified cities like Barcelona where the best candidates to resist invasions, repel sieges, avoid ransacking and establish themselves in the long run as regional capital. So that was so, Barcelona outrunning the bigger thus more easy to attack southern imperial city of Tarraco that ended up destroyed by the Barbarians. Despite that the Visigoths some years later decided to move their capital southern to Toledo, Barcelona was to enjoy and suffer an important regional role that has never since abandoned.

Few are the remains of the Visigoth period. They are not so spectacular and most are to be found underground. Again, we do strongly recommend a visit to the ‘Museu d’Historia de Barcelona’. There, as a natural involution of the Roman civilisation, we will be illustrated about the importance of the Bishop figure in the Visigoth city and how he was keen to have its wine factory for the ‘communion’, the necessary buildings for the brethren as a church and a Baptist pile in the pool fashion. An urban society enclosed in itself, with its religious elite commanding over the surrounding territory, kept within the boundaries of the Roman city making no radical changes to the street grid. In the church of ‘St. Just’ there are two remains of that Visigoth Barcelona: a marble pile and a sepulchral stone next to the entrance. Curiously, a civilisation that have left us so few remains was the one who put a provincial Roman city in a commanding position over this corner of Europe.

In 711 the brother of the last Visigoth king was jealous that the crown was on his brother’s head. Claiming his rights to the crown he called for military help to the Northafricans which already had taken the Muslim religion. Then, the Northafrican-Arab army that had come as a mercenary force to help one of the contending sides, once in the Iberian Peninsula realised how easy would be the conquering of the Visigoth kingdom. And that is what they did. The Iberian Peninsula was not going to be for the king neither for the brother, but for the newcomers. Scholars believe that the local population, Hispano-Romans ruled by a military elite of Germanic origin, showed few resistance as they saw no advantage of keeping a system dooming them to lie under the rule of a handful of privileged. Be as it were, in a matter of a few years the light-agile Muslim cavalry army conquered all the Iberian Peninsula entering also quite inside into the Frank kingdom, until Narbona, being their progress finally stopped at Poitiers.

We know few of that Barcelona under Muslim rule which they called Barshiluna. There are no standing buildings from that time, as the conquerors probably had no need to build any. By the name of Regomir street we want to believe of a ruling local king called Gamir; Regomir being a contraction of Rei (king) Gamir. But despite the absorption of Muslim culture was scarce at that time, centuries afterwards the Muslim influence was going to be strong. Having the Muslims as neighbours and specially with the conquering of Mallorca and Valencia, many cultural elements of the Muslim were strongly imported. The like for the tiles, which last until our days, is the most often and visible of these Muslim influences brought into Barcelona.

The Catalan agriculture and gastronomy was also deeply touched by the Muslim neighbourhood. The strong presence in the dishes of the restaurants and patisseries of dry fruits, artichoke, aubergine, orange, lemon, peaches… is a very palpable inheritance of the Muslim culture in Barcelona.

Apse and dome base of the Romanesque church of ‘St. Pau del Camp’.


With the Muslim conquering the local population had to face difficult choices: to convert to the new religion; to pay extra-tributes if they remained Christians; or to escape to the Frank kingdom. The ones who apt for the later turned into ‘refugees’ always pressing the Frank kings to ‘free’ the land of the Goths, northern Iberian Peninsula. That fundamental outbreak came with Charles the Great. Girona was conquered in the year 785 and Barcelona in 801 by Louis the Pious. The Franks organised the Pyrenees area as a buffer zone in between them and the Muslims naming it ‘Marca Hispanica’. This area was composed by tiny counties headed by a Frank Civil Servant, having the later the title of Count.

The Pyrenees became not only like a natural fortress but also a cradle where slowly slowly the Catalan language was taking shape. (Since the downfall of Rome in 476, the bounds in between the different territories belonging to the Roman Empire were getting loose. That is why the Latin, once a unified common language, started to be spoken very divers in the different parts of the ex Roman Empire). The Catalan Nation was thus born in the nest of the Pyrenees. Soon though, this Pyrenees people attached to the land were going to find its best commander in the city of Barcelona. Mountain and see, farmer spirit and Greco-latin

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mediterranism found a perfect alloy that after 1.000 years it had been proved hard to dissolve.
801, a key date to remember, when Barcelona re-entered into the Christian ways after a period of 80 years of Muslim domination that scarcely had time to leave any relevant standing testimonies. Therefore, beside the name of Barselum that we know for some Muslim sources, we have almost no Muslim remains. Notwithstanding the Muslim world was of great importance for that early Catalonia. This handful of counties under Frank sovereignty played an important role as go-in-between the enlightened Caliphal Cordoba of Al-Andalus and the backward Europe. Monks like the ones of the monastery of Ripoll in the Pyrenees knew Arab and they were translating Science treaties imported from the Iberian Muslim South.

These decades of the 9th Century are of a determinant Carolingian minting. It is not only that the city was part of the domain of the Carolingian Empire, that these lands were reincorporated into the Christian constellation, or that in the Plaça del Rei the first Count palace complex was built. Entering into the Carolingian world means that Barcelona and Catalonia were early participants into the shaping of Occident. Thanks to that, together with its background of deep Romanisation and to the bordering role in between Christendom and Muslim world, Barcelona established itself as one of the most cultivated corners of a backward Europe.

So let us remember how the Frank king that conquered to the Muslims the Pyrenees and the littoral side until Barcelona organised all these lands in a series of counties headed by a count in each of them. As these lands were so far away from the Frank centre of power and the Carolingian Empire went through a difficult dynastic succession, the Catalan counties took their chance to increase their “de facto” independence. Nevertheless, the legal forms were kept and in the minting of coins or in the swearing of offices, always it was mentioned that the ultimate lord after God was the Frank King. Meanwhile, along the decades of the 9th and 10th Century, through a combination of marriages and bellicosity, the County of Barcelona achieved to unify or summit the rest of the Catalan counties under its rule.

These times of Nation building saw the irresistible standing of Barcelona as the capital of Catalonia, with all its benefits (specially from a monumental and demographic point of view). The burdens of the capital status also were going to be felt, as in the terrible scourge of 986. By these times, in the bright Caliphate of Cordoba, a great chief (cabdill) called Almanzor; ‘the victorious by Allah’ had imprisoned the Caliphe Hisham II in its golden palace and had taken the reins of Al-Andalus. With its host, Almanzor started to terrify the cornered northern Christian Kingdoms, ransacking and burning all to the ground in search of submission and tributes.
As Almanzor approached Barcelona, the count acknowledging the major force he had to face asked for military help to its sovereign. That was the Frank king and it was its duty to defend
his vassals and territories. As he neglected that help and finally Barcelona was fully ransacked by the host of Almanzor, the count of Barcelona decided to disconnect himself from its allegiance to the Frank king. That in the times was like a declaration of Independence. And thus, in 1986, the Catalan government celebrated the 1000 years of Catalonia with a campaign entitled “Catalunya, 1.000 anys”.

The Art of this time is the Romanesque, built on the basic semicircular arch and from there the cannon vault. All together very heavy buildings, with few openings as all the walls were needed for support functions; quite dark places that make you feel how small is the human being before the greatness of God. The heavy, compact look of the building and the thickness of the walls were also useful to take on the role of fortresses, turning into safe havens when it was some attacks from the Muslim armies or from quarrelling Lords.

If you are in Barcelona and you want to see some Romanesque buildings, have a look to ‘St. Llucia’ chapel next to the Cathedral, the ‘Bishop’s Palace’ (C/ Bisbe) and ‘St. Pau del Camp’ (C/ St. Pau), with a bell tower looking as a fortress. Certainly these churches were places that the locals used for shelter in the frequent attacks that Catalonia and its capital endured during this era. The façade of St. Pau del Camp, from the middle of the 12th Century, shows a very simple decoration which comes to express the idea that the people of that time had about the world. The two extended fingers from the creators’ hand gives life to all the fauna depicted in the archivolts while at the flanks the Evangelist tetramorphous represent the order that religion has given to the world. Another interesting Romanesque little church is St. Llàtzer, in the Plaça del Pedró. The perfectly framed apse of the single nave church shows the characteristic blind arches of the Lombardian Romanesque.

As any piece of architecture, the contemplation of that church tells us about something more than the skill of the masons. Here, in St. Llàtzer was to be found the hospital for the leprous. While the bishop of Barcelona was enjoying his high status in its palace, which has an ample Romanesque courtyard, the lower clergy were in charge of health and charity needs of the society.

With the turn of the millennium the luck began to smile the northern Christian kingdoms that started to gain land to the Muslim kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. In the case of Catalonia, by late 12th Century, the conquering of what is known as New Catalonia (south of Lleida province and Tarragona province) was completed. These conquering strengthened the power of the Count of Barcelona. That had its reflection in the physiognomy of Barcelona as outside the still standing Roman walls new neighbourhoods were appearing like mushrooms.

It is also good to remember that by this time and during a few more centuries the city was crossed by a couple of rushing streams (rieras), born in the northern nearby mountain range of Collserola. These ‘rieras’ flew into a swamp of stagnant water near the beach, adding more filth to the general lack of public hygiene of the times. With the run of the centuries these rushing streams were diverted and their courses through the city converted into streets. That is the reason why Les Rambles and Avd. Portal de l’Àngel have a pretty wide, curvy and whimsical course.

Back to the newly appeared neighbourhoods outside the walls, they were to specialise in the productive and commercial functions, leaving most of the ‘intramuros’ area for the ruling
classes, their buildings and institutions: the City Council, the Palace of the Catalan Government (Generalitat), the Palace of the Bishop, the Cannons’ House, the Palace of the Archdeacon, etc… Examples of the new industrious quarters outside the walls are St. Anna (around the church of the same name), el Pi (around the church of St. Maria del Pi), and el Born.

In front of the City Council in the Plaça St. Jaume, in the façade, flanking the entrance gate there are two sculptures. The one on the left is James the Conqueror. He is the father of the Catalan Lands as by the second third of the 13th Century he conquered the Mallorquian and the Valencian kingdoms to the Muslims. No conquering is secured without friendly inhabitants that welcome the new sovereign or with new settlers that are ready to go on the adventure in pursuit of better living conditions than those from their native land. That is what happened with the Balearic Islands and the kingdom of Valencia. Peasants from Catalonia went to inhabit the new lands, carrying with them their language, Catalan.

So well, that successful king James the Conqueror also granted to Barcelona the building of a new ring of walls. That was by 1240 and the new walls gave a sound protection to all the new neighbourhoods aforementioned. The line of these walls was following Les Rambles, Ronda St. Pere, C/Comerç, until it met the seaside. The streets that came to appear in this busy area had nothing to do with the ordered grid of the Roman city. The medieval streets follow the logic of the street that almost conforms itself naturally in between the houses that already have been built. Narrowness and a winding drawing is the main characteristic of the Medieval Street unplanning.

(Licensed Tourist Guide from Catalonia)

Art, religious and civil architecture

By the middle of the 13th Century Barcelona was steady on its commanding position over a Confederation that had affirmed itself as one of the main powers in the Europe of the times. And it was to grow, to become the metropolis of a maritime empire, to ennoble itself with palaces, churches of a sober gothic style and civil buildings of the most practical beauty.
It was in 1107 when the count of Barcelona married with the princess of Aragon, Peronella. Thus, as Aragon was a kingdom the son of both and its descendents could carry both the titles of Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon, with their home in Barcelona. That the Catalan-Aragonensis confederation had its royal site in Barcelona had undoubtedly a positive magnet effect.
The royal assembly was luckily surviving the urban reforms from mid 19th and early 20th Century. From the modern Avenue Via Laietana one has a great look of what could be called a medieval acropolis. The delicate and haughty church of St. Àgata which was the royal chapel has the curiosity of having the only bell tower crown-shaped in his top, as a reminder to locals and foreigners of the royal ownership.
The tower of the cathedral also offers a few messages cast on stone, and two of them of a puzzling interpretation. A gargoyle

Royal chapel of St. Agata, built on the Roman Walls, with the bell tower as landmark and the equestrian monument of the Count-King Ramon Berenguer the Great, work from the sculptor Josep Llimona.

figure depicts a seemingly knight on horseback; the person looking forward, the animal to the side. Is that gargoyle a representation of
St. George? Or is that chiselled piece of stone simply an advertisement of where to find the blacksmiths? What does need a horse but horseshoes made of iron and a knight a new pair of spurs? Is it not too much of a coincidence that the street where the horse is looking at is called Blacksmiths or Freneria in Catalan?
Right on the top of one of the attached towers to the cathedral’s bell tower there is a shy but visible snail with big antennas. Was it placed there to simply recall us that the stairs inside the tower are of a snail type? Is the little beast a metaphor of time? Are the stiff antennas a sign that the stonemason made to his wife for being unfaithful to him? We will never know, or perhaps some sage archive researcher will find out some day.
We find this kind of stone publicity in some other parts of the city. In the quarter of El Born there is a feminine head so delicately chiselled coming out from the corner of a building. That the street is called Mirallers (mirror makers) induce some local historians to believe that the high relief is a metaphor of the mirror’s virtue, reflecting faces. Others believe that the girl’s head was identifying a prostitute’s house nearby.
Continuing with the royal assembly, and still seeing it from Via Laietana, we can appreciate how useful were the Roman walls to built on them. The commented church of St. Àgata is partly built on the base of the roman wall. The Bronze equestrian statue

of the count of Barcelona Berenguer III is a good figuration of the type of man who was praying in this church, commanding a powerful county turned into Emperi from this little quarter.

