In 1854 the city finally decides to put down its arms and make way for the future. In a project that would last until 1873, the defensive walls are gradually razed to the ground to make way for the big expansion. The plans for the new wide-laned district of Eixample (literally “the extension”) are given the go-ahead. The priorities are a modern expansive layout that would assure improved hygiene and connect Barcelona with all its satellite towns of Gràcia, Sant Gervasi, Sant Martí etc.
As the plain of Barcelona was starting to fill up with factories & chimneys & the city was gaining a reputation as a Manchester of the Mediterranean, the new wealth led to a kind of 19th century Renaissance, which celebrated the civic and economic growth through culture and art. The revival of the Jocs Florals poetry competitions celebrating the Catalan language, the novel moderniste movement in which Antoni Gaudi was a pioneer & finally the Great Exposition of Barcelona of 1888 which drew over 2 million visitors & removed all traces of the hated fortress of Ciutadella, all together gave Barcelona a new air of optimism, an aura of an important European metropolis.
Gaudi had graduated from the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture in 1878. At that same year at the Paris World Fair his modernist work for a display stand of a participating glove manufacturer from Barcelona at the Spanish pavilion, would impress Eusebi Güell a Catalan owner of a textile factory who saw in the young architect and fellow countryman the ingenuity needed in order for his own legacy to become immortal. Güell had the money and Gaudi the extraordinary talent. Both men had the ambition to stand out and a vision that would coincide in a lot of ways.
With the first two projects commissioned to Gaudi by Güell, the Finca Güell and Palau Güell a bit later later Park Güell under construction, the young architect is given the work of a new church in Eixample in 1883. The monumental Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família would make Gaudi renowned allover the globe not just as one of the most iconic architects of the modernist movement but as one of the greatest architects of all time. The project of the Sagrada Familia is still ongoing and is expected to be finished in the year 2026 a year that marks the centenary year of the death of Gaudí , 147 years after the beginning of the construction. Gaudi would reach an apogee with the construction of the astounding Casa Batlló (Batlló house) and the Casa Milà (Milá house also known as La Pedrera), both of which stand out today as two of the main tourist attractions in Barcelona today along with the rest of his creations.
It wasn’t just the Eixample that had been turned into a giant working site. Contrary to the popular belief, the Gothic quarter (Barri Gòtic) acquired a large part of its current form during the last years of the 19th and first years of the 20th century. From the facade of Barcelona Cathedral to Pont del Bisbe and Aguilar Palace (Museu Picasso today) the whole district of the old town was revamped in the neo-Gothic architectural style in order for the Catalan capital to be beautified on time for the 1929 International Exhibition of Barcelona.
In that golden age for the city, Gaudi was not the only one who would become immortal through his brilliant work. A young Andalusian son of a painter and professor of art had moved to Barcelona in 1895 from La Coruna. The fourteen year-old had already exhibited a talent in his father’s profession. Despite the young of his age he had already been accepted in La Coruna’s School of Fine Arts and had already exhibited his first oil paintings. In Barcelona he would thrive. He was transferred in La Llotja School of Fine Arts (Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi today) for about 2 years. In 1900 Pablo Picasso presented his first solo exhibition at the artistic Els Quatre Gats café. Picasso would spend his life between Paris and Barcelona before leaving the latter for the former in 1905 for good. The city however would never actually leave his art. Thousands of drawings have been created with Barcelona acting as his muse. His so-called Blue Period is a collection of works inspired by the city. He would forever refer to Barcelona as his home.
In many ways almost all the things that the modern world identifies as Barcelona today were created during that period. In 1899 a Swiss sports enthusiast from Zurich named Joan Gamper takes a visit to his uncle in Barcelona on his way to Africa for business. Joan had been into all sports in his home city but in football (soccer) he had already some experience especially in the field of the creation of new teams, after co-founding FC Zürich in 1896. Joan fell in love with Barcelona and never did go on his journey to Africa. He stayed in Barcelona and began working in the French bank Crédit Lyonnais. By the end of that year he had placed an ad in the sports magazine Los Deportes he had helped create. In 1900 FC Barcelona played its first match with the characteristic red and blue shirts, the Blaugrana against the team of Hispania. The team would be forever linked with Catalan fervor for independence, a source of pride and fame for the city up to this day.
