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El Gòtic

September 2014 | Trends | Style district | Barcelona

Unfazed by debates about its buildings’ medieval authenticity, the Gothic Quarter preserves its mystique, with treasures waiting to be discovered.
Gotic Quarter Barcelona
El Gòtic Quarter Barcelona
El Gòtic Quarter Barcelona
El Gòtic Quarter Barcelona
El Gòtic Quarter Barcelona
El Gótic Quarter Barcelona

Is the Gothic Quarter really Gothic? Yes and no. It is actually much older than Gothic since it still follows the ancient Roman layout around Plaça Sant Jaume. It is the historic centre of Barcelona and, as with other European cities (Warsaw, Frankfurt or Cologne), it went through a reform process following the demolition of its Roman wall and the building of the Via Laietana at the turn of the 20th century.

True, some of its buildings or parts of them, like the Cathedral façade or the bridge at Carrer del Bisbe, are Gothic Revival structures built to restore the quarter’s medieval splendour. Anyone acquainted with the city’s history knows this perfectly well, but even so it has given rise to a debate in the media. In any case, the Gothic Quarter holds the legacy of the Roman city of Barcino, of the 12th century Jewish quarter, and of the 19th century Modernisme movement. With little jewels like Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, Plaça del Pi, or the Plaça del Rei site, here the visitor discovers surprising corners with every step.

Plaça del Rei
This square is ringed by various beautiful Gothic and Renaissance buildings that formed part of the Greater Royal Palace, that is to say, the residence and seat of the government of the Counts of Barcelona and the Kings of Aragon. The rectangular layout of the square that we see today is attributed to a project carried out in the reign of Martin I in the 14th century to provide a suitable place for jousts. Major remains of the ancient Roman city of Barcino were discovered beneath the square in 1934, leading to the creation of the Barcelona History Museum (MHCB) in 1943.

The ancient Jewish quarter
Jews are on record in Barcelona since the 12th century although references to them date back to the year 876. The Jewish quarter stood next to the Cathedral and the Count’s Palace. Living here until 1391, when they were expelled after an assault on the quarter, the Catalan Jews spoke both Catalan and Hebrew, something unique in Europe since elsewhere the Jewish communities spoke only the language of the place where they lived. The Minor Synagogue, at Carrer Marlet, is also a museum and the headquarters of the Jewish Quarter Association.

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