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Next to the commented church of ‘St. Àgata’ opens the big royal saloon of ‘El Tinell’, to be commented later. Behind that saloon, with its access from the neighbouring Plaça St. Iu, we find a gardened courtyard, the little green and airy corner of the royal palace. A tower with an interesting eagle-gargoyle family and the palace of the viceroy already from the Renaissance complete an embracing stoned Royal complex. From these facilities, many wars, battles at land and sea, many strategic marriages, the defending of a County, the building of a confederation of kingdoms; from here, from the Plaça del Rei, an Empire, the Crown of Aragon was masterminded.
All these times generated an important number of documents. Sometimes we think of the Middle Ages as an ocean of unlawfulness. Certainly most of the laws were far from the idea we have now of fairness, but laws they had. Both in home politics as in International Relations the legal forms were kept. For a political entity like the Crown of Aragon, a confederation with many kingdoms to bring together and with many institutions counterbalancing the Kingship, legality was a must.
The counts of Barcelona, as the highest magistrate of the Country, always were aware of the importance of keeping any treaty, contract or legal document. Thus, the city inherited a priceless treasure of papers that after the Vatican records accounts

as the richest archive in the world covering the Middle Ages. So well, in the so-called Palace of the Lieutenant (later in the Renaissance chapter to be commented) are the headquarters of “The Archive of the Crown of Aragon”, a must for any researcher of
the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean area.
An example of the benefits drawn from the capital status of Barcelona is the church of St. Anna, in the hidden Placeta de Ramon Amadeu. What nowadays is a parish church was from 1141 until mid 16th Century the monastery of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. That order founded by the Latin Patriarch when Jerusalem was conquered by the crusaders was a kind of Multinational organisation of the times. The headquarters of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in the Catalan-aragonensis Confederation or Crown of Aragon was in this very same church. From outside we can see one of these narrow opening in the wall so typical from the Romanesque style. Under this style were finished the first stages of the monastery. The building was continued in the early gothic style when that made its appearance in Catalonia. That early gothic can be seen in the pointed barrel vault of the nave. Then, the nearest bay to the Cloister adopts the more modern ribbed vault. When we enter into the cloister we can appreciate the evolution of the gothic towards lighter forms as the ones created by the shafts that support the almond arches of the cloister.
Barcelona has a good handful of gothic cloisters, as the one of the Cathedral, church of “La Concepció” in C/ Lluria, or the still in

operation nuns’ Monastery of Pedralbes in the outskirts of Barcelona. In all these places, every year, by June, in the feast of Corpus Christis, takes place a curious tradition. It is called ‘l’ou com balla’ (the dancing egg). The open space embraced by the four galleries of the cloister is kept along the year as a pleasant garden,
sometimes with tall trees, magnolias, palm trees, or nativity scenes in Christmas. Right in the middle of that square, like a navel of heaven and earth, stands a fountain with a spurting jet. By Corpus Christis the garden has the best of its floral dress and especially that fountain, with an embroidery of multicolour petals. The fountain stands simply beautiful.
Just on the jet of water, in the highest and the declining point of that spurt of life, an egg is placed. And it keeps dancing, never falling, turning around non stopping. The symbolical read of that tradition is deep, being the egg a representation of the soul, the dancing egg being like a symbol of Christ, of the resurrection of the flesh, of life that never ends. L’ou com balla has been on the run for centuries, probably since 1440. It is an excellent chance to visit some courtyards that normally are closed for the public, to see these cloisters at their best lively spirit.
All these cloisters were built in the Middle Ages. And in all we can see the use of the local sandstone from the local quarry in the hill of Montjuïc. In some of the sides of the hill (by car along Ronda Litorial by the Port area, or walking along Passeig de l’exposició) the traces of these quarries are still visible, now taken by the vegetation. What had been in use since the Iberians all the way

long until 1957 provided a stone of durability. The sandstone of Montjuïch is made of a mix of grains, mainly quartz, together with feldspat, moscovita, turmalina… all conglomerated by the microcrystalline of the silicion. That Siliceous ‘Gres’, with all its chromatic play, is of aesthetic value per-se. And it mutates its colour with the changing mood of the sun and the skies.
Not only was the stone of Montjuïch used for the buildings. It also accounted as the main raw material for an important profession of the times, the manufacturers of grinding stones, masons or ‘molers’. The roughness of the stone of Montjuïch made this stone a perfect material to make grinding stones. The Barcelona grinding stones were appreciated in foreign lands and were exported around the Mediterranean and Christendom. As all craftsmen of the times, the ‘molers’ were living and working in the same street. The length of nowadays C/ Moles is a remainder of the importance of that profession in old times.
To break with the monochronism, the Catalan gothic used to employ another type of stone for the pillars that were supporting the arches of the cloister, the pink nummolitich stone imported from Girona. The objective was to recreate a peaceful open space, around a gardened square with a well or a fountain in the middle, for the reflection and enjoyment of monks, cannons and nuns.
All these praying people profited from the tithe, from presents given to them to make their churches more shining, from the lending of many properties they had in the city... Notwithstanding, some of the wealth they enjoyed it was used for

some charitable purposes. That is the case of the canons from the cathedral. On the left hand side of the cathedral there is a building were the poor of Barcelona used to receive a daily meal given by the cannons. What is known as ‘La pia almoina’ (the pious alms) has a characteristic gallery at the upper floor, which is an element much present in the important buildings of the medieval and renaissance Barcelona. Also above the door we can see an
interesting low relief that depicts a latin cross and around it the tools of the crucifixion. The reason for that is that the neighbouring Cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Cross.
Belonging to the Canons was also the ‘House of the Canons’, at the C/ Bisbe. That building is a good example of the make-up operation that the core of the old town experienced in early 20th Century. That building, where the canons were living, was fully refurbished to make it nicer to the eyes of the 20th Century spectator, to fit it better with their idea of what the gothic meant. Thus, the architects came up with a neo-gothic building of a romantic flair that has nothing to do with the Catalan Gothic. But despite the lack of authenticity of this intervention, they achieved a photogenic work. Who can resist a picture shot in the bridge that connects the House of the Canons with the Palace of the Generalitat?

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And why is there a bridge connecting both buildings? In the Medieval Catalan Government were represented Merchants, Military-Noblemen and High Clergy. As the first group and the second were normally at odds, a neutral figure had to be found to

put peace in between these parties and carry on with the Government businesses. Apart, the most learned people of the times were the religious caste. Thus the presidency of the Catalan Government was always held by a member of the Church, a Bishop, Archbishop or Cardinal. The later had its rooms in the House of the Cannons. Thus, when the President had to meet his collies in the Catalan Government he just had to cross the bridge. Indeed, in our days, the president of the Catalan Government still has his office
in that House of the Canons.
Another important “religious” group, was the Order of the Temple. They went on as a private enterprise with the conquering of lands to the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula. The Knights Templar as a group with so much territorial power and wealth was conveniently represented in the capital, near the court so as to influence it. This Order was abolished by the Pope in 1312 but the Order somehow has remained in Barcelona, with a name of a street C/Templers and the church they had in the city C/ d’Ataülf.
The Monk-Knights of the Temple were in charge of the education of Jaume I. He was the son of the king Pere I who lost and was killed in the Battle of Muret in 1213. That defeat not only brought the annihilation of the Cathars but the end of the Catalan expansion towards the north. Since the end of the 10th Century the Counts of Barcelona had been busy building a unified assembling of Counties north and south of the Pyrenees. But that came to a halt after the Battle of Muret when the French king incorporated Provence and Occitania as part of France.

The consequence for Catalonia, now that the way north was blocked, was that the Count of Barcelona had to redirect his expansion will southern and seawards. In 1230s the Balearic Islands and Valencia were conquered by James I, so-called the Conqueror. These countries, together with the Principality of Catalonia, the State of Andorra, the French Department of the Oriental Pyrenees (Roussillon), a strip of land in Aragon and the Sardinian city of Alguer compound the Catalan Lands, united in cultural brotherhood by the same language.
Mediterranean trade progressed side by side with the busy activity of manufacturing craftsmen. The later, organised in guilds had an important influence in the politics of the times. Many streets in Barcelona’s old town still bear names like: mirror makers, hat makers, leather makers, etc. If you read carefully some of the names of the street plates from the old town, with a Catalan-English dictionary, you will find out that some of these street names refer to professions like hat makers, cotton makers, sheet makers, dagger makers, book makers, etc…
In fact, we can draw the social urbanography by locating and making sense of the different street names in the different quarters. Roughly we find three types of names in the old town: saints’ names, Crafts and Authorities. The latter are concentrated in the core of the old town, the Roman Barcino. There we find Carrer dels comtes (Counts), Veguer (kind of sheriff), Bisbe (bishop). So in this quarter it was were the rulers, the passive Classes, had their site. On the contrary, in El Born quarter names

talk about mirror makers, porters, bleachers, carders, tanners, needle makers, glass makers, etc… The productive Classes were to be found there.
If you enter into the cloister of the Cathedral, as in other churches in Barcelona, pay attention to the tombstones. Masters of different professions paid fortunes to have the honour to be buried in this holy ground. Maybe you can identify some signs related to the different professions, like scissors, shoes, trees and bees, etc…
The goods mainly exported in these times were drapery and cloths, leather, grindstones, luxuries as coral and pearls from the
sea of Barcelona (when that was blue), saffron from the south… In return, especially from Sicily, wheat made the most of the cargo, completed with gold from Alexandria, slaves or even relics.
We do recommend the ‘Last Jewish’ of Noah Gordon to figure out the importance of the Relics’ traffic and how the people believed in those objects. In Barcelona, the Royal chapel of St. Àgata was especially rich in relics. In some of the Diplomatic missions of the count-kings there was also negotiation about relics. In one of these missions, it was paid a fortune to get a flagstone to be brought to the Royal Chapel of St. Agata. This stone, was no other that the stone used to place the breast of St. Agata in her martyrdom.
In connection with this society based on Mediterranean trade, an unavoidable place is the so-called ‘Llotja’, in Pla de Palau. The free-standing neoclassic building from 1776 conceals a magnificent gothic saloon from the second half of the 14th Century,

opened by four powerful as light pillars which develop into a series of broad diaphragm arches which support a flat painted timber ceiling. That place was the meeting point of the big merchants that planned their joint ventures to trade both with Christian and Muslim countries.

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Church of ‘St. Maria del Mar’ seen from the main entrance; of basilical plant, with the sides naves surrounding the altar and a series of octagonal pillars supporting the complex of ribbed vaults.

The palace of the merchants was also house of an important institution that organised the Catalan Consulates in many Mediterranean and Atlantic Ports. The problems derived from Sea trade, especially concerning insurances, made necessary to produce a piece of maritime law that could be respected by all parts. That was done by the merchants and legal makers of ‘La
Llotja’, organised by the institution ‘el Consolat de Mar’. ‘The Book of the Consolat de Mar’, the legal compilation produced by those lords of the sea trade is the founding stone of the Maritime Law.

The opening and securing of maritime trade routes for the Catalan, Mallorquian and Valencian cargo ships demanded peace treaties with other kingdoms, or when that was not possible the conquering of these kingdoms. During late XIII C. until early XV C. new lands were integrated into the Aragon Crown, also known as Catalan-Aragonense Confederation. Apart from Aragon and the Catalan Lands, Sicily, Sardinia, the kingdom of Naples and Athens and Neopatria in Greece were one day under the rule of the Count of Barcelona. Barcelona was the regular king’s residence, until 1442 when Alfonse the Magnanimous moved to Naples. In Barcelona converged much of the wealth from that maritime Empire. That is the reason why there are so many buildings from those times, in the gothic style.
From the stone of Montjuïc Hill many public buildings were build in those times. Religious ones are: the ‘Cathedral’, ‘St. Maria del Pi’, ‘St. Maria del Mar’, ‘St. Just’, ‘Pedralbes Monastery’... Under the label Civil Architecture we find many palaces in the street of the Picasso Museum, ‘Drassanes’ (shipyards), ‘Hospital de St. Pau i la Santa Creu’, ‘La Llotja’ (restricted visit), and the palaces of the ‘City Council’ and the ‘Catalan Government’. Every Sunday the Council organises visits for free where you can admire the ‘Council of the Hundred' saloon. The ‘Generalitat’, palace of the Catalan Government, is open every 2nd Sunday of the month.
The City Council in Plaça St. Jaume is not only interesting as a great piece of civil gothic architecture (except the main façade

which is a neoclassic modern reform), but also for the epic narrated in one of its rooms. The frescoes of the ‘Saló de les Cróniques’
narrate in a very striking visual mode the conquering of Athens and the Catalan Vengeance, unleashed when the son of the Byzantine Emperor betrayed Roger de Flor. That work from Josep Maria Sert is an emotional and patriotic approach to the Conquering and warfare of the time, while the marquetry work of the ‘Saló del Consolat de Mar’ teach us about the geographical extend of the Catalan-aragonensis Confederation, the Crown of Aragon. In that time, no fish dared to jump up the water without showing in its tale the Catalan flag. The four red bars over a golden background is one of the most repeated symbols throughout the old town.
Another state of the art civil building of the medieval times is the so-called ‘Saló del Tinell’. The austere walls of Plaça del Rei hide one of the most magnificent gothic saloons of all Christendom. Again, like in other religious and civil buildings, we can appreciate the ‘building of space’, ample and unbroken. That was done thanks to the use of broad round or slightly pointed diaphragm arches that sustain a painted coffered ceiling. This solution is probably another of these influences from the Muslim neighbours. Moreover, it could have been brought by Muslim masons.
The later produced the Mudejar Art. When the Muslim kingdoms were conquered making the building of mosques impossible, the Muslim masons simply took on the new Christian

commissions though injecting some of its original constructive and decorative ways. That ample saloon with some original fresco paintings of lineal gothic which narrate the conquering of Mallorca,
was the Royal reception. There, next to the fire, we can imagine the thrones of King and Queen, justice being imparted, Ambassadors, Royalty being received, parties held…
All those buildings share the same spatial concept, that of a saloon, with ample and unitary spaces, with few concessions to decoration, minted with a solemn austerity, purity of lines and in the churches a characteristic octagonal freestanding tower ended in terrace. That is why it is called Catalan Gothic, because it is quite the opposite from the Gothic developed in other parts of Europe, where the naves are much narrower and the outside look of the building looks lighter. In the Catalan Gothic, the exterior of the buildings are normally of a striking massive soundness. Especially in the religious buildings, the compact and closed look of the outer walls is the counterpart of the empty spatial grandness of the indoor.
The Catalan Gothic, with common traits with the Gothic developed in Occitania, and exported to places like Valencia, Mallorca, Sardinia, Sicily and Naples, never abandoned the Romanesque spirit. That can be seen in the employment of massive buttresses that absorb the pressure from the inner vaults. Then, inside, the space left in between buttress and buttress was closed. That made possible the proliferation of chapels. In the cathedral we count to a number of 53 chapels.