In the same time the flow of exceptionally talented artists who lived and thrived in the city kept growing. Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893. He studied at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc of Barcelona and had his first exhibition in 1918 at the Galeries Dalmau of Barcelona. Salvador Dalí was born in Figueres of Catalonia in 1904 and also exhibited his first solo exhibition in 1924 at the Galeries Dalmau, a gallery which was already renowned allover Europe as the flagship venue of modern art in Spain. Dali would hold two more exhibitions in the gallery in 1926 and 1927, a year when another larger than life figure of the time with strong friendship ties (according to some erotic) with Dali, the writer Federico García Lorca also exhibited his drawings in the same gallery.
With Barcelona booming economically, culturally and in terms of population (from 533,000 in 1900 to 710,000 in 1920, to 1 million in 1930), several nationalist, socialist, communist & anarchist movements manifested themselves in various and some in extreme ways, through riots that often led to deaths. The situation was so intense that in the 1920’s Barcelona became known in Europe as “Anarchism’s rose of fire”.
In April 1931 a new revolution led to the Second Spanish Republic after the forced abdication of King Alfonso XIII. The liberal constitutionalists were quickly pushed aside by the socialists who adopted the separation of state & church and grabbed on the chance given to them by the radical liberal constitution that had just been voted in Madrid for an autonomous rule of Cataluña, a chance that was also picked up by the Basques and the Galicians . Francesc Macià, leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) was declared President of the Catalan Republic. A few days later Macià came to an agreement with the Republican government in Madrid to change the name of the autonomous region into Generalitat of Catalonia, an autonomous government inside the umbrella of the Spanish Republic.
The radical, for its time, nature of these reforms, fostered the growth of the conservative Falange party (Falange Española) modeled after Germany’s & Italy’s fascist parties. By the time of the 1936 elections, the country was split politically with Catalonia firmly to the left. The attempt by the Spanish Army & General Francisco Franco who were also supported by Mussolini & Hitler in order to seize power, ignited the Spanish Civil War that would ravage the whole country. Barcelona & the Catalan coast were bombed by German & Italian fighter planes, numerous citizens were executed and thousands more imprisoned or fled into France.
Franco’s forces occupied Barcelona the first months of 1939, the President of the Catalan Government Lluís Companys was exiled in France where he was captured by the Nazis and handed over to General Franco who had him executed in 1940. The Catalan language & culture were once again forced to go underground. Franco and his ministers would face Catalan nationality as “an illness” that had to be uprooted. Censorship, secret police, arrests and mock trials became a reality Catalonians had to live with long after the end of WW2. Franco’s dictatorship lasted until his death in 1975.
Right before his death in 1975, at the age of 82, Franco restored the monarchy, giving full power to Juan Carlos I of Spain. On October 23, 1977 , in the midst of an impressive popular reception, the last president of the Generalitat Josep Tarradellas (elected by other exiles in Mexico City in 1954), would proclaim to the cheering crowd from the balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat “Ciutadans de Catalunya, ja sóc aquí!” (Catalan for “Citizens of Catalonia, I am here at last!”). Quickly after the restoration of democracy the Catalans restored their native language and their cultural freedom through the Generalitat, that was once more the governing body of an autonomous region (1979). Traditional festivals were reintroduced and interest in Catalonian literature and history exploded with new editions and reprints every year. The Institut de Estudis Catalans was reestablished and became the guardian of the Catalan language. The Grec Festival was inaugurated giving the Teatre Grec of Montjuïc a new life with local artists and productions, world-famous writers, directors and performers like Dario Fo and Michel Piccoli honoring the city with their performances.
In 1992 the city became the host for the Summer Olympics. The global event became a launch pad used by the city mayor Pasqual Maragall, to reorganize the city districts and beautify some of its unattractive parts. Twelve important projects were linked to to the Olympic infrastructure and led to a clear improvement of four of the city’s neighbourhoods. The opening up to the sea, The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), Glòries square, Port Vell and Maremágnum were among them. In 2003, after 20 years at the helm of the Generalitat, the conservatives lost to the Socialists led by Pasqual Maragall, mayor of Barcelona during the Olympic years.
