About Barcelona, you may know about its beaches, about Gaudi’s and his architecture or about the 1992 Olympics. But only a few people are aware of its Arab past; that there is an actual piece of stone brought from the ancient Troy, or that one of the worst earthquakes in Europe's history took place in this city. Barcelona is one of those places that the more you know about, the more you get in love with! That’s why we’re going to tell you a few things that you don’t know about the city.
Things you did not know about Barcelona
1. A 1000 years old monastery.
Sant Pau del Camp gives the name to this area of El Raval. This is a Benedictine monastery built between the 9th and 10th centuries. It’s also one of the few ones with the form of a Greek cross existing in Europe. The most ancient tomb on the inside is from 911. There lies Gufré II “Borrell”, son of the first Count of Barcelona Guifré I “El Pilós”(Joffrey the 1st, “the hairy”).
2. The oldest Red Light district
On the corner of carrer del Mirallers and carrer de la Carassa, close to the Picasso Museum you’ll find a woman’s face coming out of the wall. That was a sign of a nearby brothel in the Middle Ages. Besides the whorehouses façades were painted in red to made them even more visible. During the Middle Ages, brothels in Barcelona were propriety of the Church, that used the money of sin for charity works.
3. Futbol Club Barcelona was founded in a gym
On the 29th of November 1899 at Gimnàs Solè a group of 12 football fans brought together by the Swissman Hans Gamper, through an advert on the gym’s magazine “Los Deportes”, founded the Foot-Ball Club Barcelona. That gym was located at carrer Montjuïc del Carme, in El Raval. Foot-Ball Club Barcelona’s first match was played on the 9th of december 1899 at the old Bonanova velodrome, at nowadays Turó Parc.
4. The Arab footprint in Barcelona
Barcelona was part of the Cordoba caliphate during only 83 years, until 793 AD. During this brief period of time the Arabs named the city Barshilūna (برشلونة); opened it to commerce with the Middle East and had time enough to left some landmarks that are still kept nowadays. One of the most important ones is La Rambla, from the Arabic word ramla (رملة), that means sandy area. The nowadays Rambla was the ancient Riera d’en Malla (and old water stream), that had a big sandy area at todays Plaça de Medinaceli
5. The World’s second biggest square
With its football pitch size photovoltaic panel, of 16 hectares, Plaça del Fòrum is the largest square in europe and the second in the world. Only Beijing’s Tiananmen Square beats this one in surface. This space, opened in 2004 is the perfect territory for skaters, runners and music festivals.
6. The Statue of Liberty in Barcelona
New York’s most famous monument has a replica in Barcelona, more precisely inside Biblioteca Pública Arús (Public Library), located at Passeig de Sant Joan. It’s a 1884 replica and one of the most important freemason symbols of the city.
7. 1428 earthquake
At the number 6 of carrer de Sant Domenec there’s the oldest house in Barcelona, which surprises by the deformation of its façade. Popular belief is that time and the weight of the stones has provoked the deformity, but the actual truth is quite amazing. On the 2nd of February 0f 1428 barcelona suffered the worst earthquake of its history (the belief is that it reached 8 points on the Richter scale). Where you can still see some of the earthquake remains is at Santa Maria del Mar. Chronicles tell the that the façade rose window felt on the people attending the first morning mass. Today, you can still see one of the cracks on the main façade caused by the earthquake.
8. Europe’s first Theme Park
Only a few people in Barcelona know that the Gothic Quarter is actually an invention from the early 20th century. It was on that time that , following the architectonic trend known as French Monumentalism, the façade of the cathedral was built, as the original one was too restrained. From that point on, in 1911 the city council planned to built a Gothic Quarter around the new cathedral’s façade with the aim of attracting foreign people, aka tourists.
1929 Universal Exhibition was the encouraging point for the definitive transformation of the cathedral’s quarter into the Gothic Quarter: houses were demolished to open nowadays’ Plaça de la Catedral (Cathedral square); Pont del Bisbe (Bishop’s bridge) was also built that year, or the gate of Museu Marés, originally at Plaça del Rei, which was moved to its nowadays emplacement in 1930. 1929 economic crisis stopped that expansion and others to come such as the creation of a Baroque Quarter, in El Raval, where actually there’s only one church of that style. .
9. Sagrada Família’s magic square
The “magic square” is like a Middle Ages Sudoku. Gaudi placed four of them in la Sagrada Família. Formed by 4 rows and 4 columns that added in any direction always make 33, Jesuschrist age when he died according to the Bible. The only one visible from the street is on the Passion Façade and it’s not easy to find.
10. The four columns from Troy
We are talking about the four columns of grey marble that you can see at the portico of Palau de la Generalitat (site of the Catalan Government) at Plaça Sant Jaume. Their origin is the ancient city of Troy from the Roman era. That city, nowadays part of Turkey, exported high quality marble throughout the Roman Empire. According to an hypothesis ,that was the material used to built the 45 columns of Emperor Hadrian's palace in Tarraco, during the winter of 122 AD.
When the Roman Empire felt the ruins of the old palace were used to built other buildings. Four of those forty five columns were used, by the architect Pere Blai, to build the portico of the monumental renaissance façade of Palau de la Generalitat, that can be seen nowadays.