Each of these chapels is dedicated to different saints; also to various saints in a single chapel. Back in the times when the cathedral was built, the construction and decoration of each of these chapels was supported by a “cofradia” (professional guild) or
an important family. Each of these guilds had a saint patron with a exemplar story and martyrdom connected with their profession. The shoemakers for example had Marc and the carters St. Anton Abbot. The altarpieces duly narrate these stories of the saint patron and along the surface walls and vaults, one can see identifiable elements of the profession. Upgrading, burning and bombing explain the diversity of styles of the altarpiece chapels. But there are more than ten surviving chapels, untouched since the Middle Ages, showing their original decoration.
Back in 14th Century and along the first half of the 15th Century the way to honour and narrate the stories of Jesus, Marie and the saints was the tempera painting on board, in the gothic international style. The figures are finely outlined, showing with all sorts of detail in their dresses their dignity, their sanctity highlighted with golden backgrounds made of golden paper. Beyond their artistic value, these painting are an important historical source, as they turn as valuable documents to know about the customs of the times, the domestic life or even some architectonic features of medieval Barcelona. We can appreciate an early naturalism and psychological penetration in the faces of the main characters and a trial for lineal perspective in the richly description of the tile pavements.

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Perhaps the greatest of these tableaux performed in the International Gothic Style, already showing pre-renaissance naturalism, is the one covering the apse of St. Àgata church. In this case we should also talk about some Flemish Gothic influences. It represents the Epiphany, with the three wise men
from Orient. Appreciating the size of the painting, its concentration on the details, specially in the dresses of the kings, the generous employment of golden paper for some parts of the background, we can imagine the time it took to finish that commission and the cost of that sort of piece of art.
For its central position and the light irradiating out of him, the figure of the kneeling king tells us about who was paying for the tableaux, the Constable of Portugal. It was the times of the Civil War when the Catalan Government was fighting against their own king Joan II. The Constable of Portugal was awarded with the crown, putting thus a substitute king to Joan II who had been proved disrespectful with the Rights and Freedoms of Catalonia. As that chivalric Constable died young, the melancholy of its face seems to have remained as a token for a long coveted wish of recovery of the lost sovereignty.
Apart from the Cathedral, pieces of medieval painting of International Gothic style as well as of Gothic Flemish Style can be seen in the MNAC (do not miss there ‘La Verge dels Consellers’). The National Museum of Art from Catalonia, besides the gothic collection is especially rich in covering the early Middle Ages, with the richest and most extensive show of Romanesque frescoes

worldwide. In early 20th Century these frescoes were detached (with the strappo technique) from their original churches up in the Pyrenees to save them from being plundered by international art smugglers. Once taken out from the church walls they were rolled up, putted in boxes and brought into the safe haven of the MNAC museum, making possible its preservation and exhibition.
Another important museum, especially rich in sculpture as Virgin Maries with the Baby and Crucifixions, is the ‘Museu Marés’. Its location could not be better, as it stands right next to the cathedral and the Royal Palace. Both museums can be a good complement to your gothic tour. As we said, the run of the Centuries, specially the 20th Century anticlericalism, have left some of the interiors of these churches pretty orphan of their original decoration. So after visiting some of these religious and civil buildings from the 14th and 15th Centuries, to complement the understanding of these great continents, in search of its content, it is worth a visit to these museums to figure out the effect of all together, content in continent.
Until the first third of the 14th Century the military and commercial businesses were running good and Barcelona was heading an increasingly mighty Mediterranean power. In the sea, the main enemy to face was Genoa. Many naval battles for the control of Corsica mark out this confrontation. Even the Crown of Aragon was for some time at odds with the very same Pope. The Count-King of Barcelona, after conquering Sicily, had to stand an excommunication for some years as the Pope claimed Sicily as his

property. In the continent, France to the North and Castilia to the south and west were the permanent menaces to the peace in the Confederation. And it was probably due to a war against Castilia (the war of the two Peters, the Ceremonial versus the Cruel) that the Count-King of Barcelona decided to give a further wall protection to new neighbourhoods born outside the walls.
All the area comprised next to the Rambles until Avd.
Paral.lel, along C/ Hospital and C/ Tallers, had been inhabited since the 13th Century. In order to give a protection to the people working and living there, and to have a secured garden for the feeding of Barcelona in case of siege, Peter III decided to fortify this new area.
The walls were ever present in the psychology of the citizen and were shaping its understanding of the town. Beyond its protective function, the walls created a feeling of being enclosed, as its thirteen gates closed at night time after the so-called ‘bell toll of the thief’. To some degree those citizens were living in their own urban microcosmos. The narrow corridor which opened in between the walls and the houses was also a special urban feature given for all kind of impious businesses. The walls also had its gates as the spot for tax collection for goods entering the town. All products that entered a walled city, especially wool, meat and salt were paying some taxes which went to the King, the Bishop, the Port Authority, the City Council and the Catalan Government.
The two later institutions still have their houses in the Plaça Sant Jaume (Saint James), whose figure stands up in horseback in

the corner of a building. St. James was much convoked by the armies of the neighbouring Castilia. It was believed that in the decisive battle of ‘Las Navas de Tolosa’ in the times of the Crusade in Iberian Lands, James came down from a cloud, and branding his swords gave the decisive help to sweep out the Muslim forces. ‘Santiago Matamoros’ (Moor slaughterer) was his nickname and he was specially praised during the times of the Franco National-Catholicism regime. The contradiction lies, that the elite corps of the General Franco was a bunch of merciless mercenaries from North Africa.
The sculpture of St. James is placed at some height in a historicist building which nowadays is the branch of a savings bank. And it is not by chance that that financial institution chose that location. Right there, in Medieval Barcelona, was to be found the ‘Taula de canvi’ (Exchange Table). As Bruges, Venice or Genoa, Medieval Barcelona early developed the financial services necessary for a society the wealth of which was based in trade. Foreign currency as the coveted florins, ducats from Venice or Maravedies from Castille were exchanged for the local “croats”, the currency in the principality. For those interested in the history of Numismatic in these lands, the MNAC offers an interesting didactic exposition on this matter. And if you want to know the site of the old minting factory, you will find it in C/ Flassaders. The royal coat of arms on an ample gate tells us about whose concern the minting of money was.

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Modern bronze sculpture on the fountain of the cloister of the Cathedral of Barcelona depicting St. George in fight with the dragon.

Back to Plaça St. Jaume, in the façade of the City Council, there are two sculptures of considerable size. Next to the commented James the Conqueror, the man toped with the crown, stands the figure of one of these haughty councillors, mostly rich merchants so jealous of the local autonomy. His name is Joan Fiveller, and the story that follows exemplifies the efforts of Barcelona to keep the balance of power in between the city civil authority and the king.
In 1410, after the House of Barcelona got extinguished without a legitimate direct successor, a new Monarch was chosen. He came from Castilia, where kings and lords used to have a much more intrusive relation with their vassals and citizens. But soon that Ferran d’Antequera, when he took the crown of Aragon, was going to realise that ruling the Catalan-Aragonense Confederation was quite a different thing than ruling in Castilia. It happened that the new King got his supplies of meat without paying any tax for it. The meat tax (vectigal) was revenue due to the City Council and the later did not want to renounce to what was theirs, even before the King.
Thus, the ‘Council of the Hundred’ (general assembly of the City Council) commissioned its head councillor, Joan Fiveller, to communicate to the King that His Majesty was also obliged to pay the meat tax. The King was much offended, saying that he was a king and that in his native land kings did not pay any taxes. The councillor stood his ground and insisted upon the point that laws were to be respected by everybody, disregarding rank and dignity.

The City Council finally succeeded in its claim. Thus, the figure of Joan Fiveller became a symbol of how the Freedoms of the citizens are to be preserved against any disrespectful king or State.
Back to the chivalresque saints, the figure of Saint George can be seen in the frontal of the Palace of the Catalan Government, in a graceful romantic representation of the brave saviour of the princess against the dragon. Jordi (George in Catalan language) is profusely present in the city, with sculptures, low reliefs and a particular cross, the cross of saint George (a red cross over a white background). Back in 1456 the Government of Catalonia made of Jordi its saint patron and decreed the day of St. George to be festivity. Since then the whole of the city has been celebrating its name day, the 23rd of April Saint Georgemas.
The myth of George gives much of a symbolic play. In line with the difficulties and threats along the centuries, the fight of the brave knight against the fearful dragon has been read in different ways: the good against the evil, the faithful against the unfaithful, Catalonia finally getting rid of the bullying Spain…
That cross which represents Jordi was also used as a kind of stamp to announce the implication of the Catalan Government in the creation of new institutions or the financing of new buildings. Beyond the big picture there is a recurrent detail in most of the old buildings of Barcelona, the cross of Saint George. Notwithstanding, that cross builds up the flag of Barcelona, together with the Catalan flag, and it is also part of the Blazon of the F.C.Barcelona. The flag of Barcelona is therefore the fusion of the Catalan flag

(which originally was the King’s Arms) with the cross of Saint George (which represented the Civil Power of the country). All in all
it represents the spirit of Medieval Barcelona, that ‘cap i casal’ (head and manor house of the Principality) which perfectly knew that its prosperity was based in the right balance in between the influence and honour of the Count-King and the liberties and rights defended by the Catalan Government.
The Political system developed in Catalonia was like a way in between the independent Italian City-States Republics and the Feudal kingdoms. Each actor had its part of responsibility, the Parliament was summiting regularly and a Constitution was establishing the role and rights of each part. Pactism, the art of negotiating to conclude pacts, made possible the rearrangement of positions before new challenges or threats.
In the spring day of Sant Jordi many balconies dress themselves with ‘senyeres’, the Catalan flag. And on the street one can find many bookstands and people selling roses. It seems that in a St. George day both Cervantes and Shakespeare died. So in homage to them the Catalan booksellers bring their shops to the streets offering a 10% discount. Many publishing companies wait for that day to release their novelties and national and international writers seat down in Les Rambles in the book-stands to please patiently the autograph desire of some readers.
Besides this book fever where everybody buys a book to give as a present to someone, there is the offering of a rose. In the story of Saint George, it seems that from the blood of the slay dragon

suddenly a rosebush grew. In that spot, taking George a rose and offering it to the Princess they fell in love. And there you go, as a Valentines’ day in a broader sense, in every corner of the city by
Georgemas there are rose sellers. And the lover won’t miss to give a rose to his girlfriend or wife and the son will have one for his mother or for his grandmother. All in all it is a joyful civil celebration.
A trip to the hill of Tibidabo can help us to figure out how clear the physical entity of a walled city as Barcelona could be. We can imagine the ease of the peasant escaping from his Lord, at the sight of the city, his safe haven, his token for freedom. The say that ‘the air of the city shall make you free’ is not a poetical verse of the Medieval Ages but coarse law of the times. After one year and a day of the arrival of a peasant into the city, that was not anymore a lord’s vassal but a free citizen. The line of the walls can be easily followed nowadays along Ronda Universitat, Ronda de St. Antoni, Ronda de St. Pau, Avd. Paral.lel. In this last avenue, a good panel of those walls with an entrance gate can be seen as it survived the demolishing of the walls in 1854.
Attached to this surviving section of the medieval walls we find the alleys of the shipyards. It is a building unique of its kind in Europe and its construction dates back to the middle of the 14th Century. Now it houses the Maritime Museum where one can learn about the importance of the sea for these lands. But in the Lower Middle Ages the ample spaces under the gable roof supported by square pillars joined at the ceiling by diaphragm arches, were very

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busy building ships. We are before a medieval factory building, a prime example of the civil gothic architecture. This functionality, spatiality, allergy to decorative elements, was for many centuries despised as an instance of humble gothic architecture. Nowadays it is rather regarded as a forerunner of the Modern architecture of the ‘less is more’ or even the Minimalism.
In the area of the Old Town know as El Raval, the most remarkable medieval heritage together with the Shipyards is the Hospital complex (in C/ Hospital). Partly financed by the chapter of the cathedral, the hospital has the name of ‘St. Pau i la St. Creu’ (St. Paul and the Holy Cross). The visitor can have a rest in the garden of an ample rectangle court-yard with aligned orange trees and a fountain. The later was useful for the people to improve their personal hygiene. The purifying scent of the flowers of the orange tree, together with the incense of the churches helped much to clear the atmosphere of the stinky medieval cities. The first stone of the hospital was put in 1401 in the reign of Martin the Humane. The gothic building is organised along three cloistered wings and has two floors.
The ground floor is covered by a risky low and broad ribbed vault, which at its turn support a second floor made of massive pointed arches supporting a wooden gable roof. The wrapping of the building has the characteristic massive walls, with discrete pointed arch windows. The generosity of the sun beams in these latitudes made no necessary the opening of big windows. The massive and high buttresses, seen from outside, help us to

understand how the ample area of the three covered wings supports itself.
The austerity trend of the Catalan architecture of the moment has an explanation. In Catalonia were well established monastic orders that preached for poverty. Since the 12th Century
the Order of the Cister had helped in the colonising of new land and their will to follow the example of poverty of Jesus was reflected in the plainness of their monasteries. In between a soft landscape of vineyards practically untouched since the first monks colonised these lands, both the monasteries of ‘Poblet’ and ‘Santes Creus’ are great examples of that austerity in architecture. Later, the arrival of the Mendicant Orders of the Franciscans and the Dominicans insisted in the vote of poverty. That was duly reflected in the monasteries these Orders built in the city. Probably due to the influence of these mentioned Monastic Orders, their style and constructive ways were further spread in the Catalan society.
The other reason that explains the austerity of the Catalan Gothic is the very same nature of the society of the time, based in trade. It is true that it was a king, a bishop, high clergy and many powerful lords living in the city. But the group of people defining the type of city were the merchants and craftsmen, people inclined to the saving and the logic of the minimum investment for the best results. The clearest materialisation of this thinking is the Basilica of ‘St. Maria del Mar’. It was financed by the productive Classes, which especially concentrated at the seaside where the import-export took place.