These days Barcelona is a bustling metropolis of more than 1,600,000 people and a population of the wider urban area around 4,800,000. It is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Europe with more than 20% of its population being born outside of Spain. Italians are the largest ethnic group of migrants, with the French and Latin Americans following suit. It has gained a place among the top five cities in Europe based on its GDP. In 2018 the number of tourists that visited the city touched the staggering number of 20 million people. The steep increase in the number of tourists has caused a reaction by several Barceloneses expressing their discontent for the rising rents and the overall impacts of over-tourism. The city is the capital of both the province of Barcelona and the autonomous community of Catalonia. It’s soccer team F.C Barcelona is considered one of the most if not the most iconic and popular football team in the whole world. A great rival of Real Madrid, a rivalry that identifies with the majority’s support for Catalonian independence. It is a city of sixty municipal parks with green covering an area of more than 10% of the city’s surface. A city brand among the top in the world. To paraphrase the motto of its popular soccer team, Barcelona és més que un ciutat.
Catalonia and Barcelona were not used to being on the sideline and were foreign to religious oppression practiced by the crown in the name of Catholicism. The anti-royalist sentiment started to take form in the beginning of the 16th century but the flames of dissent were to a great extent fanned during the 30 Years’ War of Religion (1618-1648). In the Guerra de Segadors (Reapers’ War 1640-1652) the people of Cataluña rebelled against the power of King Felipe IV (ascended the throne in 1621) opposed to the constant battles between Spain & France, to the presence of Castilian troops in Catalonia and to the over-exploitation of Catalan resources by the Royal army. On Corpus Christi day of May 1640 in Barcelona, the uprising known as ‘Bloody Corpus’ (Catalan: Corpus de Sang), would lead to the death of the Spanish Viceroy of Catalonia Dalmau de Queralt, Count of Santa Coloma. The irregular Catalan militia involved were known as the ‘Miquelets’.
Pau Claris, a Catalan lawyer, clergyman and President of the Generalitat of Catalonia (the governing body of the city during the revolt) grabbed the chance and declared the creation of an independent Catalan Republic (January 23, 1641). Although the Spanish crown and army was preoccupied with the wars against the Protestants and was caught by surprise it quickly responded by sending an army of 26.000 strong headed by Pedro III Fajardo to crash the revolt. Many cities were reconquered and hundreds of captured Catalans were executed in a matter of days, pouring even more fuel to the fire. In the Battle of Montjuic (January 26, 1641), defending their newbuilt castle on the hill, the Catalans achieved their first victory and things seemed to change for better. The death of Pau Claris a few days later and the need for military support, would force the Catalans to seek the alliance of the French King (the historic ties were still strong). Louis XIII of France was proclaimed the sovereign count of Barcelona as Lluís I de Barcelona. For the next decade the Catalans and French would fight as allies against the Spanish crown.
The military successes of the Franco- Catalan army would last until 1652 when the capital finally fell to the Spanish army after a siege that cut off Barcelona from the rest of the world from July 1651 to October 1652. King Louis XIII of France was forced to sign the Treaty of the Pyrenees that handed over Cataluña back to Felipe IV with the exception of its northeast corner which was ceded to France.
Right before his death, with all potential Hapsburg successors having died before him, the childless Spanish King Charles II names the Bourbon Philip, Duke of Anjou as his successor in the year 1700. The last Hapsburg King of Spain was related to Philip of Anjou through the grandson of his sister Maria Theresa of Spain. The far-fetched choice provoked the reaction of a Grand Alliance of powers (England, Portugal, Austria, Holy Roman Empire, Dutch Republic & others), all of which wanted to prevent a dynastic unification of the Spanish and the French kingdoms. In the so called War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) Barcelona decided to support the claims of the Hapsburg Archduke Charles, favorite of the Great Alliance against the Bourbon Duke Philip of Anjou.
During the first four years of the war, Barcelona was in the hands of the Bourbons of Madrid despite the Catalans’ preference. In 1704 we have the first coming of the Allies in Barcelona after the contacts of several Catalan nobles with the English. Their hope for a resurgence of the people of Barcelona in support of the Allied fleet however did not fulfil itself. A year later (1705) the multinational army of about 11.000 strong, led by the English nobleman Earl of Peterborough manages to take control of the city after conquering the Castle of Montjuic. A year later another siege would take place, this time by the Bourbons, who tried to recapture the Catalan capital without any success. Finally after a series of military victories by the Bourbons (Franco-Spanish) in 1709 and 1710 a truce is signed between France & England in 1711 which secures that the French and Spanish crowns will remain separate, in essence ending the Hapsburgs’ hopes for the Spanish throne. For the Catalans however nothing was over. They saw the Bourbon model of governance as exceedingly autocratic and opted for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, as their preferred ruler. In the last and longest siege of the war (July 1713 – 11 September 1714), the Bourbon army of Philip V of Spain backed by France, managed to recapture Barcelona ending the long-held Catalan hopes for autonomy. September 11th is still celebrated today as the National day of Catalunya (La Diada).
