Visit the Medieval Barcelona
Barcelona received influences from the Islamic world and Carolingian Europe during the late Middle Ages, and developed a leading role across the Mediterranean basin during the Gothic period. As the capital of Catalonia, the city came to govern extensive territories which included such far-away places as Sicily and Athens. In medieval times, Barcelona was an extremely important trading centre for the whole of the Mediterranean. There are many buildings and areas of the city which bear witness to this flourishing period which spans the 13th to 15th centuries.
The history of medieval Barcelona is fully evident today in its urban layout, formed essentially by important Romanesque and, above all, Gothic buildings which tell us about the city’s past. This makes it one of the European cities where history comes to life as you walk through its Gothic Quarter. Walking through the city one comes to understand the various changes made to its walled enclosures which accompanied its growth in medieval times, or the importance of institutions, evidenced by the Romanesque and Gothic part of the City Hall and the Palau de la Generalitat; the monarchy and the nobility, with the Royal Palace and mansions on Carrer Montcada; and the role of the Church, with the Cathedral and churches, such as Santa Maria del Mar, which had close ties with the bourgeois guilds.
Likewise, buildings such as the Medieval Shipyards, or Drassanes, and the old corn exchange, or Llotja, show the important role of a middle class that increasingly grew in power throughout the world due to the growth of commerce. The Hospital of the Santa Creu and the Pia Almoina also show the importance of the health institutions of the era. The monasteries, at the time located outside the city, such as the Romanesque monastery of Sant Pau del Camp or the Gothic monastery of Santa Maria de Pedralbes, bear witness to the city's past.
Taken as a whole, these landmarks and events make Barcelona one of the most artistically wealthy cities of Europe in terms of medieval heritage which today’s visitors can discover on an extraordinary route.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) Palau Nacional de Montjuïc - Parc de Montjuïc
The museum dates back to the end of the 19th century, and since 1934 has been housed on its present site, the Palau Nacional de Montjuïc, the palace built for the 1929 Barcelona Universal Exhibition. The museum traces the history of Catalan art, comparing it, when its collections allow, with European art. Its holdings of Romanesque and Gothic art help visitors to Barcelona gain an insight into the medieval era in Catalonia.
The series of Romanesque frescoes and the possibilities afforded by the museum to see the development of Gothic sculpture and painting, with all its influences and styles, give visitors a comprehensive overview of the finest European medieval art. The museum’s holdings are drawn from a number of Barcelona’s great medieval buildings. It preserves part of the sculpted decorations from the first Romanesque cathedral which dates from the 11th century, a series of capitals from the church of Sant Pere de les Puelles and sculptures from the convents of El Carme and Sant Francesc.
The majority of Jaume Huguet’s large Gothic retables from the churches of Sant Agustí Vell, Sant Vicenç de Sarrià and Santa Maria del Pi are preserved in the MNAC. Sant Pere de les Puelles Pl. de Sant Pere, s/n The original church dates back to pre-Romanesque times, and retains part of the 10th-century Greek cross structure and the Corinthian capitals used under the 12th century dome. The small bell tower, known as the bird belfry, also dates from the Romanesque era.
Chapel of Sant LLàtzer Pl. de Pedró, 1
A Romanesque building dating from the 12th century, which was originally the chapel to the leper hospital, called the malalts mesells, founded by Bishop Guillem de Torroja (1144-1171). Chapel of Marcús Pl. de Marcús, s/n Built in the 12th century next to the former Roman road out of the city (now Carrer Carders), this small Romanesque chapel still retains part of the original exterior with its blind arches. Chapel of Marcús Pl. de Marcús, s/n Built in the 12th century next to the former Roman road out of the city (now Carrer Carders), this small Romanesque chapel still retains part of the original exterior with its blind arches. Sant Pau del Camp Sant Pau, 99 This is the most notable ensemble of 12th-century Romanesque buildings in the city. The interior houses a cloister with triple-lobed arches, built in the 13th century, the only one of its kind in Catalonia. Chapel of Santa Llúcia Santa Llúcia, 3 Located next to the Gothic cathedral, this is a transitional Romanesque building dating back to 1268. The capitals over the door contain representations of the Annunciation and the Visitation.
