Of the many beautiful places in Barcelona, a great part are to be found in the Barri Gotic. We can see authentic jewels of Roman and Gothic styles, dispersed among large buildings of later construction but no less beautiful.
We can go there through the Gothic-style church of Santa Anna continuing through Villa de Madrid’with the remains of the II Century Roman Cemetery. Closer to the heart of the old Barcino is the Basilica del Pi, with its bare Catalan Gothic exterior, a bell tower 54 meters high, and its rose window surpassed only by that of the Notre Dame in Paris.
We reach Plaga Nova along Palla street that brings us to the Barri Gotic, the area called Mons Taber in medieval texts. Two Roman towers guard the entrance to the walled area, the city’s only defense from the II to the XIII centuries. Here, in strong contrast, we find the modern Architects college, with friezes referring to Catalan folklore drawn by Picasso.
To the right of the Roman towers is the Episcopal Palace with a Baroque facade built in the XIII century over the walls. To the left is the Archdeacon’s house, nowadays the Arxiu Historic de la Ciutat, built to the orders of the archdeacon Luis Despla in the XI century and finished in the XV century.
Beside this is the Chapel of Santa Lucia, the remains of the Roman Cathedral built between 1273 and 1275. The present Cathedral of Barcelona is the third to be built throughout history.
The first already existed in the year 559 and was destroyed by Almanzor in 985, nothing is left. The construction of the second one began in 1046 and was finished and consecrated in 1058. The Roman remains can still be seen in the present Cathedral, work on which was begun in 1298 but interrupted in 1422.
Of the later additions and reforms, the main facade is worth mention, based on a project by the Frenchman Mestre Carli( 1408 ) it was begun in 1887. The Cathedral has one of the most beautiful Gothic cloisters in existence. It is Quadrangular, surrounded by chapels on three sides, some of which retain the original XIV and XV century wrought iron grills.
The cloister leads on to the Sala Capitular built between 1405 and 1454, nowadays it is the Cathedral Museum. In the center of the cloister, there is a small temple with a fountain which has become famous for being the scene of “I’ou con balla” every year, during Corpus. In the interior of the cloister, we can see the “geese on the pond” which according to saying symbolize the virgin purity of Santa Eularia, co-patron of Barcelona to whom the crypt of the Cathedral is dedicated. The door which leads to Bisbe street is called Santa Eularia and dates from the XV Century, the work of Antoni Claperos beautifully ornate and shaped.
On entering the Cathedral one is struck by the central vault made up of three, beautifully simple, vaulted naves. There are three lateral chapels among the three buttresses, the apse is bounded by an aisle with another nine chapels.
Below the central nave is the crypt of Santa Eularia, a project by Jaume Fabre, an excellent example of Catalan Gothic. Since 1339 this crypt has contained the marble sarcophagus of Santa Eualria, an invaluable object sculpted by Nicolas Pisano. Besides the high altar, we can see the sepulchers of the Catalan monarch Ramon Berenguer and his wife Almodis, promoters of the XI century cathedral of Barcelona. The choir stalls contain works sculpted by Jordi Johan and the seats by the German Lochner. The coats-of-arms on the seats are those of the knights who attended the Capitulo del Toison de Oro, held in 1519. The head of a Turk, in remembrance of Ali Baba, decapitated in the Batalla de Lepanto, hangs from the monumental organ.
Behind the Catedral in Comptes street, we find the building containing the Arxiu Della Corona d’Arago and the Casa de la Inquisition. Further on we find the remains of Visigothic houses and a temple, the Museu Mares, and in Baixada de Canonja street, we find the house of Pia Almoina, one of the best conserved and oldest monuments in the Gothic quarter. Behind the Aspe of the Catherdral, the XIV century house of the Canonjes is well worth looking at. Further on in Paradis street, we find a formidable medieval building, belonging to the “Centre Excursionista de Catalunya”, the oldest sports and cultural center in Catalonia. The columns of the Augusto Temple are conserved Inside this building, built by the Romans on the highest part of the city. This point is marked by the mill wheel fixed to the floor in Paradi’s street, in front of the above-mentioned society, in other words on the summit of Mons Taber.
From behind the Cathedral along Santa Clara Street, we reach the Placa del Rei, a marvel of Gothic art and the scene of events in the history of Barcelona. Despite what is said, however, there is no documentary evidence that it was in this square where the “Reyes Catolicos”, Fernando and Isabel, received Admiral Christopher Columbus on the return from his first voyage to the Americas, 3rd April 1493.
Near this square is the Axiu de la Corona d’Arago, built-in 1549, directed by Antoni Carbonell. The documents guarded in this building are priceless, belonging to the old Catalano-Aragonese crown. The opposite is Padellas house, built in the XVI century at present the Museu d’ Historia de la Ciutat. The pre-Christian remains of the city can be seen in the cellars.
Next to this is the Capella de Santa Agueda, built to the orders of King Jaume II and his wife Blanca de Anjou in 1302. This chapel forms part of the Main Royal Palace, built in a Roman style and finished in the XIV Century. The great hall is the Salo de Tinell, 35 meters long, 18 wide, and 12 high, where a variety of artistic and cultural exhibitions are held.