This church turns the simplicity into grandness, for the assumption of the Virgin Marie, for the ascension to the Lord. Besides the striking wideness of the church, without renouncing to the highness, ‘St. Maria del Mar’ shows an harmonious balance of proportions. Outside we can appreciate the typical octagonal towers and stuck at the door, in metal relief, two small stone
carriers: for future generations to remember all the voluntary effort that was necessary to make real this jewel of the Gothic architecture.
After faith, the only and central figure behind the altar, the merciful Virgin Marie was the real maker of all that. In this display of perfect geometry in action, the whole plant enclosed into three interconnecting circles, we see proportion, right scale, economy of means, a precedent of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of the modern architecture. The master mason Berenguer de Montagut achieved a great sensitive effect, as the heaviness of the stony outer wrapping gets volatilised at the sight of the weightless broad inner room.
The grace of the figure of the Virgin Marie (with the infant Jesus at her arms) in line with the eye of the Rose that alights the church, and right under the keystone of the apse, seems to express her content for the work to her honour raised. At the feet of the 14th Century sculpture, lies a little Coca (a cargo ship of the times). That the basilica is called ‘del Mar’ (of the sea) refers to something more than the proximity of the sea. The wealth, craftsmanship activity, trade, ship-forwarding shared ventures, the business that made possible the building of this and other churches and civil

buildings, all came from the Sea. Indeed, the foundational stone was placed in 1329, a few years after Sardinia was incorporated into the Catalan-Aragonensis Confederation.
Next to the apse of St. Maria del Mar opens a sort of square called Passeig del Born where in the Middle Ages took place the justines. That is the meaning of Born in old Catalan language. Looking at some of the buildings around the Passeig (avenue) del
Born, we can imagine the noble families staring from their balconies down at the bellicose amusement. El Born area was also renowned until recently as a glassware distribution centre. In el Passeig del Born, the first day of the year was taking place an important Glass Fare. The Catalan Glass was highly appreciated in foreign markets due to its good quality-price ratio. Sometimes it was sold pretending to be the much expensive and prestige carrier glass of Murano.
By the number of buildings from the Low Middle Ages, both religious and civil, Barcelona has gained a well deserved adjective of Gothic. That style, together with the Modernism (Art Noveau) from late 19th and early 20th Century, is the most relevant architectonic feature from the city. Concerning the gothic, we already commented that the Catalan version is slightly different from the style developed in other parts of Europe. The churches are always of a basilical plant, renouncing to the transepts with a single alley or when there are three, it is to develop a deambulatory path where the side naves surround the altar.

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The characteristics of the ground plant together with the way pillars and walls rise up to the vaults result in an ample, homogeneous, unbroken space. That effect is created thanks to almost equalising the height of the side naves with that of the central one. The thickness of the walls with moderate size windows and the soundness of the buttresses (not flying buttresses) permit the freeing of supporting elements in the praying area. The space left in between these buttresses is closed by an exterior wall and that allows the location of a chapel in the resulting room. That also
happens in the space corresponding to the apse, the so-called ‘girola’, reinforcing the holy walk from the entrance taking the right hand-side nave, surrounding the altar and continuing the visit alongside the opposite alley.
The cathedral shares all these typical characteristics of the Catalan gothic and a few more even rarer. Happens that the ‘cimborrium’, the dome that normally is on the transept and contributes to the natural lightning of the temple, is located at the feet of the church, just crossing the main entrance. The bell towers, instead of standing at the front as normally happen in most of the European cathedrals, in Barcelona were built right next to the apse. The story says that when it was the time to start the towers, the master builder disappeared. The bishop found out that he had left the country. The building of the bell towers had to be stopped while concentrating in other parts of the cathedral. After some years the architect came back to the city. He was now ready to resume his job and finishing the bell towers. He had been

travelling around Europe seeing other gothic cathedrals in search of inspiration to achieve differentiation.
But there is even a more strange particularity in this cathedral. Above the chapels opened along the side naves there is a series of connected rooms that made a long corridor, like a second floor of the cathedral. Scholars have come to the conclusion that that was done to give to the royalty an exclusive an safe place from where to attend mass. No wonder that till the 19th Century there was a bridge connecting the Royal Palace with this upper floor of the cathedral.
Moreover, one of the rooms of this seemingly Royal Tribune, right above the main gate, stands facing the altar at the opposite side. That room is a privileged standpoint from where to view the relics of St. Eulàlia, buried in the crypt, right under the altar. Surrounded by the mysterious look of manifold little heads in high relief, opens up the underground crypt which is a broad heavy low ribbed vault. At the centre of this sombre sacred room, stands an alabaster sepulchre of the Pisan artist Lupo de Francesco. Works of foreign artists are not rare in the Cathedral and in medieval Barcelona. Just to mention some, in the little museum at the Cloister we find a great late Flemish Gothic oil by Bartolomé Bermejo and in the Gate of the Piety one can see a wood low relief tympanum by the Johannes Loschner.

Photo collage of gargoyles within its architecture frame, from the Cathedral, the churches of ‘St. Maria del Pi’ and ‘St. Maria del Mar’ and palaces of the City Council and the Generalitat.

When the stone becomes alive

As we commented earlier the Catalan Gothic was pretty sparing in outer decoration. Nevertheless there is an abundant sculpture feature, gargoyles. Let us take a little in-depth into the world of the gargoyles and how these particular creatures were proliferating in medieval Barcelona.
The term gargoyle stands for a sculptural exhaust pipeline used to drain out water from the roof of a building. The Romanesque architecture already placed in the buildings’ cornices ‘larimers’, for tear. That system of water expulsion was not efficient enough to avoid problems of humidity. That is why the Gothic architecture, exercise of practical human might for the glory of God, enlarging the ‘larimers’, came to develop the gargoyles.
The outline forms of a building are symbol carriers (circle for heaven, square for earth, sharpness for stairs to heaven, etc…). Likewise, any detail, corner or the sculptural works have also its load of symbolism. A gargoyle is more than a mouth to spit out water. The representations that the mason chiselled in those heavy stones were not just done for the sake of visual entertainment. Gargoyles are living testimonies of the beliefs of our forebears, from this world, from heaven, from hell.

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Barcelona is particularly rich in gargoyles, with more than 200 authentic specimens. Certainly the austerity of the Catalan Gothic gave few chances to the masons to employ their skills in
the main sculptural program, like the typical apostles in the facades. In some cases, like the church of St. Maria del Pi, despite niches for the twelve apostles were opened at the main gate, the figures were never installed or done for the sake of money saving. Notwithstanding these limitation to carry on a whole sculptural program like the one seen at Reims cathedral, masons surrounded with monstrous beauty the whole sky of Barcelona. Why?
The primitive source of the three religions of the Book is the Persian cosmology, where all was an everlasting fight in between angels and evils. Let us remember how Satan was an archangel of God that was send down to hell by the archangel Michael after uprising against the Almighty. Lucifer had in the Underworld a whole army of bad spirits at his service. And they were to raid up, between Heaven and Hell, to temp Humans to fall into sin.
The Bible and the official texts of the Christian religion silenced these manicheist thoughts of angels and evils. Nevertheless in the popular believes and in the speeches of priests, devilry was commonplace. The fear to be taken by the evil was the best deterrent to convince the people about the bad consequences of falling into sin. And how does demons appeared to those people so superstitious? Animal alike.
The human being since primitive times has had fear for the wild beasts. Humans also tend to project themselves in other

creatures. We have got God in the image and likeness of man. Likewise, animals are carriers of the best and the worse of the human behaviour. The amazing zoo one can find in the cornices of Barcelona’s old town is a complete set of virtues and sins
represented by different animals. Some of them are easy to identify, as lions, eagles, dogs, pigs or even crocodiles. Some others are anthropomorphical, half beast half human. We also can find imaginary animals like dragons, basilisks, harpies or unicorns.
Some of these animals, like the ox and the eagle, take a lively form, parading along the streets in the feasts of ‘St. Eulàlia’ the 12 of February, the 16th of August for ‘St. Roc’ or in ‘La Mercè’ the 24th of September. It is a tradition that dates back at least from 1589. Wooden and painted cardboard figures of animals together with Christian and Moor giant kings and queens keep walking, amazing the kids, carried by strong men in their inside, at the compass of rural flutes (gralles) and ‘bastoners’ (wooden stick fighters). All these figures are kept in a good state and new members of the bestiarium have been added recently. All that crew of rare creatures lives in a palace at the c/ Mercaders, easily seen from the outside thanks to a generous window.
The Bestiarium, a very popular book in Middle Age, instructed the people about existent or non-existent beasts. Masons learnt about animals and monsters they never would see in life thanks to that illustrated book. Another essential text that helps the contemporary reader to see with the eyes of the Medieval people is the Apocalypses of St. John. To him was revealed the

time of the Final Judgement, the trumpets of the angels calling for destruction and the dragon as the sheer incarnation of Satan. No wonder we can find around 85 dragon gargoyles in Medieval Barcelona.
In this reading of Good Vs Evil we can classify the different
gargoyles in one or other category. A unicorn is pure, an elephant may express strength (of the church) and a wild boar remembers the viewer about filth and greed. But some animals bear both good and bad behaviours. That happens with the dog, faithful but also able to fall in madness, as well as with the brave but cruel lion. The later, as the eagle and the bull may also represent the evangelists Marc, John and Luke.
A certain number of Gargoyles are fully human representations, as the case of a king and a queen, a troubadour, a gladiator, a councillor… In that case the intention of the mason was that of honouring a public figure, to entertain the view with some exotic representation or, most of the times, to mock on some Barcelonian citizen fallen in disgrace. As nowadays we use Mass Media for backing or criticising a given institution or personality, in old times they could have used gargoyles to flatter or annoy a public figure.
The core of Barcelona’s old town has got Cathedral, Palace of the King and Palace of the Archdeacon separated in between them by just a few yards. The gargoyles of the Cathedral facing the king’s palace are rather pleasant, as a St. George, an elephant, a unicorn… The right side of the Cathedral’s façade bears a complete

set of beasts from a horrendous animal farm, all facing the Palace of the Archdeacon. That probably was the way for the cannons, officers of the Cathedral, to give the good morning to the Archdeacon, administrator of the Bishop who was the boss in the Cathedral. Politics of the time?
A striking feature the gargoyle world is the high degree of
expressionism reached in the faces and contortions of the figures. No wonder as they were placed there to impress and to deter people from falling in sin. ‘Be a good Christian if you don’t want to spend your afterlife as these monsters up there, damned for eternity’. Attached to the stone, with no chance to escape despite their efforts; an everlasting existential anguish is what the gargoyles seem to express. They are there, in suspension, seemingly ready to free themselves… But the Church gives no forgiveness to sinners. These monsters will be the mark separating the holiness and safe haven of the inner temple space from the dangerous world outside the house of god.

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Moreover, the tension inherent in a 90 degree angle (being the wall vertical and the gargoyle placed horizontally) reinforces the suffering load of the scenes. Two other elements come to help us in this symbolic interpretation: the wings and the ugliness. Not only dragons and eagles but wolfs, pigs, men, women and other represented beings do bear wings. Perhaps it was to increase the degree of torturing in the creatures caught in stone. ‘I could fly but I can’t’. Ugliness comes to magnify the awful fate reserved to those who follow the example of Lucifer. See how dirty is the pig. See

how the body of a man adopts the shape of a goat for falling into sin. See the hoofs and fangs developed by the followers of Satan. The zoo of hell is a monstrous one.
But not everything up in the sky of Barcelona is such a frightful gargolescape. Angels and forces of good also have their corners, the tetramorfus from the Evangelists and even a canon are present. Particularly interesting are some babies riding on a monster. Would that mean that a pure soul is to defeat the wicked thoughts?
Besides that everything is open to interpretation and further research it is also true that not all the gargoyles are to be seen in a religious manner, the fight of good against evil. Sometimes we have gargoyles as adverts to pinpointing for example where to find the street of the blacksmiths. A King and Queen in the City Council tell us about how these personages gave the privilege to the citizens to have a City Council. We also can find in the apse of the Cathedral a whole scene of the countryside life, with the cows, sheep and shepherd dog. The councillors of the Catalan Government entertained their regard with mythological scenes from the Roman times or from characters from Muslim lands. With the transition into Renaissance (times of Humanism) became more frequent the representation of chimeras (mixes of species) and the showing of different Classes and professions of the time.
The last decades of the 15th Century brought more unhinge in the desperate faces of the damned stone creatures. Was that in

relation with the woeful sign of the times, when Catalonia was depressed by economic decadence and scourged by Civil War?
The Baroque offers the last shows of gargoyles. They turn less heavy and more mannerist in style. Eventually, it came the time when architects found more convenient to chisel low relief faces on the cornices, sticking them a tube on their mouths to drain out the rainfall. Then, the secularisation of societies and inner-pipelining systems brought to an end the tradition of creating gargoyles. But still nowadays, walking by in a quiet gloomy evening in the Gothic
quarter of Barcelona one can glimpse up to the sky and hear the screams of those beings, feeling pity for them, wishing their liberation, giving them a gleam of life with your glance.
They are more than a piece of stone. As Norbert Font i Sagué said in its erudite work ‘Les Gargoles de Barcelona’, ‘They, indeed, may talk us about the origin of some of our traditions and they show us the vices, virtues, beliefs and worries of the most glorious Age of our Catalan Nation.’


