Barcelona Historic Background

The Roman domination, which lasted for six centuries developed the colony “Julia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino” within the limits of what, in those times, were the natural limits of Barcelona, between the sea and the mountain and between the rivers Besos and Llobregat.
The later invasions of the “Barberos” meant the fortification of the city within walls, but the decline of the Roman empire gave place to the Visigoth domination. King Ataulfo established his dominion over the city.

Later, in 716, Barcelona fell into the hands of the Arabs and remained so until 801 when it was freed by Luis el Piadoso, the son of Charlemagne. The independence of Barcelona was born from the fight against the Arabs.
The strength and tenacity of the brave Guifre el Pilos, in the fight against Islam, won the heart of Charlemagne, who gave the city its independence, a fact which made Guifre el Pilos hero of the moment and later a Catalan National Hero.

From here began Barcelona’s era of greatest expansion and splendor. A fertile trade route with Genoa and Venice was established and later the marriage between Ramon Berenger IV with the Princess Petronilla of Aragon created a vast and rich kingdom. The expansion reached its zenith with the conquests of King Jaume I, who drove the Saracens out of the Balearic islands and extended his dominion to Corsica, Sardinia, and  Sicily. In his “crusade” he even fought against the Arabs in Greece and Turkey.

In this way Barcelona was converted into the most prosperous city in the Mediterranean and Peninsula, it was the city’s era of maximum splendor.
Evidence of this splendor was a large number of stately buildings and walls which were built in this era in what now forms the present nucleus of the city.

A splendor that culminated with the great adventure of the discovery of America. A large number of the ships of the discovery were constructed in the “Les Drassanes”, the shipyards of Barcelona. Slowly the central government turned its attention to other parts of the Peninsula. This provoked a rebellion which finished with the confrontation of the Borbonic troops against the city of Barcelona. The city was forced to surrender and lost the privileges of Catalonia on the 11th September 1714.

The national rights of Catalonia, the Consell de Cent, and the Generalitat were abolished and the Catalan language was prohibited. As a reprisal against the break imposed by these forces, the people of Catalonia declared this day, 11th September, the “Diada”, the National Festival of Catalonia.

The losses were great for Barcelona and were not limited to the abolition of political rights. More than a thousand buildings were torn down to construct a military fort called “La Ciutadella” The demolition of this fort to construct a great park which housed large buildings destined to be museums, according to the plans of Ildefonso Cerda and the celebration of the Universal Exhibition in 1888 gave the people of Barcelona reason to celebrate as they saw the bastion of their dominators destroyed.

It was precisely the “Plan Cerda” begun for this Exhibition and finished in 1929, which gave Barcelona the possibility to regain its urban strength and citizenship This had begun to recover during the reign of Carlos III, during its phase of imperialistic decline which stressed the need to recover the strong commercial push of the Catalans.

Without a doubt, the final development of the “Plan Cerda” allowed the city to expand into what is now known as “L’Eixample”. This connects the old quarter to the villages of Gracia, Les Corts, Sant Gervasi, and Sarria, forming the city as it is known today. The latest remodeling, for the 1992 Olympic Games has fashioned the definitive Barcelona, reflecting a new era of commercial expansion, both cultural and political, by this city’s role within the Iberian Peninsula and the cultural framework of the Mediterranean.

1 thought on “Barcelona Historic Background”

  1. Great article! To this day I had no clue that the ships were made in Spain to get to ‘The new land’! It just goes to show how old Europe is, and how long we needed to travel to get to new continent, which we now call America.

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