Above this palace is the Mirador of King Marti, a singular, six storied, look-out tower with porticoes galleries, which gives character to the Placa del Rei. On arriving at the Plaga San Jaume, we find, on the right the Palace of the Generalitat de Catalunya. The seat of the present Catalan government.
The Renaissance facade is the work of Pere Blay, dated 1596, and was added to the rest of the building. The Gothic facade in Bisbe street is much more important, dating from 1416 to the work of the architect Marc Cafont and the sculptor Pere Johan, author of the medallion with the image of Saint George. This street is crossed by a beautiful bridge that joins the Palau de la Generalitat to the houses on the other side of the street, the official residence of the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya. It was built in 1927 by Joan Rubio and is a summary of Gothic style.
Inside the Generalitat, the first thing we see is the original Pati Gotic, the prototype of the stately patios in Catalonia. It was built in 1425, by Marc Cafont, author of the Chapel of Saint George in the interior of the Palace and dated from 1432. A few meters further on is the Pati dels Taronjers, built between 1526 and 1600, in its center, we find a statue of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia, attributed to Benvenuto Cellini. The center of the building is occupied by the Hall of Saint George, also built by Pere Blay in 1596. Opposite this building, we find the Town Hall ox the Cases Consistorials, also known as the Casa de la Ciutat. The neoclassic style facade was also added to the old building between 1832-1836.
Inside the Town Hall and after going under the antique Gothic style portal built at the end of the XIV century, we enter such important halls as Salo de Cent, which the council of one hundred judges of the city ordered to be built in the second half of the XIV century. This is the place where a hundred counselors deliberated, the antique parliament, whose executive power came from the constituents of the “Trentenari Antic I Nou” This hall was begun in 1369 and the first session was held on 17th August 1373.
Next to the Salo de Cent, is a small semicircle called Salo de Sessions de Reina Regent. This name is due to a portrait of Queen Maria Cristina with Alfonso XII, who presided over it. It was built in 1860.
In the Neoclassic part of the building, we find several halls such as the Alcaldia, the Central or de Carlos II, Consulat de Mar, or Salo de Chroniques a sumptuous apartment built in 1929 and decorated by the original artist Josep Maria Sert, whose singular paintings represent some scenes of the Catalans in Oriente under Roger de Flor.
We come to the Via Laietana along Llibreteria street until we come to the Placa de Berenguer el Gran, with its equestrian statue of the King and from where we can see the other facade of the chapel of Santa Agueda, the tower, Mirador del Rei Marti and the Cathedral Bell Tower, also called Torre de les Hores de la Ciutat.
Continuing up this street we come to another part of the antique area where we find the Palau de la Musica Catalana, home of the Orfeo Catala, where the majority of individual and symphonic music concerts are held. It is the work of the architect Domenech I Montaner. When it was first built it was highly controversial, however, at present, it is classed as an exceptional piece of work representative of this school which was a landmark in the architectural development of Barcelona. In the center of the ceiling above the stalls, there is a beautiful colored lamp said to be made by Gaudi. This adorns the theater which is, at present, an authentic symbol of Barcelona and its musical vocation. Returning to the Via Laietana we go along Princesa street, to another beautiful area of the old quarter, Montcada street, which begins at the chapel of Marcus built-in 1116.
The origin of this street dates from 1153 when Guillem Ramon de Montcada obtained permission to build his house in what was then the Via Nova. Soon after, other palaces were built forming the most stately street in Barcelona between the XII and XVI centuries. Some of the palaces such as that of the Marques de Lio, Palau Dalmases, or that of Baro de Castellet, are true jewels of architecture.
One of these palaces, the Palau Berenguer de Aguilar, XIII century, houses one of the most well-known museums in Europe and without a doubt that of widest artist scope in the city. This is the Museu Picasso initially created from the donation of an important collection of Picasso’s works by Jaume Sabartes, an intimate friend of this artistic genius. Later, thanks to an important personal donation by the artist himself, of more than 200 oil paintings and thousands of sketches, notes, finished drawings, watercolors, pastels, and engravings, a demonstration of the affection Picasso felt for Barcelona, the museum was extended to the neighboring, Palau del Baro de Castellet.
It is an obligatory visit as day by day the number of visitors grows. It is the most complete and significant collection of the artistic works of Picasso. At the end of Montcada street, we find a valuable and beautiful example of Gothic art, the church Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Sumptuous and delicate, the main facade features numerous concentric archivolts. It was built between 1329 and 1383. Attention should be drawn to the high vault of the temple, supported by remarkably few columns separated from each other by 13 metes.
Continuing from Via Laietana to the Plaza Antonio Lopez, we find, sections of the Roman walls.
Once in this square, we can see the building of Correus y Telegraphs or Palau de Telecommunications, in front of the remodeled port of Barcelona and the Moll de la Fusta.
Between this square and Placa Palau, we find the Casa Llotja del Mar, built between 1380 and 1390, at the height of Barcelona’s maritime trade. The Gothic style, Sala de Contratacions de la Borsa, probably the oldest in the Peninsula, is still conserved. The building houses the Camara de Comerc I Navegacio de Barcelona, one of the most important economic institutions in the country.