In a history of Barcelona, with the pre-eminence of merchants in a society based in the connection of craftsmanship and trade with the required investment in both, we could not miss the Jewish. They were an important minority in medieval Barcelona. In a population of around 35.000 inhabitants, the Catalan-Jewish from Barcelona could have accounted to a figure of 5.000. There are records of the presence of the Jewish in Barcelona since the High Middle Age. Nevertheless, some scholars believe they could have been in Barcelona since the Roman times. Persecuted during a period of the Visigoth kingdom and mainly tolerated during the Muslim domination, the Jewish elements had been proved very positive to dynamize the towns in the medieval times.
As a separated community established in many towns of the Christendom, the Jewish were under the rule and property of kings and bishops. For that reason they were paying extra taxes. Thanks to the importance of the alphabetisation of their members, the Jewish were far more learned people than the Christians. That is the reason why most of the doctors of the time, or even chancellors and ambassadors of the kings of Aragon were Jewish. Moreover, as the Jewish also were learned in Arabian, they also played an important role in transmitting the wisdom from the enlightened south to the back-warded north.

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Alabaster low relief from a sepulchre in the Cathedral.

The language skills of the Catalan-Jewish together with the solidarity of the commercial Jewish network was especially helpful
in opening markets in Eastern Mediterranean lands. Once the seed of the first commercial connection had developed, that was followed by the establishment of a Catalan Consulate in the given port. If necessary, the Merchants’ ships from Barcelona, Valencia, Mallorca, were armed, turning them into galleys, to reassure by means of force or intimidation the link of the given port with the metropolis of that maritime trade empire.
In crafts like silversmith and bookmaking the Jewish were especially skilful. But what everybody remembers nowadays is their ability for the money lending. Indeed, that trade was forbidden for the Christians, so the Jewish only came to fill up an essential social or economical need. Being creditors (that role played by a minority of the Jewish community) made them no doubt being hated by some sectors of the Christian society. They were often also hated as tax collectors despite that the money was at last term bound for the nobles and kings.
The ‘Call’ is the place to go. Jews mostly lived in a quarter called ‘el Call’. The name might come from the Hebrew ‘kahal’, meaning together, or from the Latin ‘callum’, which means street. ‘El Call’ is a little neighbourhood, a series of streets in the very core of the old town in between the cathedral and the church of ‘St. Maria del Pi’. The narrowness of the streets is remarkable. The most visible of the measures applied against the Jewish community since mid 13th Century was their enclosing in their

neighbourhood or ghetto, namely ‘el Call’. Unable to live outside this area, they started to find their space in the vertical, adding floors to the houses, growing their quarter in density.
Nowadays we can imagine the golden ages of that community in Barcelona, to visit part of their ritual baths in an old furniture shop in c/ Banys Nous, to visit what is believed was the major synagogue in C/ Fruita. Probably there took place the famous ‘Dispute of Barcelona’, confronting the Rabin Rambán with the Dominican Pau Cristià to discuss whether or not Jesus was the elected, the Messiah. In the Placeta de Manuel Ribé one can visit the interpretation centre of the Catalan-Jewish inheritance in the old enchanted House of the Alchemist.
In mid 19th Century Joan Amades produced an important piece of literary work assembling popular stories, a milestone in the Catalan literature called ‘Costumari català’. Well, some of these stories more or less rewritten whit the imagination of the author are concerning Barcelona. The story says that a pretentious nobleman fell madly in love with a pretty girl. But she refused to give him her hand. Fully enraged, the nobleman decided to take the outmost revenge asking for a special perfume to a renowned Jewish alchemist from Barcelona. For a good sachet of gold coins, the alchemist was going to elaborate a deadly perfume able to kill at the first touch on the skin of just a drop of the scented water.
The lord finally got his little weapon and the girl to be polite accepted the present, with all its deadly consequences. Then the alchemist discovered, to his desperation, that the unfortunate

object of the noble’s revenge was no other that his daughter. For many centuries that house remained abandoned, and still nowadays there is a strange air in the street, when passing around the corner of the House of the Alchemist.
Before the remains of a urban fortress in C/ Call we can figure out how most of the Jewish were assassinated or obliged to convert with a knife in their neck in 1391. How, how it came to such a sudden violent halt a long trace of Jewish-Christian peaceful and fruitful living together?
Let us rewind to make the broad picture. By the second half of the 12th Century, Albigensians had denied the doctrine of Rome and raised a continued protest against the perceivable corruption of the clergy. They were threatening the established social order. Albigism (or catharism) was growing day after day, with increasing number of followers in North Aragon, Llenguadoc, Occitaine, Alpine valleys, Lombardy and in cities like Tolosa de Llanguedoc or Montpellier. The condemned heresy was composed of several religious movements like Patarins, Valdenses, insabatatos (barefooted), poor from Lyon...
Catharism had striking doctrinaire differences with the Church of Rome and was spreading out with the example of poverty. The Cathar Church was not a burden for either peasants or citizens (remember Church tithes) and the Pacifism of the Cathar’s program made unnecessary the military caste. A new church with no confessions and child baptism mastered by perfect men, made useless the Official Church offer for redemption. Manichean to the

bone, Catharism considered any earthy thing poisoned by evil. Cathars avoided everything considered a by-product of sexual reproduction, including cheese, eggs, milk and butter. War and capital punishment were also absolutely condemned, an abnormality in medieval age.
Rome had commissioned the Cistercian Order to control down the Catharism. But Cistercian monks, enclosed in their oasis of peace and prosperity, handled out the job to another order, the Dominican one. Domingo de Guzman and bishop Acebedo adopted the same conduct as their opponents – they kept begging and preaching around. It seems that miracles helped Dominic of Guzman, in a time when any argument was useful in order to get heretics back to Rome. In the village of Verfeil, also known as ‘Satan’s Palace’, the harvesters dared to work in St. John’s day. Then, by heaven’s punishment the harvesters’ hands started to bleed. The desperate harvesters prayed and knelt at Dominic of Guzman’s feet, and their wounds were immediately healed. Rome’s doctrine succeeded in the trial of the fire in Montreal: some Cathars in a theological disputation threw Dominic’s papers to a bonfire, but the flames left unburned the ‘rightful doctrine’.

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Heresy however, proved to be like an hydra that for any axed head three more heads sprang out. The thundering preaching of Dominic of Guzman needed the backing of a strong organisation. The monastery of Santa Maria de Prulla was the seed of the future Gestapo of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile Dominic of Guzman ‘at the mornings preached and by night prayed and tortured his body’.

But all miracles and organised inquisition by the Dominicans would have lead to nothing if the Pope and the king of France would have not launch a terrible extermination crusade which also had the unspoken aim by the king of France to cut short the influence of the count of Barcelona in La Provence. Pope and King of France succeeded in their ambitions and the Catharism ended in a bloody massacre and later persecution. Once done his job, Domingo de Guzman returned to the Iberian Peninsula.
On his way back to Castile Domingo stopped in Barcelona and it is believed he founded a convent in the very centre of the Jewish Call in 1219. Maybe he devised that Jews will come after heretics.
Domingo de Guzman successor, Raymond de Penyafort, was to reinvent the order of the Dominicans in their deadly persecutions. The parents of Raymond de Penyafort belonged to the gentry. The castle farmhouse of Penyafort is in the village of ‘Santa Margarida i els Monjos’, in ‘Penedès’ county, land of great wines and cava, not far from Barcelona. Raymond de Penyafort studied in the Cathedral school of Barcelona and afterwards he became a Canon. He met Domingo de Guzman while in Bologna University. Raymond de Penyafort became a preaching friar before 1213. That year the Pope accepted the establishment of the new Dominican Order. By 1220 he wrote ‘Summa Poenitentia’. Valls i Taberner in his book ‘Sant Raymond de Penyafort’ thinks the aim of Raymond de Penyafort was to give a set of rules to be used by his brethren when considering the sentences in the Penitential court.

The Pope’s agent in all Aragon kingdoms took Penyafort with him to Rome. Penyafort had become a distinguished expert in Canon law. Penyafort’s relationship with Pope Gregory IX became very close and fruitful. He became the Pope’s priest (a kind of policy adviser) and his confessor. When in the Pope’s service, Raymond de Penyafort re-arranged and codified the Canon laws assembling them into the vast piece of legislation called the
‘Decretales’, (Ecclesiastical law in operation until early 20th century). Raymond of Penyafort also became the Pope’s man in Narbona Archdiocese (Provence) and in Tarragona (Catalonia). He appointed Inquisitors as friar Pere de Tenas and friar Pere de la Cadireta. Probably Raymond de Penyafort himself wrote the bull ‘Declinantes’ of Gregory IX in 1232. In that bull Tarragona’s Archbishop is warned about his duty to act against heresy in his diocese.
Raymond de Penyafort fathered the Inquisition - in the 1st Title of the 5th Book of the ‘Decretales’ (De accusationibus, inquisitionibus et denunciationibus) the dreadful procedures of the Inquisition were enthroned. That is, the Accusatio gave legal coverage to the secret enquiry or the Inquisition with no public audience. The 7th Title deals specifically with heretics.
Was Raymond de Penyafort foreseeing in the first third of the 13th century a new target after defeating heresy? That might be the reason why Raymond de Penyafort wrote down two more titles talking about Jews and Moors and their conversion. Raymond de Penyafort devised discrimination against Jews as a tool to preserve

Christians from the Mosaic faith. Raymon de Penyafort in the ‘Decretales’ went far beyond being a simpler codifier of the Popes’ jurisprudence. Raymond de Penyafort is one of the fathers of Christian intolerance and criminality because his comments and selections of Pope’s letters and Concilium’s Acts.
Raymond de Penyafort became a very influential and respected person in the kingdoms of Jaume I the Conqueror, after his stay in Rome. He was in the Catalan Parliament held in the
town of Montsó to plan the conquest of Valencia, he lifted excommunications, he proposed the appointment of bishops… Later on he founded with King Jaume I and friar Pere Nolasc the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy to raise funds and alms to free Christian prisoners in Muslim countries. The church of that Order (rebuilt in Baroque times) is in the carrer Ample, with a bridge crossing c/ Mercè to connect with the convent where now stands a military building.

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The relationship between Raymond of Penyafort and the king was as close as conflictive. When in Mallorca, angry Raymond of Penyafort decided to abandon the king because the loose sexual behaviour of the Monarch. The king did not allow Raymond de Penyafort to leave the island, and ordered that no ship took him on board. When Raymond de Penyafort found out that no ship would admit him, he threw his cloak on the sea and jumped on it. The cloak became a sail and via miracle Raymond de Penyafort arrived to the mainland. He achieved a ‘super undas’ (above the waves) trip.

Raymond of Penyafort is also remembered for promoting learning of Arabic and Hebrew languages among Dominican friars. This was a need in order to preach in North Africa and also at home. P. Laviesca in his biography of ‘San Raimundo de Peñafort’, page 19 states: ‘He encouraged his colleague, Ramon Martí, and induced him to write the famous book ‘Pugio Fidei’ that helped to win disputations against rabbis’... The bull of Pope Clemence IV ‘Turbato cordo’ in 1267, helped Dominican friars to get knowledge of Jews as it ordered the confiscation of Jewish books to be
inspected by Dominicans.
Pau Cristià was a follower of Raymond of Penyafort. He was a Jew that became a Christian and challenged rabbi Ramban or Bonastruc Sa Porta in the famous ‘Barcelona Disputation’. Probably due to excessive verbal violence by the confronting parts, the king stopped the disputation on the third day and sometime afterwards Raymond de Penyafort seized the synagogue and confiscated its books in search for blasphemies against the Christian religion.
After all, after all the disputation and conflict Rabbi Sa Porta was forced to leave his country, Catalonia. Jewish sources say that Dominicans had a long hand in this affair. Were the black friars bad losers? The illustrious Rabbi Sa Porta exiled in Jerusalem, where he wrote: ‘I left my family, I have abandoned my hometown, my sons and daughters and my grandchildren so beautiful and beloved... I also left my soul...’
Raymond de Penyafort is one of the greatest in his Order together with Domingo de Guzmán, Albertus Magnus and Thomas

Aquinas. Raymond de Penyafort became the third General Master of the Order and wrote its Statutes. In the cathedral, there is a chapel with a standing tomb, a lying sculpture of a black friar of a severe rictus, the very same Raymond de Penyafort. He was made saint by the Pope in 1601 and the Lawyers of Catalonia still have him as his saint patron. Other European Law Bar Associations have a much more exemplar patron Saint in the figure of St. Iu (Ivo, Ives, Yves).
Catalan Dominicans like Ramon de Penyafort and Vicenç Ferrer were unbeatable preachers, taking the masses out to the
streets to hear their apocalyptic speeches. The source of all evil was the Jewish. Another seed for anti-Semitism was the proclamation by Pope Inocencious III of the Jewish as the ‘deicide people’.
In the 14th century, after finishing with the Cathar heresy, a new target had to be found - people who were circumcised. By the end of the 14th C. bad times came to the whole of the kingdom and the Jewish people paid the broken plates. The Dominicans were accusing them from all the disgraces: Black Death, decaying trade, etc. Then, like a plague, all over Sefarad and the Azkenaz lands a campaign of pogroms ocurred. In the Andalusian village of Ecija appeared a killed baby. All fingers pointed to the Jewish. By domino effect all towns and villages with Jewish presence experienced fanatic scenes of pillage and murder against the Jewish People. The Call of Barcelona was also ravaged.

Properties from the rich people were specially targeted. That outburst of violence had much of nihilism and scapegoat finding. The masses were crying ‘murder to everybody! God save the king and the common people’. It has been esteemed in 300 the Jewish killed that day of 1391. Despite justice was done by the king, hanging some foreigner preachers and the leaders of the mob, the community never recovered. Then, in 1402 the Call was declared extinguished and the Jewish were more or less obliged to take the Christian religion.
In the privacy of their homes the Catalan Jewish, now converted to the Christian faith, continued practicing their religion while playing an important role in society and in the economy. But
then the Court of the Inquisition made its appearance. In Castilia already in 1442 the so-called law of the ‘Purity of Blood’ was passed. Slowly, slowly was taking shape an ideology with the non declared goal of displacing the Jewish from some professions while at the same time stealing their properties and capitals. The job to put in action this operation was given to the Inquisition, an autonomous entity within the State with full powers to carry on with their inquiries and intimidations. In 1487 Ferdinand the II, king both of Castile and Aragon, decrees the establishment of the Court of the Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon. There were branches in Perpinyà, Mallorca and Barcelona.