The Bourbon King Felipe V punished the Catalans by outlawing their language, closing all universities, destroying a large section of the city & building a large fortress called La Ciudadela the largest fortress in Europe at the time with enough buildings to house up to 8,000 people. For its construction more than 1200 houses in what is Barri de la Ribera today were demolished and 4,500 people were left homeless without compensation. In the same time the Castle of Montjuic would be completely remodeled to its current form to serve the new needs. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and of Rastatt in 1714 ended the War of Spanish Succession and recognized Philip as King Felipe V of Spain. Most of the European territories possessed by Spain were lost as a consequence of the war.
The last of the Nueva Planta decrees, issued by the Bourbon King between 1706 & 1716 abolished Catalan autonomy completely putting an end to the year-long struggle of self-rule of the city of Barcelona. Despite the negative for most Catalans political developments the city’s economy was in a cycle of growth since the end of the 17th century something that was particularly evident in the explosive increase of its population, from about 30,000 in the beginning of the century to about 50,000 in 1760 and 95,000 in 1787. This recovery became mostly apparent after the authorization to trade directly with the Americas was given to the port of Barcelona in 1765. With the city not being able to expand outwards due to its fortifications, the matter of housing became a mounting problem, leading to an increasing density of residents within the walls. Finally in 1775 the city wall was demolished. La Rambla, previously situated on the outside of this wall, was transformed into a grand avenue. Very soon the land owners around the avenue opened up numerous new streets connecting their lots with the new avenue and turning La Rambla into a vibrant economic artery of the 19th century.
The full liberalization of overseas trade in 1778 and the peace treaty signed between Carlos III & the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Abdul Hamid I in 1785, making trade transactions with the Far East possible, reopened Barcelona’s port to the world. By 1787 the Catalan urban density was the highest in Spain after Madrid. By the end of 18th century the population had tripled from less than 40,000 to 130,000. Alas, the time of peace wouldn’t last for long. In 1793 Spain went to war with the Revolutionary French Republic. The war would lead to a 5-year occupation of Barcelona by the Napoleonic troops & a devastating war of independence that would last for 5 years (1808-1813) during which the Catalans gave their full support to the return of the House of Bourbon on the throne of Spain.
After the fall of the Bonapartist regime the restored King Ferdinand VII was determined to rule as an absolute monarch, causing a series of conflicts between liberals & supporters of the traditional autocratic monarchy. Throughout the 19th century there was a succession of constitutional periods followed by spasmodic revolutionary periods marked by the so called Carlist Wars (1832-1839/1846-1849/ 1872-1876). In the most outstanding event of that tumultuous period the Catalan capital was indiscriminately bombarded by the army from Montjuic Castle in 1842 in an effort to suppress an insurgence by the workers and the bourgeoisie of Barcelona.
Being used to the political turmoil and fueled by the better overall conditions due to the industrial revolution and the opening of the port, Barcelona’s economy enters the industrial age before the rest of Spain despite the political unrest. In 1835 the Bonaplata factory in Barcelona becomes the first industrial factory in Spain with more than 700 workers. From 1841 to 1857, the city of Barcelona monopolizes industrial cotton & textile production in Spain. In 1848 Antoni Gaudí‘s future patrons, the Güell family opened El Vapor Vell in Sants just outside Barcelona.
As a coastal territory within the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia became the main agent of the Crown’s maritime power, with the port of Barcelona playing a crucial role in the expansion of Aragon’s influence & territories through military conquest & trade into Valencia, Balearic Islands, Sardinia & Sicily. Many of these conquests were made during the long reign of Jaume I, the conqueror (r.1208 – 1276). Jaume I was not just an extremely effective ruler in foreign affairs. He was equally effective in domestic affairs. He managed to appease the rebellious character of the nobles when in the same time he strengthened the cities’ self-determination by offering them the right to their own governing body. Barcelona was the first of the kingdom to take up the right given by the reform, creating its own local government right after the King’s decree in 1249. The government was made up by a fluctuating number of about 100 people (Consell de Cent) who represented the three distinct estates of the city, the church, the feudal nobility & the people.