Barcelona City Walls Porta de Santa Madrona
The growth of the city in the 13th century forced Jaume I to build new city walls, and later Pere the Ceremonious (1336 - 1387) extended them further. There is still a section left, known as the Santa Madrona Gate. Palau Episcopal Bisbe, 5 It still retains a Romanesque gallery from medieval times on the 13th-century top floor, in a building which was remodelled during the Baroque era.
Palau Reial Major. Tinell. Chapel of Santa Àgata Pl. del Rei, s/n
The façade, which was built over the old 13th-century city walls, contains large buttresses which support the diaphragm arches of the Saló del Tinell, or Great Hall. The Saló del Tinell was built under orders of King Pere the Ceremonious between 1359 and 1362 by the architect Guillem Carbonell. The Palatine chapel, known as the chapel of Santa Àgata, with its single nave, was built by King Jaume II at the beginning of the 14th century. The interior still holds the constable's altarpiece by Jaume Huguet. This group of architectural gems is open to visitors and is part of the City History Museum, the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat.
The Cathedral Pla de la Seu, s/n
Built mainly during the 14th century, the Cathedral contains three naves and a transept, and side chapels between the buttresses. It also houses a crypt dedicated to Santa Eulàlia. The cloister, built between 1350 and 1448, can be entered from the outside through the Pietat gateway. The Cathedral façade was originally designed at the end of the 19th century, following the Gothic model of 1408. The Pia Almoina Pla de la Seu, s/n The Pia Almoina, or alms house, was built in the mid-15th century and was the headquarters for this institution founded in the 11th century to provide food for the poor. It now houses the Diocesan Museum, the Museu Diocesà.
Drassanes Av. Drassanes, s/n
The 14th-century royal shipyards are made up of eight wide parallel naves in which the boats which sailed across the Mediterranean were built. They comprise one of the most important civilian buildings from the Gothic era and now house the Museu Marítim.
Cases dels Canonges Pietat, 2-6
The Canons' Gothic-style houses, built in the 14th century, are a fine example of civilian housing. They now form part of the Catalan government building, the Palau de la Generalitat. La Llotja Pg. Isabel II, 4 The Llotja, or Corn Exchange, was built by King Pere the Ceremonious between 1380 and 1392. It was enlarged in the 15th century and refurbished in 1774 to comply with neo-classical taste. It still retains the large Gothic hall with three naves separated by demi-point arches.
Santa Maria del Mar Pl. del Born, 1
Designed by the architect Berenguer de Montagut in the mid-14th century, it contains three naves, all of which are of almost the same height, separated by pillars, extraordinary spatial proportions which turn it into a unique building. It was the church in which the shipowners and merchants of Gothic Barcelona worshipped.
Church of Sants Just and Sant Pastor Pl. de Sant Just, 5
Building on this Gothic church began in 1342. There is a single nave with the chapels usually found in Catalan Gothic churches between the buttresses.
Church of El Pi Pl. del Pi, s/n
Built in the 14th century, the church follows the usual design of a nave with side chapels located between the buttresses. It still retains part of the original Gothic windows. One of the chapels, the Retailers' chapel, had an altarpiece by Jaume Huguet, now on display in the MNAC. Monastery of Santa Anna Rivadeneyra, 3 Linked to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre since the 12th century, this church retains its Romanesque structure, with certain Gothic reformations; the cloister and the capital hall were built in the 15th century.
Pedralbes Monastery Baixada del Monestir, 1
Founded by Queen Elisenda of Montcada, wife to King Jaume II, in 1326. The three-storey church and cloister which house the chapel of Sant Miquel, decorated by the artist Ferrer Bassa in 1343, according to primitive Italian models, are exceptional. The monastery houses the Museu Monestir de Pedralbes and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Collection.