Barcelona Gothic Quarter Barcelona History


The city of Barcelona is a very old city founded by the Romans as they conquered what was then Spain following their victory in the Punic wars against Carthage, although some say the city was initially founded by one of its generals, Hamilcar Barca, brother to the more famous Hannibal. Whatever the original historical source, the city bears a strong imprint from the past. The Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gotic in Catalan, bears it beautifully in a series of buildings, monuments and squares.


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The Gothic Quarter


The term gothic comes from a style of architecture that began in XIIth Century and lasted until the XIVth Century. It refers to the comparison of pre-XIIth Century art to that of the Goths, a barbarian people that helped bring about the downfall of the Roman Empire. Like most European cities, this old city is the centre of the modern conurbation where you will find all the major public buildings, such as the Palau de la Generalitat, the Town Hall and the Palau Reial. Any urban growth both destroys and conserves the past and Barcelona is no exception. You are only seeing part of what was one there. Both the Middle Ages and XIXth Century were periods of extensive urban change in Barcelona.

Picture of the Roman wall that remains in the centre of the city

If you go searching for the ancient Roman walls around the Tapineria, Avinguda de la Catedral and Carrer de la Palla, you will roughly delimit what is the Gothic Quarter. The old Roman forum was located near the Placa de Sant Jaume and it is from here that the major architectural additions to Barcelona began.

Let us start with the Nova Square, which dates back to 1355 and contains the Portal del Bisbe. You can also admire a façade of the Episcopal Palace. If you find your way to the Architects Association building, there are engravings by Picasso and Nesjar. The lovely Catedral Avenue not only offers the Catedral but also craft fairs and activities. Moving on to Tapineria Street that takes its name from a sandal used by women in the Middle Ages, you will walk through the Ramon Berenguer Square, which is a gold mine of visual treasures, such as the statue of Ramon Berenguer III and wall towers. Do not walk away so quickly else you will miss views of the Royal Palace and Chapel of Saint Agatha.

Picture of Reial Square in Barcelona

From one square to another, in this case that of Angel Square, which was the old entrance to the city. The name refers to an XVIIth Century statue of the Archangel Michael that was erected to commemorate one of his miracles. The statue can now be found in the History of the City museum. Slowly walk through Sots-Tinent Navarro street and Traginers Square to imagine what life was like here centuries ago before coming to Regomir street that is either named after a famous general or a count who restored the irrigation system. Take a picture of the Saint Cristofel Chapel with a beautiful Roman door before coming into the Llimonia courtyard. History loves authors and the Avinyo street is named after one who wrote a book on Catalonian history in 1400.

Sadly, the next area is one that is repeated all across Western Europe, as the Call street was the ancient Jewish Quarter prior to their expulsion in 1401. There are small little historical stories in the Banys Nous (New Baths) and Palla streets that are nice to discover. Many parts of the Gothic Quarter were dedicated to saints and the Saint Llucia street is an example, in which you can find the chapel dedicated to her as well as the Casa de l’Ardiaca, then you find yourself in the Placa de la Seu that dates from 1421 in front of the Catedral. This square also contains the Casa del Dega.

Picture of Rei Square in Barcelona

After this stage, things get a bit statelier as you move through Comtes street on which the Palace of the Counts of Barcelona resides with the Frederic Mares Museum to Rei Square that accedes to the Royal Palace and Royal Chapel. In your haste to get a glimpse of royalty, do not pass by the sculpture ‘Topo’ by Chillida. The column of the Temple of Augusts is on Paradis street, aptly named after the atrium of the VIth cathedral. Unsurprisingly, the seat of political power is at the Sant Jaume square as it sits at the intersection of the two main streets, one of which is the Bisbe street that links Nova and Sant Jaume squares. It is recommended that you visit two more squares in this area, namely the Garriga i Bachs that contains the Monument to the Martyrs of 1809 and Sant Felip Neri that is named after and has a chapel to a famous Jesuit saint. A well-rewarded rest is best at the fountain in its middle.



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