Jaume I’s son, Peter III of Aragon (the Great) was the one who actually defined the extent of the city-governments’ powers in 1284, after vesting it with a written constitution which clarified its civil, mercantile & procedural rights. Most importantly it offered the city’s councillors a greater authority than the one carried by the Royal delegates in the local matters. It was during Peter III‘s time that the construction of another wall (Pere the Great’s wall) begun enclosing the city & its various satellite settlements, from today’s La Rambla to the modern-day Parc de la Ciutadella. In 1298 with Peter III‘s son James II the Just (r.1291 – 1327) on the throne, the founding stone of the new Gothic Cathedral that would be completed more than 150 years later is laid upon the place of the earlier Romanesque church built by the Visigoths in the 6th century.
By the end of the 14th century the Catalano-Aragonese crown was one of the major powers in Europe with disputes over several territories & conflicts with many of the big players of that time like the Republic of Genoa & the House of Anjou. The territories of the crown extended all the way to the Duchy of Athens (conquered in 1311), its Catalan galleys and naval consulates reached the whole extent of the Mediterranean coast from East to West, North and South.
It was on this apex of power that the Kingdom of Aragon was united with the Kingdom of Castile after the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon & Isabella I of Castile in 1469. It was thus introduced the concept of one united Christian Spanish Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.
In less than 30 years from the unification of the two kingdoms, the joint army of Aragon & Castile conquers the last remaining part of Muslim Al-Andalus taking the city of Granada in January of 1492. The official inauguration of the word España from the ancient Hispania, would be used to designate the whole of the two Kingdoms from that point onward. A few months after the reunification of Spain, on August 3, 1492 Christopher Columbus would embark upon his journey that would change the course of history for ever. After the discovery of the Americas he would meet Isabella and Ferdinand in Barcelona to report on his voyage. More than 400 years later a 40 meter tall column crowned with a 7 meter tall statue of Columbus would be erected at the end of the famous La Rambla to commemorate the instance.
In 1512 the third Christian Kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Navarre gets annexed by Castile placing the last missing piece in what was rapidly evolving into a very centralized Spanish Kingdom, where the distinct counties, principalities and local governments would be more & more sidelined by authoritarian royals with hereditary titles. Although Columbus was received in Barcelona upon his return from the New World, the Catalans were denied the right to trade with the Americas, when in the same time cities like Seville and Madrid became the economic epicenters of a gigantic empire, inflated even more by the marriages of Isabella’s children to the heirs of the Portuguese Crown, and those of the Hapsburg dynasty.
As a forefront bastion of the Frankish Empire & capital of its own county (Marca Hispanica) Barcelona was ruled by a series of counts that were burdened with the heavy duty of defence against the Moorish attacks. Throughout the 9th century the counts appointed by the Frankish Kings had to face several Moorish expeditions, most of them successful, without this being translated into consolidated territorial gains for the Muslims. In 897 the last Count of Barcelona to be appointed by the Carolingian court, Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pelós), gets mortally wounded in a battle against the invading Moors & his more than one counties get divided between his sons, marking the beginning of a hereditary regime for Catalonia. Wilfred is considered to be the founder of the House of Barcelona, an iconic figure for all Catalan nationalists today. He founded the Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll and was entombed there upon his death. According to the legend the Catalan flag known as the Senyera was created when Wilfred’s blood-stained fingers from the battle that finally cost his life, run his golden shield, forming the red lines that became the honorary coat of arms of the Catalan House.
Wilfred II was the last of the Counts of Barcelona to pledge fidelity to the Carolingian court after being ignored in his pleas for help against the Moors. He refused to renew his vassalage when the new Frankish monarch Hugh Kapet came to the throne in 987 AD. Being de facto independent of the Carolingian crown, the County of Barcelona grew increasingly in influence by incorporating other Catalan Counties, through marriages, treaties & new alliances. It extended its influence even further to the north making Barcelona the epicenter of the fledging Principality of Catalonia.