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The coming into scene of the Inquisition was regarded as very negative for the City Council of Barcelona and the Catalan Government. The councillors of the city were asking the king to

reconsider his will to allow the Inquisition to establish in Catalonia. From a constitutional point of view the Council and Catalan Government knew that the Inquisition could do and undo whatever they wanted, disregarding the laws of the city and the country. From a social and economic point of view the councillors knew that if the Catalan Jewish (most of them now converted to the Christian faith) suffered persecution that would endanger the development of the economy. And that was what happened. The Black Death, the closing of the eastern Mediterranean routes, and the suppression of that fundamental minority in the society, send Catalonia into times of decadence.
With the establishment of the Court of the Inquisition King Ferdinand II, so-called the Catholic, answered the councillors: ‘first
god and then the land’. 1492, when the Nasrid Emirate of Granada (the last area in the Iberian Peninsula of Muslim faith) was conquered, and when Columbus arrived to America, was the date when all Jews from Sefarad were obliged to leave their homes.
The administrative quarters of the Inquisition were in what for centuries had been the Count-Royal Palace. As the King was not in Barcelona anymore but his Lieutenant and later Viceroy, the ‘Holy’ Court of the Inquisition (only responsible before the King) was occupying some facilities of the later. In the Plaça de St. Iu, in front of a side Cathedral gate, over a window with a heavy iron grating we can see the blazon of the Inquisition. Framed inside a square it is basically the Coat of Arms of the Hispanic Kings, with a lamb hanging, after the order of the golden fleece, and above all an

olive branch to the left, a sword to the right, and a cross in the middle. The merciless Black Friars offered the cross to the suspects. If accepted they were granted with the peace of the olive branch while when refused descended the unforgiving punishment of the sword, in fact the flames.
The other place where proceedings, namely torture, were carried on was in nowadays Food Market of St. Caterina. Before the market was built in the 19th Century, in this spot stood the convent of the Dominican friars. Many ghosts were freed when the convent was burnt to the ground in 1836. Secret enquiries and tortures were carried in this convent, ending in the ‘autos de fe’, deathly processions, that terminated at the stake in Plaça del Rei where the unfortunate convicted were burned.
Different to the Religious jurisdiction and its punishment
methods was the civil justice. Here we can not miss a brief comment about Bòria street, off Plaça de l’Àngel. That square, where nowadays there is the metro stop ‘Jaume I’ from the yellow line, used to be the very centre of Barcelona as it was quite in the centre of the town. Due to its geographical position here it was one of the main markets of the city. Right there, until the urban reforms that transformed the centre and enlarged the city beyond the walls, it was located the prison of Barcelona.
‘Baixar la Bòria’ (running down la Bòria) meant that the convicted, once the unlucky sentence was issued, was put on a horse or a donkey and was taken down through this street to be mocked by the population. It was a good ride with many weeping in

all the street crossings. All ended in front of the cathedral where the convicted one was marked with a burnt iron to be forever stigmatised. People who were more unlucky finished the ride in nowadays Pla de Palau, where the hanging spectacle took place.


Those glory as bloody times (read about the mercenary corps of the Almogavers) were followed by centuries of stagnation. It is the time when somehow the Principality diluted into the Hispanic Empire, when Catalonia shared the same King as Castile (though Spain didn’t exist yet). From the times of the Emperor Charles the V, ruling over half Europe and the Americas, there are some remains in Barcelona. Noteworthy is the ‘Palau del Lloctinent’ (Palace of the Lieutenant) and la ‘Casa de l’Ardiaca’ (House of the archdeacon).

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The most identifiable feature to tell how Barcelona entered into another epoch is the abandonment of the almond arch. Newly built or reformed buildings from the 16th Century started to open bigger windows, making them square. The entrances adopt the straight lines of the Renaissance, the classical attached columns topped by a pediment. Barcelona is not an outstanding Renaissance city as the eternal Rome but it has many details of classical facture that contribute to the architecture mosaic of a city that with more or less enthusiasm has tasted all the styles.
In that Renaissance style, apart from the buildings above mentioned, deserve special attention a series of palaces in carrer Montcada (where Picasso Museum is), the entrance gate to the

Walled in window from the ‘Palau Aguilar’, site of the Museu Picasso.

Hospital complex in carrer Hospital, in carrer Elisabets the gate to a church reconverted into a Book shop, in Plaça dels Àngels an
old convent, the gate of another hospital in carrer Banys Nous, the old shoemakers’ headquarter in Plaça St. Felip Neri or the side gate of the church of La Merçè in carrer Ample.
Again, as when we covered the Romanesque and Gothic styles the Cathedral is a place to visit. The Gothic style of the cathedral is like the continent of the whole temple, but the content in its manifold instances has shows from almost all the styles covering a span of more than 800 hundred years. Thus, when talking about renaissance we could not miss the organ and part of the core, the architectonic open room in the middle of the central nave used for special meetings and the Canons assemblies.
In this choir, above each of the carved folding chairs, there is an excellent collection of coat arms from important early 16th Century families. They were then the mightiest lords of Europe, and they gathered in this cathedral for the first meeting of the Order of the Golden Fleece. In this meeting it was announced that the Emperor Maximilian had died. That made automatically one of the youngest attendees, Charles, nephew of Maximilian, the new emperor of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire. He was call to enlarge this empire to horizons never imagined before, overseas, an empire in which the sun never set.
It is true that what the 16th and 17th Century left to the city, is incomparable to the grandness and number of buildings from the 14th and early 15th Century. That the Gothic lines extended their

live until well entered into the 16th century is as well very telling about the sentimental attachment of the city to its Medieval golden ages. Nevertheless, that no spectacular building activity was
carried in the Renaissance times does not mean that the city was idle in its dream of past glories. After the firsts outbreaks of pest, the extinction of the House of Barcelona, the switch in pre-eminence in the Aragon Crown from Barcelona to Valencia, a bloody Civil War, and a dynastic union with Castilia that made of Catalonia periphery of Hispania, Barcelona started to wake up by the middle of the 16th Century.
After the study of Albert Garcia Espuche in ‘Un Siglo Decisivo; Barcelona y Cataluña, 1550-1640’ these dates were times when Barcelona turned into the real economical capital of Catalonia. The territory was organised along a coastal and Pyrenees axe where middle towns produced cheap for the big city that specialised in the product finishing and in its commercialisation. Despite the trade with America was a monopoly of the Kingdom of Castilia, the merchants of Barcelona and the Catalan products found a side way to reach the overseas markets. The then famous Catalan Glass, together with textile, wine, spirits and other goods where send to Medina del Campo, Madrid, Sevilla, Lisbon, to be consumed there or further sent to the Americas.

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Assembly of buildings and courtyards from the Old Hospital, ‘Casa de la Convalescència’ and school on the background.


That reinvention of Barcelona was reflected in some prominent examples of Baroque style along the 17th and 18th century: a good handful of chapels inside the cathedral, with wood solomonic columns, theatrical altarpieces, the church of ‘St. Sever’ in the street of the same name, the church of ‘St. Felip Neri’ in Plaça St. Felip Neri or the courtyard in the ‘Palau Dalmases’ in carrer Montcada, the ‘Casa de la Convalescència’ in c/ Montalegre, the ‘Casa de la Caritat’ in the same street, the ‘Casa Barnola’ in c/ del Pi, the ‘Palau de la Virreina’ in Les Rambles (where you can pick up some leaflets or get advised as it is a tourist information point).
The mentioned ‘Casa de la Convalescència’ was part of the Hospital complex opened back in 1401. As it was enlarged through the centuries, the gothic and renaissance facilities were followed by new buildings of Barroque and neoclassic lines. The ‘Casa de la Convalescència’ is a building from 1629 that now houses the Institut d’Estudis Catalans. The space is organised around a cloistered courtyard of the Tuscan order with a sculpture of St. Paul at the centre standing over a well. St. Pau is also the theme of an impressive tile tale of the martyrdom of the apostle in yellow and blue. That is not doubt a must for any lover of old tile works.

Also in Les Rambles there is the Church of Betlem, which was the quarters in Barcelona of the influential order of the Jesuits. That institution was early adopted in these lands as the very same
founder, Ignatius de Loyola, was living and studying two years in Barcelona. It is well documented that the Basque nobleman Ignatius de Loyola after his journeys in the holy mountain of ‘Montserrat’ and the town of ‘Manresa’, stayed for two years in Barcelona to continue with his studies. Off Via Laietana, next to the Jaume I metro stop, there is St. Ignaci de Loyola street. In this aged building with a geometric graffito work is where the saint supposedly lived for two years. He is represented on statue at the very entrance of the Church of Betlem in Les Rambles. Next to him, in the same theatrical gesture stands the also Jesuit St. Francesc Xavier (the apostle of the Indies, after his missions in India and the Far East).
The protruding features of the main and the side façade of that church tell us about the power and influence of that Order, dedicated specially to the schooling. But there, in Les Rambles, the Jesuits had much competence. Before the establishment of the Jesuits, where nowadays is the famous market of ‘La Boqueria’ it was the convent of the Carmelites, dedicated to St. Joseph. This advocacy is the reason why the official name of the market is ‘St. Josep’. That name can be read in the Modernist entrance of the food market.
As said in a past chapter, in the right hand side of Les Rambles (walking upwards from Columbus statue) there was a panel

of Medieval Walls. These walls lost their raison-d’etre already in the 15th Century when a new enclosing wall was completed. In 1770 the Spanish military occupying force authorised the demolishing of these walls in Les Rambles. Being the widest via of Barcelona, it
became immediately very attractive to the groups with more capital to spend in building, namely nobility and religious Orders. Along the right hand-side of Les Rambles the main noble families built their palaces, while in the other side the most important religious Orders raised their temples to god.
Caputxins, Agustinians, Franciscans, Trinitarians were other monastic Orders established along Les Rambles. In all these cases the convent as a whole has disappeared but in some instances the cloister alone has survived, now integrated as part of a hotel (as in the ‘Hotel Oriente’) or in a police station. In some other cases, despite the convent was fully brought to the ground, the general shape of the successor building, as the façade of the ‘Liceu’ (Opera House) or the porches of Plaça Reial, remains and keeps the spatial spirit of its predecessor. The French occupation in the times of Napoleon, episodes of turmoil and Government decisions during the Liberal Revolution, anticlerical attacks and fascist bombing during the Civil War, are some of the reasons behind the sweeping away of many convents once sited in Les Rambles.
Outside this area we could mention other churches that in the 0ld times also functioned as Convents, with their cloister and garden for own supplying. One of them was at the end of the lively street Tallers, a late baroque church with a characteristic dome

covered with ceramic tiles which is an element proper of these lands since the middle ages when that decorative element was learned from the Muslim. Better known by the locals, of a better picturing and with a long history, is the Basilica of ‘La Mercè’. The Virgin of la Mercè (Mercedes or Mercies) is the female patron saint of Barcelona. If you pay a visit to the city by the 23rd of September you will enjoy some public celebrations like concerts and parades.

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An interesting part of this feast is the ‘human towers’ (castellers). It is carried by local associations (collas) as by invited associations from other Catalan towns. The ‘human towers’, sometimes rising to a level of ten ‘human floors’ might seem at first sight as a disorganised bunch of people jumping on each other. However, the structures of one, two, three, four or five people for floor are a perfect bond of human pieces. They are like these gothic churches, with their, supporting and crowning elements, with counterweights, buttresses, foundations…
Some theories say that the origin of this tradition is to be found in the times when castles were under siege: assailants built human towers to enter into the castles. This colourful, after the shirts of the participants, tradition based in the motto ‘força, valor i seny’ (strength, boldness and control) are to be seen in the packed Plaça St. Jaume by ‘La Mercè’ festivities.
Despite the Virgin of ‘la Mercè’ was venerated in Barcelona since 1218, it was in 1637 when she became the female patron of Barcelona (somehow displacing St. Eulàlia). It happened that in the Summer of 1637 a locust plague was chastising these lands. The

insects were rapidly ruining the crops, entering into the houses… The people dreaded the foreseen famine. Then, the day of the 23rd of September it was decided to appeal for holy help, taking out in procession the figure of the Virgin of ‘la Mercè’. And to the astonishment of everybody, the locust vanished at once from the capital and the whole land. To thank the Virgin of ‘la Mercè’ for that Miracle, she was appointed as the official Saint patroness of Barcelona.
The present church was built in 1765 but the institution (the Order of La Mercè) dates back from 1218. An attentive look deserves one of the side facades, a renaissance-with gothic reminiscences gate. St. Michael, sword in hand, defeats the evil at his feet while two figures at the sides and the gargoyles above act as spectators.
Happened that in the times of James the Conqueror one of the military businesses of its reign was the war against the Muslim kingdoms (the so-called taifas) from the South. That leaded to a good number of Christian prisoners in the hands of the ‘unfaithful’ from Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia… After this ‘humanitarian’ problem a business was organised: the redemption of prisoners after the due payment.
The Order of La Mercè was fulfilling that function, to collect money to pay the ransoms and recover the freedom for the Christian prisoner. With the centuries this original goal of the order turned less important. But the Barcelonians never abandoned their esteem to the virgin of ‘La Mercè’, which can be seen on the

top of the dome, holding the baby Jesus in her arms. The square that opens in front of the baroque façade of the church was the place to recreate the birth of ‘Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’ in the film ‘The Perfume’. Many other scenes for that film were shot in Barcelona’s old town.
Another square of the 18th Century with a baroque church is the one of ‘St. Miquel’, in the Neighbourhood of ‘La Barceloneta’, in
Plaça St. Miquel. The façade of this church, in this seaside characteristic quarter, is a mix of baroque curvy forms and sculpture with decoration recalling the times of the Roman Empire. That is especially visible in the metopes, with Latin sentences, elephants and Roman arms. That church is the most notable original building from a neighbourhood remarkable for the straightness of its streets, when compared with the unplanned winding drawing of the old town medieval streets. ‘La Barceloneta’, a newly plan neighbourhood from mid 18th Century was adopting the new enlighten urban ideas of order and straightness.
But why a new neighbourhood was planned and finally built? Happen that since the reign of King Philip the IV, the Catalan Government sited in the Palace of La Generalitat in Plaça St. Jaume was at odds with the Monarch. The Favourite of the king, the Count of Olivares, planned to dilute the Principality of Catalonia into a unified Spain ruled under the ‘law and style’ of Castile. The so-called Union of Arms, the undeclared plan to subdue Catalonia, was perfectly stated in a secret letter from the Favourite to the King:

