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Monday, July 30, 2012 (read 865 times)

The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona - Gothic Architecture in Spain

by Seun

The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is well known as the city’s historic centre. A brief look into almost any touristy guide book to the city will confirm that some of the buildings in this part of the city date back to a Roman founding in 15 BC. Moreover, the flamboyant facades and towering spires of the Barri Gòtic are much more than enough to convince all them that know not fine art that these buildings do indeed belong to the oeuvre of Gothic architecture left to us by generations past. And they do belong to that oeuvre.

Barcelona Cathedral is perhaps the most outstanding of the structures which the city has inherited. Its highly ornate and distinctly gothic façade so frequently serves as the money-shot on the front of guidebooks and on postcards. It owes its founding to the Romans who had first built a cathedral on that spot in the Plaça Nova during their occupation of the country. Between the 13th and 15th centuries the cathedral was rebuilt in that ornate gothic style on top of the previous building. The cathedral is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Eulalia, whose poignant story tells of her brutal martyrdom at 13 years of age. It is in dedication to each year of her life that there are 13 geese kept in the cathedral cloisters.

Such is the image of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter; an image so ostensibly rooted in years and years of history that, unsurprisingly, hearing that the seemingly aged façade is a recent installation is only ever received as an absolute scandal. But, Barcelona Cathedral is by no means the exception. In a controversial although undoubtedly original doctoral thesis which found its way into the Spanish press last October, Agustín Cócola Gant details a movement aimed at restoring the dilapidated centre during the end of the 19th, early 20th century. The project, which has also been described as a local bourgeoisie attempt to exhibit Catalan architecture, gave what was once no more than a “Poble Espanyol” an immaculate Neo-Gothic makeover. Amongst other (not really) Gothic features of Barcelona are La Casa Padellàs (housing the Museo de Historia de Barcelona), El Palacio Aguilar (which houses the Museo de Picasso) and the Puente Gótico in la calle Bisbe.

Regardless, it was a job well done. Not only is the Gothic area of Barcelona incredibly convincing, it is also stunningly beautiful. Although that romantic (or Romanic) aesthetic of an architectural inheritance is somewhat dispelled, the city does have a lengthy history to hold on to. Even that Roman foundation of Barcelona Cathedral was itself built upon a Visigoth church. Some argue that the urban planning of the Gothic Quarter at the beginning of last century likens the city to a theme park. But surely, with such a heritage to its name, this now exposed little secret is but a scratch on Barcelona’s reputation.

Keywords: gothic barcelona, gothic quarter, gothic quarter barcelona, gothic architecture, barcelona cathedral, gothic area barcelona, barcelona

Posted In: Spain, Tourism, Culture


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