The principality’s prolonged autonomy started to give shape into a distinctive local culture which combined with the use of the local language, defined the Catalan identity during the first years of the Middle Ages. The first historic reference to Catalonia & Catalans appears in a manuscript from Pisa written between 1117 & 1125 despite the fact that a political entity did not yet exist officially. In 1137 the Count of Barcelona Ramon Berenguer IV marries Petronilla, future Queen of Aragon, establishing a union of the Principality of Barcelona and all of its counties with the neighboring Kingdom of Aragon. Although the two realms are nominally equal the scale of power favors Aragon.
In 1140 Barcelona goes into a revival period with the help of the Knights Templar and the Knights of Saint John both of whom are given properties around the city to settle in. Following the two renowned orders, all sorts of Christian communities establish their Abbeys & Churches around the city’s core, increasing its size considerably. Although de facto independent until then, it wasn’t until the year 1258 and the Treaty of Corbeil that the King of France Louis IX formally relinquished his feudal over-lordship over the counties of the Principality of Catalonia to the King of Aragon, Jaume I (the Conqueror), descendant of Ramon Berenguer IV of the house of Barcelona. The treaty formally recognized the Catalan Counties as constituent members of the Crown of Aragon, whereas the King of Aragon & Count of Barcelona relinquished any claim over the County of Provence in Southern France.
The Moors (the Umayyad Caliphate was considered the rising superpower at the time) quickly took advantage of the situation & seized control of the kingdom, reaching the city of Tarraco in 717 and Barchinona in 720. They would stop their advance only after their defeat by the combined Frankish & Burgundian forces of the Merovingian Prince Charles Martel in central France (Battle of Tours) in 732 AD. While cities like Tarraco & Empúries put up a resistance and were consequently destroyed, Barchinona had avoided devastation by signing a treaty of capitulation with the new regime.
Muslim Barshiluna lasted less than a century during which religious freedom & civil government was largely respected with the price being the extra taxes imposed to non-Muslims. The city’s cathedral was converted into a mosque symbolizing the city’s integration in the Umayyad Caliphate. The Christians still living in the city formed its Mossarab community. After 80 years of Moorish rule, in 801 AD, Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, captures Muslim Barshiluna after a siege of several months that resulted into the placement of the city on the borders of the Carolingian Empire .The whole region of Catalonia became a buffer zone against the advance of the Muslims.
Four years after sacking Rome, forced by the Imperial troops who first push them out of Italy and then out of Southern Gaul, the Visigoths, led by Alaric’s successor Athaulf, reach Tarraconensis in 414 AD. Athaulf established his short-lived court in Barcino and not Tarraco, a choice that underlined the increasing importance or the potential the Visigoths recognized in the town of Barcino. After Athaulf’s assassination in 415 AD the Visigoths became allies with the Romans, charged with the control of all the other Germanic tribes that had invaded Hispania.
After succeeding in their task & signing a treaty with the Roman Empire the Visigoths expanded their dominance to the east and moved their capital in Tolosa (Toulouse today) in 417 AD. By the year 500 AD the Visigoths were the masters of the whole Iberian Peninsula except a small part in the northwest, more specifically North Aquitania . Barcino continued to play a role as a provincial center, mainly because of its strong fortifications. In 507 AD the Visigoths were defeated by the Franks and were forced to cede most of their Gallic territories along with their capital, keeping only Septimania in the South with Barcino becoming the capital of the constantly moving Visigoths who finally left Barcino for Toledo which became the capital of their kingdom.
Although the city ceased to be the power-base of Visigoth Kings, it remained important through its Episcopal power with the completion of two General Synods at the Bishop’s Palace (located next to the Basilica and the Baptistery where today’s cathedral is located) in 500 & 540 AD. Barcino also played an important economic role for the Visigothic Kingdom by being the city where the taxes from Tarraco, Gerunda (Girona today) & Empúries were collected. Barcino even minted its very own coins for a short period of time. These two components, religious & economic life were the ones that re-morphed the former military camp of Roman Barcino into the medieval Barchinona.
8th century began with the worst possible conditions for the Visigoth Kingdom. Battles between different factions of nobles, economic & natural disasters & finally an all out civil war that broke out in 710 devastated their kingdom. The Moorish forces were called upon from the opposite coast of the Mediterranean sea to the Iberian Peninsula to help one of the two fighting parties.