‘Your majesty might have as the most important business of his Monarchy, to become king of Spain; I mean Sir, that His Majesty be not satisfy with being King of Portugal, of Aragon, of Valencia, Count of Barcelona… but work and think with wise and secret council, to reduce these kingdoms that make up Spain, to the style and laws of Castile without any difference, that if His Majesty achieves that, he will be the most powerful Prince of the world’.
“… Tenga V. M. por el negocio más importante de su Monarquía, el hacerse Rey de España; quiero decir, Señor, que no se contente V. M. con ser Rey de Portugal, de Aragón, de Valencia, Conde de Barcelona, … sino que trabaje y piense con consejo mudado y secreto, por reducir estos reinos de que se compone España, al estilo y leyes de Castilla sin ninguna diferencia, que si V. M. lo alcanza será el Príncipe más poderoso del mundo.”
From DÍAZ PLAJA, F.: La Historia de España en sus documentos: El siglo XVII. Madrid, 1.957, pp. 119-121

It was the time when also Portugal and the Netherlands were also at war with the Hispanic King, in the context of the War of the 30 Years. This countries wanted to separate from that Habsburg Monarchy to thus achieve their independence and end the foreign oppression. Well, Catalonia lost its bid in the War of Secession or of the Harvesters (Guerra dels segadors). The war started well for the Catalan side, winning the battle of ‘Montjuïc’ (a well preserved castle which is an excellent stand point from where to see a great panoramic view of Barcelona).

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But finally the Catalan Government, after trying different ways to disattach from the Hispanic Monarchy (proclaiming itself as a Republic and later paying homage to the French King Louis

XIV as a means to have a new protector) had to accept a sour Peace. Catalonia could preserve its Constitutions and Institutions but after the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, in between the Hispanic and the French kings, Catalonia saw the amputation of its northern lands, Roussillon.

Central courtyard and tower of the castle of Montjuïch at the top of the hill of the same name.

La Ciutadella, La Barceloneta, the military grip.

50 years afterwards, Barcelona and the Principality were again under threat. It was the ‘War of Succession’ to the Hispanic Throne. Two pretenders opted for the vacant dignity, one of the Habsburg House and the other from the Bourbon House, the reigning family in France. Happened that Castile was up for the Bourbon, Philip V, while Catalonia and the Kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon wanted the Habsburg pretender, the Archduke Charles III. Catalonia joined an international alliance with all the Habsburg territories, England, Holland and Portugal. Because the war lasted too long, England finally abandoned the Alliance after securing Gibraltar, Minorca (both key to control the Mediterranean trade) and good conditions for the slavery trade with the American Spanish colonies. Thus, by 1713, Catalonia was left alone defending the cause of the Archduke Charles.
The centralist trend of the French candidate was well known. He was willing to sweep out any statehood of Catalonia: own Government, a Constitution to be sworn by the King, own Institutions… Thus, the Catalan Government had no alternative. The mighty walls of Barcelona where resisting a long siege by the French-Castilian troops but finally succumbed. Records tell us about people starving, about the desperation of the Barcelonians that brought them to appoint the Virgin of la Mercè as the General of their troops.

The different organised craftsmen had an important role in
the defence of the city. In peaceful times, the guilds organised parades, carrying their standards and going to some church where they normally had a chapel with the saint patron of the profession. But in times of war these guilds were committed to defend the city. In the siege of 1714 it was more than a mere duty; it was survival for the Barcelonians. An especially insistent stroke of bells was the signal for the city defence. Each guild was in charge of protecting a given section of the city walls.
Beyond civil responsibility or patriotism, this military voluntarism was the only choice left to the members of the guilds as they knew that total submission was the only plan that the Bourbon pretender had for Catalonia and its capital. ‘They will be worse than slaves, and never more will enjoy privileges, that their properties will be lost, and that all their effort in the fields will not suffice to pay the contributions and taxes that we will put on them…’ said a Bourboun agent. (From Magda Fernandez in Espionatge bornònic, pag. 248).
The final disaster came the 11th of September of 1714. Catalonia lost the war of Succession. And as the Catalans had been fighting against the new king, they were severely punished. Next to ‘St. Maria del Mar’ there is a square, formerly a graveyard, a memorial acting place to remember the heroes of 1714. There, one can read: ‘al fossar de les moreres no s’hi enterra cap traïdor, fins perdent nostres banderes serà l’urna de l’honor’ (in the graveyard

of the mulberry trees there is no betrayer buried. Even when losing our flags, it will be the urn of our honour).
The new king put an end to the independence of Catalonia
abolishing its Constitutions and making of Catalonia a mere Province from a centralised state. To control the Catalans, the king demolished a 1/5 of the buildings of Barcelona (in El Born quarter) to build a fortress star shaped, called ‘la Ciutadella’. Thus, many people became homeless. That is the reason why some decades later a new neighbourhood had to be built. That is ‘la Barceloneta’, perfectly straight planning as it was designed beforehand by military engineers. Until recently ‘La Barceloneta’ was the fishers' neighbourhood. No wonder you can find so many restaurants where to eat excellent paella and seafood.
So that 11th of September was a gloomy day for the Barcelonians. Some prohibitions were put on the population, the Catalan language was banned from the Government offices. And the worse, the huge fortress called ‘La Ciutadella’ was to stand as a permanent reminder of defeat and control for the population. From then on the city was to be under the tongs of the occupying forces, from the north and from the south, from the castle up on the hill and from the fortress of ‘La Ciutadella’. The resource to easily bomb the city from these two spots, when the military considered it so, was indeed used many times specially along the 19th Century.
Luckily, the enraged king did not go on with his initial plan to raze to the ground the whole of the city, like the Romans did with Cartago. Nevertheless, the new ruler made use of a few signs

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to remind the population about the consequences of being defeated. When the Commander in Chief of the Catalan forces was arrested after trying to escape to Mallorca, he was sentenced to be dragged by a horse for some time. Then, his body was quartered
and each of these body parts was sent to different parts of the Principality. The head of the unfortunate general Moragues was placed in a hanging jail. And there it remained, for the lapse of twelve years, as a deterrent to the Catalans against rebellion. A Catalan flag high on a post, in the very same spot were the head of the unfortunated Moragues was hanging, at the entrance of the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta, next to the ‘Escola Nautica’, remains us about the sacrifice and martyrdom of that brave patriot, who gave his live for the freedom of the land.
Besides that dreadful dissuasive advertisement of the head, the city was awarded with a series of stone placards with the royal coat of arms of the new victorious Bourbon king. As if in the times of the Habsburg House, the Royal Coat of Arms depicted the Catalan flag, the new Bourbon version rashly suppressed it, leaving just the Castle and Lion on red and white after Castile. By means of these placards, the new king made clear that the Catalans were now no more than a province of Castile.
But despite the total defeat and the bad prospects for the future it is said that the day after the occupation, most of the shopkeepers from Barcelona simply opened their shops to do business as usual. Slowly, slowly the population from all conditions

was forgetting their political side, accepting the occupation, and was progressively focusing in the improvement of the economy.
The enlargement of the breakwater was key in the economic recovery of the city. The lighthouse at the end of the Av. Joan de Borbó stands nowadays as a landmark of these times of slowly takeover. The original houses of mid 18th Century in the
Barceloneta are the best preserved picture of that new Barcelona looking forward for progress but still under the grip of the military. These houses could not be higher than one floor, as we can see clearly in the C/St. Miquel with St. Carles and in the C/Atlàntida. The reason behind that regulation was that, in case of maritime attacks the cannons from the fortress of ‘La Ciutadella’ had to have a clear shot against the approaching warships.
Some houses were being embellished by the affordable though pleasant resource of the ‘Grafitto’ façade-decoration. There are many examples in the city, like the houses in Plaça George Orwell, Via Laietana 50, Plaça del Pi or Plaça St. Just. In most of the cases the graffito work depicts scenes of the Arcadia, pleasant rural views, with playful puttis, or more serious atlantes, caryatides or busts.
Some of the most remarkable works were commissioned by the professional Guilds like the ‘re-sellers’ (pl. Pi) or the ‘sail makers’ (Via Laietana 50). Let us remember the way a graffito is made: over the stone or brick of the façade two layers of mortar of different colour are stretched; then the artist proceeds to scratch over the outer layer revealing thus a drawing; all together a kind of

counter-relief. This Mediterranean Rococo so present in Barcelona recalls us to a time of optimism and increasing change in the social values, brought by the Enlightenment. Barcelona was growing in population, its Port was increasingly busy, import-export traffic and the first modern-factories were appearing in the city.
When walking by the pleasant Neoclassic Gardens of the ‘Laberint d’Horta’, it seems as we can breath the order, the equilibrium achieved in these last years of the 18th Century, in between the Ancient Regime and a timidly rising Industrialism.
That dynamism was cut short by the troubles derived from the Napoleonic ambitions. The Spanish Crown was by 1807 in alliance with Napoleon’s France. The King Carlos IV allowed the French army to cross its Kingdom in their objective to invade Portugal. But once inside the Iberian Peninsula, Napoleon decided he will force the abdication of the Spanish King replacing him for his brother Joseph Bonaparte. Barcelona, as many other Catalan cities was occupied by the French troops and a new foreign administration was established to rule the city. That was a disaster for the economy of Barcelona. A good deal of the Catalan trade was done with England and as the sea was controlled by the British navy, to be hand in hand with France was very damaging for the Catalan trade.

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In Barcelona as in the whole of Catalonia the feelings against the French were high. Historical memory from a neighbour which for centuries was overambitious as much as the bad behaviour of the new civil and military authorities made the occupation of

Barcelona (1808-1814) a nightmare for the locals. We own to the Napoleonic troops the first profanation and ransacking of convents and churches, the robbing and dismantling of many artistic treasures. The occupier was taxing gravely the Barcelonians, which had to sustain and feed the military. Business and factories were closing down. The manufacturing suffered from a general lack of raw material. The port once busy was now orphan of ships. The population of Barcelona decreased dramatically.
Enervated as it was, the population tried a complot. That was discovered and their promoters brought to the stake. To homage their memory a monument was erected in a little square in front of the entrance of the cathedral’s cloister. It is a work of the sculptor Josep Llimona and at both sides of the bronze group of figures we can follow the story of the ‘martyrs’ in a tile work. Tough times… Even a kid who was tolling the cathedral bells in order to gather the resistance was hanged by the French authorities.
When the French troops put an end to the occupation, both the capital and the country were fully devastated. But good foundations for entering into the modern times had been worked out since long.

A touch of neoclassicism.

1714 marks the end of the Statehood of Catalonia. Since then, after the historical say, Catalans concentrated in businesses. And it was from the countryside from where the push for the Economic and Political recovery of the country came. Back in the 15th C. took place the Catalan Civil War. One of the contending parts where the ‘Remences’ (peasants), who struggled to keep their status of small and medium owners. That aspect of the Catalan Civil War has some parallelism with the Farmers German War, so well narrated and analysed by Friederich Engels in his work ‘The peasant war in Germany’.
Thanks to the success of the Catalan peasants in that late medieval war, paid with so much blood, the structure of the land in Catalonia was that of small and medium owners. Thus, the peasants were keen to improve the production to have benefits. Along the 17th and 18th Century the surface of vineyards was growing. Wine turned into the key export that would direct the Catalan economy (thanks to the accumulation of capital and its investment) into the path of the industrialisation.
In the threshold of the Industrial revolution those farmers focused their production in exportable goods, such as wine and dry fruits. Meanwhile in cities as Barcelona started to appear textile factories. Before the French occupation Barcelona was

The ‘Llotja’, the medieval Merchants Hall reformed in its facades in the neoclassical style in 1770. The building was key to the economic recovery of Catalonia from late 18th Century onwards. In the second floor there was the Art Academy where artists like Picasso, Nonell i Gargallo studied for some time. ‘La Llotja’ also housed until late 80s the Stock Exchange of Barcelona.

manufacturing the so-called ‘indianas’, then a very fashionable piece of cotton cloth printed with different motives.
Meanwhile, in the land, in those farms called ‘Masies’, the tradition put that only the eldest son inherited land and ‘Masia’. The land could not be split apart. That is why the rest of the sons had to find their way somewhere else, in the city or in America, not anymore in religious institutions to become monks or priests. Until 1780 the trade with America was reserved to the Castilian Ports. But since that date the trade with America was also open to Catalan, Valencian and Mallorquian Ports.
A virtuous family business network was put in action: produces from the original farm were sent to Barcelona to the relative that was in charge of the forward-shipping, reaching another relative in America, importing in return goods to be sold in Barcelona and the Spanish market. Some of those farmers’ sons really made a fortune in America, especially in Cuba. Some of them decided to stay, like Bacardi. Some others, once Cuba became independent, decided to come back to Catalonia. Doing that, bringing their fortunes, they capitalised the country. These people were called Cubanos or Americanos (as they came back from Cuba or America) and they were going to be the leaders of the new society taking shape, based in the investment of Capital.
The ‘Port Vell’ (Old Port) was the epicentre of all this transoceanic trade that made Catalonia the locomotive of Spain. From there, and all the way until the beach you will find many

restaurants, specialised in Paella and seafood. No wonder as since recently that was the fishers’ neighbourhood, ‘la Barceloneta’.
Also in the ‘Port Vell’, moored next to the ‘Rambla del Mar’, we find a very well preserved specimen of these cargo ships of the
times, in that case for coastal shipping. Her name is St. Eulàlia and is of the Pailebot type. It is prepared to do trips around the harbour as the very popular ‘Golondrines’ do, moored next to the Columbus statue. The old shipyard, now Maritime Museum, is again the place to find more about the seafaring and the overseas trade, together with social aspects as the migration movements. That Barcelona that profited from the activity derived from the overseas trade had its reflection in the very same look of the city.
‘Plaça Reial’ or ‘Els porxos del Xifré’ in Passeig Colom are good examples of the urbanism of the times. But the medieval walls that were enclosing the city were not yet demolished. Considering the new demographic and socio-economic demands, the City Council had no alternative but to operate into the tight network of streets making big squares and widening some streets.
The outer look of most of the buildings in the old town is from that time. During the third, fourth, fifth and sixth decade of the 19th Century, many buildings were reformed. Washed facades with stony window frames, heavy balconies of a thick soil and iron bars. And the higher the floors go, the little the windows turn. In that time the use of brick was fully enforced and was cohabitating with the all-times sandstone from Montjuïc. A peculiar feature of that period is the addition of floors to pre-established buildings. As

the population was growing (130.000 by 1830) and the city was still limited by its walls, new room for habituating had to be found necessarily upwards. Paying attention up to the facades of many buildings, one will notice traces of cornices turned into longitudinal lines in between floors. That happened to cornices that lost their function when new floors were added to the building.

