Gothic Quarter | Barcelona Bus Turístic

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Gothic Quarter

The origins of Barcelona in an ‘invented’ district

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The Roman settlement that is the origin of the modern city, Barcino, is Barcelona’s most historic district. A stroll through the Gothic Quarter is a trip back through time to discover Romanesque sites, Gothic churches and royal palaces, which are not always found in their original locations. The Gothic Quarter was actually invented in the 19th century due to the replanning of the Old Town and above all the opening of Via Laietana, which moved buildings from their original locations to build the ideal ‘Gothic quarter’ that is now the envy of many cities.

Why visit the Gothic Quarter?

The Gothic Quarter is located in the middle of the Ciutat Vella or Old Town, specifically between La Rambla and Via Laietana, in the original area of Roman Barcino around which the first city wall was erected in the 1st century BC. This fortification, with a perimeter of approximately one and a half kilometres, protected the first Roman colony established on Mount Taber, which is still the city’s seat of government to this day: Plaça de Sant Jaume, the old Roman forum. A temple was also built on Mount Taber in honour of Augustus, from which four columns are preserved at the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya (hiking and outdoors association).

This Roman settlement, which is the origin of the city of Barcelona, is also the site of the cathedral and the Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor, although these places of worship date back only as far as the Middle Ages. The cathedral was built from the 13th to the 15th centuries on the site of a Romanesque cathedral, and its impressive Gothic facade is from an even more modern period, the 19th century. The Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor was erected in the 14th century, but is considered to be the city’s oldest because at this site there had already been a Romanesque church, founded in 801 in homage to Saints Justus and Pastor. In fact, restoration work done on this basilica in 2013 revealed the base of a Roman column from the 1st century that had been used to build a basilica in the 6th century. The construction of the modest Basilica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor in the 14th century coincided with the construction of Santa Maria del Mar, which was erected in the Born district, the centre of the medieval city.

The Roman city, now the Gothic Quarter, is also home to the Plaça del Rei Monumental Site, formed by Saló del Tinell, the throne room of the 14th-century home of the Count of Barcelona; the Chapel of Santa Àgata, which was built onto it in 1302 to serve as a place of worship for the count and his family; and the Watchtower of King Martin, known as Martin the Humane, even though it was built in 1555, almost a century and a half after the monarch’s death. The porticoed orchard garden of the palace where the count and his family lived, which is linked to the Saló del Tinell, was the site of the Court of the Inquisition and currently forms part of the Frederic Marès Museum.

From this Roman settlement Barcelona grew out in concentric circles, first due to the expansion of the city walls to include the Raval and Born districts and then due to the demolition of the fortifications and development of what is now known as the Eixample.

In the early 20th century, as Ildefons Cerdà had contemplated in his plan, a decision was made to open up a street to link the Eixample to the port. The birth of Via Laietana, which separates the Gothic Quarter from the Born, required a number of buildings to be transferred stone by stone. This is the case of Casa Padellàs, which was disassembled and taken to Plaça del Rei, where it is now home to the Barcelona City History Museum. The church and cloister of the 13th-century Monastery of Jonqueres were also transferred in order to create space to open Via Laietana and they now form part of the Basílica de la Puríssima Concepció i Assumpció de Nostra Senyora, the Church of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady, which is very close to La Concepció Market and the Municipal Conservatory of Barcelona.

Now the space occupied by the Gothic Quarter is full of original Gothic constructions, palaces and churches that have not changed for as long as anyone can remember.

 

How do you get to the Gothic Quarter?  

Hop off at the Barri Gòtic stop on the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic on Via Laietana and then stroll to the original centre of Barcelona.