Around the end of the reign of Emperor Augustus (14 AD) the shortened version of the name (Barcino) became commonly used for the town which gradually started taking the usual form of a Roman city, with a protective wall surrounding the web of streets that converged on the forum & the temple of Augustus. Part of the Imperial Roman Province of Hispania Citerior and then Hispania Tarraconensis, Barcino enjoyed exclusion from Imperial taxation & saw its population steadily increasing & progressing economically, with wine being its main export product. A large Aqueduct still visible today at Plaça del Vuit de Març brought clean water supply to the city for the public baths and human consumption. Its population grew to 5,000 people by the 2nd Century AD.
The first raids by the Germanic tribes started around 250 AD coinciding with the emergence of the first Christian communities in Tarraconensis. In 260 the Germanic Franks sack the city of Tarraco (current city of Tarragona) forcing Emperor Claudius II to improve Barcino’s fortifications in the latter years of the 3rd century. Barcino‘s fortifications became the strongest in the whole Province, increasing the city’s importance and prospects.
In the latter half of the 3rd century the first Christian community in Barcino was established with the city having its first martyr Saint Cucuphas at the start of the 4th century. The widespread persecutions that had started under Emperor Diocletian ended in 313 AD after the Edict of Milan. The city attained its first Christian Bishop before 347 AD and its first Paleochristian temple, erected at the site of the modern Cathedral at the end of the 4th century.
The wider area of Barcelona has revealed archaeological traces that go all the way back to the Neolithic Era. What is known today as Catalonia (Catalunya / Cataluña) was inhabited by several different tribes with the tribe of Laietani occupying the Barcelona plain. Carthaginians & Greeks had also a presence in the wider coastal area since the 6th century BC. The Iberians occupying the plain were devoted to agriculture like growing olive trees, vines & cereals, keeping an active trade in these products, an activity that seems to have led to the first road along the coast, the Via Heraclea (Hannibal’s way) which was later renamed into Via Augusta.
At the start of the Second Punic War (218 BC– 201 BC) the Carthaginian troops under the leadership of Hamilcar Barca, father of the renowned Hannibal advanced further to the north occupying the area. Up until that point the natural border to the Carthaginian territory had been River Ebro, 150 km to the south of today’s Barcelona. Despite the resemblance between the name of the Carthaginian general & the current name of the city, it is today believed that the name of the city, derived from the name of the Iberian village Barkeno found in ancient coin inscriptions in Iberian script.
Hannibal’s successful advances in the Italian hinterland didn’t manage to win the war for the Carthaginians who were forced to abandon the Iberian peninsula altogether after 206 BC. Operating as a bountiful supply region of silver and manpower as well as a springboard for land invasions into Italy for the Carthaginians, made the matter of the establishment of their own power in Iberia a priority for the Romans who started a long period of colonization & wars with the local tribes that would last for almost two centuries.
The Northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula was among the first to be completely Romanized, a process that would be typically completed under Emperor Augustus around and after 19 BC. Around 15 BC the Romans founded a town as a Roman military camp on the Mons Taber, a little hill near the location of the contemporary City Hall. the Casa de la Ciutat in Plaça de SantJaume . The town was colonized by a group of Roman citizens & veterans of the Cantabrian Wars that had just finished. The name of the town was Colonia Augusta Faventia Barcino.
Monument Hotel is a modern & luxurious hotel located on the iconic Paseo de Gracia, the main shopping street in the city, home to major national and international luxury brand shops, opposite the celebrated La Pedrera building, a few metres from Casa Batlló and close to the many other points of architectural and cultural interest that make Barcelona one of the most attractive and cosmopolitan cities in Europe.
The pre-modernist heritage that emanates from its walls, its exclusive luxury services, its varied and attractive range of cuisine under the direction of Martín Berasategui and its prime location are the calling cards of the Monument Hotel.
Hotel 1898 is an authentic gem to be discovered. Nestled in the heart of Barcelona, Hotel 1898 is located in what was once the headquarters of the General Philippines Tobacco Company. The magnificent structure was erected in 1881 and designed by Catalan architect Josep Oriol Mestres. In 2005, following extensive renovation by Núñez i Navarro, the building was reborn as the Hotel 1898, a unique spot with Colonial flair and a style all its own, offering the best of Barcelona to each and every guest.