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Modernisation and urban reform.

From 1836 onwards the city went through a radical reordenation, destruction and new building in many parts of the city. 1812 saw the birth in Cadiz of a very progressive Constitution that despite was never enforced, it left the seed of the liberalism in the Iberian lands. When the French troops left in 1814, the Bourbon monarchy was restored. The initial joy was quickly turned into opposition to a king that sticking to the absolute powers of the ‘ancient regime’ was a brake in the modernisation plans of the burgess and the freedom will of the working class. Thus, the Liberal party was gaining supporters and for some years they could gain the Government of Spain.
Burgess and workers against the privileged ones, aristocracy and clergy. But while the aristocracy took a more pragmatic stance adapting itself to the new capitalism ways, the Church contrariwise decided to fight in order to keep its abusive privileged status. Giving support to Carlos, the traditionalist pretender to the throne, was the Church bid. That, together with many other reasons like the ‘Foralism’ (self-rule of Basques and Catalans) opposed to the centralist policies of the Liberals in Madrid, caused three decades cruel Carlist Wars.
So Liberals, namely Burgess and Working Class, and Church were enemies at that time. When the Liberals had the chance they

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Plaça Duc de Medinacelli, opened after the demolition of the convent of the Franciscans. The monument, form 1851, was then of a rash modernity as it was fully made with iron. The man at the top of the column is Galceran Marquet, vice-admiral of the Catalan Marine. We also can appreciate the palm trees, a new botanical element imported to Barcelona in these times from America.

enforced the Laws of Desindowment that put to public auction most of the land and property owned by the Clergy. More than the
Bishopric properties, the ones who paid for the modernisation of the society where the Monastic Orders. Monks and nuns were forced to abandon their convents. Where before was pray and charity, food-markets, squares, theatres were opened. Thus, the look of the city changed so much. It has been esteemed that 80% of Church properties in Barcelona were expropriated to leave place to the new demands of the society, and the ‘greed of the burgess’.
Besides this compulsory desindowment we have to mention the displacement of the city graveyards, consequence of a movement calling for more hygiene and secularisation, bringing burial places away from the city centre and becoming city owned. As one can see in the Plaça de la de Madrid, Roman cemeteries stretched along the ways (vias) outside the city walls (extramural). The assumption of Christianity brought a change in this inhumation practices. The wish to be buried close to Heaven increased the demand for tombs next to the churches, namely inside the city walls. For many centuries people was used to harmful stinky flairs originated in the church cemeteries (mephitic steam). By the 18th C. forgotten practices were to return, namely bringing the cemeteries outside the town. In Poble Nou neighbourhood was installed the first modern cemetery of Barcelona. There, were transferred the bones from the old parish cemeteries which at their turn became squares for public use. Poble Nou Cemetery is consequence of the Illustration ideals. Its

design, the austere neoclassic lines, all is telling us about the new citizenship ideology in vogue, up for rationality, uniformism.
The Law of Desindowment leaded to a radical urban shake up. Many great pieces of architecture were turned down, lost for ever, as the Franciscan convent that was substituted by a pretentious military building right next to the statue of Columbus. In some other instances, like the Dominican convent and the convent of St. Francis de Paula, the replacement turned into bright emblematic new sites, buildings, institutions for the city; case of the Food Market of Santa Caterina and the ‘Palau de la Música Catalana’ respectively. Finally we have to recall a handful of rare cases in which whole cloisters and churches were dismantled, all the stones numbered and packed up, and then after a few years rebuilt in other quarters of the city. Two examples of these rescue actions are the parish church in C/ Aragó with C/ Lluria and the church in Rambla de Catalunya with C/ Provença.
1835, with the first riots that put to fire some convents, and the consequent desindowment or ‘Desamortización de Mendizábal’ of 1836 were definitely a turning point in the local history. As said, that had a heavy affectation on the urbanism of the city. It was the time for wide streets, to favour transport and hygiene, straight planning, elegant street lamps and even trees to create good conditions for the commerce, straight planning, facades done under regular patterns but showing much dignity through the classical elements they bear. The quarter of the old town known as ‘el Raval’ is a good example of the later. Dozed in decay, fevered

with the most alternative dwellers, creative and fashionable, habitat of different civilizations, the denizens of ‘el Raval’ seem as they would have just landed in a forgotten ‘Victorian’ scenario.

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Much more touristicable are Plaça Reial, C/ Ferran and C/ Princesa. These are perfect examples of that Barcelona pushing forward to build up its modernity even though inside an old frame. Walking along the Ferran and Princesa streets we can notice the homogeneity in between the different blocks of houses, the straightness and generous width of the street compared to the narrowness of the confluent medieval streets. When C/ Ferran was opened, its neatness and modernity quickly attracted the commercial life. And by the hand of a good handful of surviving shops from the times we can travel back to the beginning of the shopping fever, while appreciating old advertisement ways and the design of the furniture of these establishments. We can imagine how pleasant would be for a burgess to go from one to the other shop; and how frustrating would be for an exploited worker to realise that everything was beyond its reach.
The survivors, the establishments preserved generation after generation, have been awarded by the City Council with a metal plaque that lies like a slab on the street at the entrance door. The design of these diplomas of fidelity to the shopping tradition of the city depicts a series of icons which used to identify the different professions from Barcelona. The restaurant ‘Can Culleretes’ in C/ Quintana or an old Pharmacy in C/ Vidre are good examples of these long life shops.

Plaça reial is another prime example of that liberal Barcelona. In the space left by a burnt convent of the ‘Caputxins’, an elegant square with some colonial flare was opened in 1848. The trade with America via Cuba brought to Barcelona something more
than cotton and benefits from the commercialisation of Catalan goods. That connection Cuba-Catalonia provoked also some changes in the urban aesthetic of Barcelona. The palm tree, so fitting for any urban decorative purpose, like the high Washingtonias from Plaça Reial, is a vegetable-artistic Antillean input from that period. The people then definitely demanded big open spaces to spend their time of leisure, not to see people being hanged as centuries ago, but to have a coffee in a terrace while seeing the people walking. The Mediterranean stile of life, enjoying the time outdoors under sunny days, was somehow institutionalised in these times.
The housing needs also played an important role in the construction of spaces like Plaça Reial or the block of houses ‘Porxos del Xifré’. The members of the Burgess Class wanted to live in flats that matched their wealth, both cheerful and serious in its external look. Some call that style ‘Isabelino’ as it was developed in the times of the Queen Isabel II. The fact is that it is a sort of Classicism alighted by the colour of its washed façades; embellished by a complete collection of low reliefs related to mythology, horoscope, America and Sea Trade. Notwithstanding, the Real State developer of these houses, where Picasso was living in his adolescence, made a fortune trading with Cuba.

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To the national shame, it has to be said, that that ‘senyor’ Xifré, as Antonio López and some other great tycoons of the Catalan industrialism, participated in the traffic of slaves. Normally that trade was done in a early stage of the business career. Then, when the entrepreneur had a position and recognition, he switched that inhuman trade to invest into the more decent textile sector.

Down with the Walls

By the middle of the 19th Century, Barcelona counted with a population of roughly 200.000 inhabitants and the surrounding villages like Sants, Gràcia and St. Andreu were becoming larger towns. The inhabitants of these areas were mainly of workers. Nowadays, when walking along its streets or resting in a terrace in a plaça, one can figure out the spirit of the times. Then, occurred ludist actions (machine destruction), general strikes, demands for democracy and utter refuse to the military service to go on fighting in a colonial war in Morocco. When the industrialists considered that their position was endangered, they did not hesitate to call for help to the military, to cut short the Working Class and Low Middle Class struggle for more rights.
Despite the existence of the figure of the Mayor, the ultimate power was in the hands of the military. The later had the figure of the Captain General in the highest office of the Province. The structural weakness of the Spanish State and the long instability of the central government made in some instances some of those Captain Generals like little dictators, leaving few room for the elected Mayors.
The power of the Spanish military was not only a brake for democracy but also for the city development. Barcelona was then considered of strategic interest and due to that reason nothing

Section of the medieval Walls, the only part that survived to the demolition of 1854.

could be built outside the walls. Thus, new housing and factories were complied to find room in the increasingly packed old town.
The frequent epidemics that decimated the population were consequence of the obfuscation of the military, prohibiting the enlargement of the city. But after decades of demand, the civil campaign ‘Abajo las murallas’ (down with the walls!) got the approval of the Central Government.
The turning down of the Walls was a self financing operation: as the stones were resold and with that the labours could be paid. Many stones were used for the pavement of the streets. Besides, the Walls’ clearing job which took 14 years to be completed, as a New Deal from the times, helped much to fight the unemployment.
The demolishing of the Walls in 1854 made possible a brand new city outside the walls to take shape, the ‘Eixample’ (New Town). But that is another story, that of a modern Barcelona that despite conquering a new space never forgot the cradle from where it came from. The fact that the Enlargement plan for the modern Barcelona (a master plan of the urbanist Ildefons Cerdà) considered few interventions in the old town made possible the preservation of the later. For another 28 years, until the Universal Exhibition of 1888, the Barcelonians still were living with the last remaining section of the medieval walls at the sea side. It allowed the favourite walk to the locals, facing that busy Port, always key to the wealth of the city, facing that Mediterranean sea that accounted for the prosperity and the character of Barcelona.

We have gone through many episodes of Barcelona, from its birth to its eclosion in the industrial era. And as we recall the glories of the Medieval times and how all came to be forgotten, we reflect upon the positive consequences of decay. If Barcelona would
have continuously galloped on might, fame and prosperity, would have its impressive Gothic heritage been erased? That the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries were for Barcelona times of relative stagnation turned into a guarantee for the preservation of the old architecture. As it was no spare wealth to replace the old building for new ones, the old ones continued to be in use. And as all reader will agree, good work has no expiring date.

(Licensed Tourist Guide from Catalonia)

(when relevant).

- C/Ample
- Plaça de l’Àngel
- Plaça dels Àngels
* C/ Aragó
- C/ Ataülf (Visigoth king)
- C/ Atlàntida
- C/ Avinyo (like Avignon, the city in Provence)
- C/ Banys Nous (New public Baths)
- C/ Bisbe (Bishop)
- C/ Boria
- C/ Call
* Rambla de Catalunya
- C/ Ciutat (City)
- Passeig Colom
- C/ Comerç (trade)
- C/ Comtes (Count)
- C/ Correu Vell (The old Royal Mail)
- C/ Duran i Bas
- C/ Elisabets
* Passeig de l’Exposició
- C/ Ferran
- C/ Flassaders (Sheet makers)
- C/Freneria (blacksmiths)
- C/ Fruita
- Plaça George Orwell
- C/ Hospital
- C/ Ignasi de Loyola
- Avinguda Joan de Borbó
- Via Laietana (Via of the Laietans, the Iberian tribe fromt he Barcelona area)
- C/ Llibreteria (book-shops)
* C/ Llúria (After Roger de Llúria, commander of the Mercenary Corps of the Almogavers).
- Placeta Manuel Ribé
- C/ Mercaders (Merchants)
- C/ Mercè
- C/ Mirallers (mirror makers)
- C/ Moles (grinding Stones)
- C/ Montalegre
- C/ Montcada
- C/ Palla (Straw-market of straw)
- Avinguda Paral.lel
- Pla de Palau (esplanade of the palace)
- Plaça del Pedró
- C/ Pi (pine tree)
- Plaça del Pi
- Avinguda Portal de l’àngel (Angel gate)
- C/ Princesa

* C/ Provença
- C/ Quintana
- Les Rambles
- C/ Regomir
- Plaça del Rei (Square of the King)
- Plaça Reial
- Ronda St. Antoni
- C/ St. Carles
- Baixada de St. Eulàlia (the slope of St. Eulàlia)
- Plaça St. Felip Neri
- Plaça St. Iu (St. Ives)
- Plaça St. Jaume (James)
- Plaça St. Just
- Plaça St. Miquel
- C/ St. Miquel
- Ronda St. Pau
- C/ St. Pau
- Ronda St. Pere
- Placeta de St. Ramon Amadeu
- C/ St. Sever
- C/ Sots Tinent Navarro
- C/ Tallers (Workshops)
- Tapineria (sandle makers)
- C/ Templers (the order of the Temple)
- Ronda Universitat
- C/ Veguer
- C/ Vidre (glass)
- Plaça de la de Madrid

(Licensed Tourist Guide from Catalonia)