Along with the spectacular modern monuments, the Götic (or Gothic) neighborhood is one of the most magical places full of charm that you should not miss. Strolling through its curling streets implies, soaking up the history of Barcelona but also it’s legends and unusual events that, many times, not even its own residents know.
Those of us who work at Lugaris not only strive to offer you the best rental apartments in Barcelona for your holiday: we also want to help you get the most out of your stay in the Catalan capital. Therefore, today, we share with you some of the most surprising secrets of the Götic quarter, and that without a doubt, will make you look at the old town of Barcelona in a different way. We are sure that many of them will leave you speechless. Do you dare to know them?
The Greater Synagogue: one of the oldest in Europe
One of the singular corners of the Gothic district is the Jewish district or Call, in which the Hebrew community of Barcelona lived until the end of the 15th century, when its expulsion was decreed. Despite its small size, it came to have five synagogues in the Middle Ages, of which only one is preserved – the Greater Synagogue. Located on Carrer de Market, number 5, it can boast of being one of the oldest synagogues in Europe (despite being documented since the eighth century, archaeological works place it in the third century of our era, in full Roman era).
Those who wish may visit it from Monday to Friday all day (until 6:00pm or 6:30pm, depending on the season) and on weekends only in the morning.
A house inhabited for almost a thousand years
Have you ever asked someone whether they knew how old the house next door was?? Well, if you asked this to certain residents of the Call, their answer could leave you cold. Without going very far, just at number 6 Carrer Sant Domènec del Call is the oldest inhabited house in Barcelona. It is known that the building has served as a dwelling since at least the twelveth century, which hosted a brothel during the post war period and that in the year 2000 was reformed to serve as a private home. This almost millenary construction also managed to survive the severe earthquake of 1428, which tilted its apperance. Certainly our apartments in Barcelona are much more modern, so you can find the rest you desire!
The mystery of the Jewish baths of Barcelona
One of the great enigmas of the Call is the exact location of the ancient Jewish baths or Mikvé. Some tourist guides assure that the ritual baths for men were inside a building that today accommodates a decoration shop, S’olives, in the Carrer Banys Nous, the truth is that the type of bricks used back then corresponds with the ones used in this building which was acknowledged in the 19th century, although it is not ruled out that the basement of this establishment could contain previous remains.
The same is thought about the supposed female toilets, which some believe was located in the in the basement wwànt of the Caelum cafeteria (c/Palla,8). As the same type of architecture is used as in the 19th century. And for those with a sweet tooth, the cafeteria serves delicious pastry specialties which you can taste in a unique setting.
A certainty of this location is that at the junction of the streets of Banys Nous, Boqueria, Arinyó and Call the public baths of Barcelona were built in the 12th century.
The oldest Church in Barcelona
Outside the Jewish quarter, the Gothic continues to captivate the traveler with its eye catching architecture. For example, in the plaza de Sants Just, you’ll find the basilica of Sants Martirs Just I pastor. Some recent archaeological finds have allowed us to know the origin of this church, which has welcomed Christian worship uninterrupted since the Fourth century. Hence is the oldest Church in Barcelona.
The current Gothic style basilica dates from the 14th century and stands in the same enclave where there was once a Romanesque construction and a Visigothic basilica from the 6th century. And a detail worth remembering: since 1989, a Christmas dinner has been held inside for the most needy people in the city.
The executioner’s house in Barcelona
The figure of the executioner has been one of the most hated in the history of Barcelona, to the point that nobody wanted to have as a neighbor the person who played this sordid role. To solve this situation, the former government body known as the Consell de Cent decided to assign a house in the plaza del Rel, this being the smallest house in Barcelona. In addition, it was in this space where the death sentences were executed so the executioner (or botxi, in Catalan) thus avoided having to walk through the streets of Barcelona. In the photo, you can see the old house, located in the space that today occupies the museum of history of Barcelona (MUHBA). Next to it, you can see one of the columns of the ancient Roman temple of Augustus, which today stands next to the remains of this construction at number 12, Calle del paradis.
A Roman colony of riches
Since we have just spoken about the about the emperor, it is worth saying that the ancient Roman Colony of Barcino, in the current Gothic quarter was a city in which luxury was the predominant trend. In fact, historians are intrigued by the abundance of freedmen (slaves who had bought their freedom) and ostentatious domus or houses (like those of the streets of Avinyó or de la fruita), some with Carrara marble, the presence of three public restrooms (such as those on Regomir Street), in an urban nucleus that did not exceed 5,000 inhabitants. Even outside the walls, Roman villas stood almost as large as Barcino itself, being that of the Sagrera the best example. And that’s not all, some archaeologists suspects that, under the current Santa Maria del Mar basilica, there might be a Roman amphitheater. The name of the church that was there before, Santa Maria de las Arenas, in the Born, contributes to feed this theory.
The Gothic district does not exist
No, it’s not a joke: we wanted to leave the most disconcerting revelation to the end. Although the streets of the historic centre of Barcelona have more than two millennia behind them most of their current buildings are not Gothic, but neo- Gothic, dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Do you recognize the building in the plots? Although it seems incredible, this was the aspect that presented the cathedral of Barcelona in 1880. Although its interior auditorium is medieval (it started in 1298) its imposing facade is much more recent. Neither is the inspiring square of Sant Felipe Neri in the call, which had to be rebuilt after the civil war. And the same case with the spectacular bridge that presides over the narrow Street of Bisbe. Although it also looks Gothic, it was built in 1928 By Joan Rubió I Beliver- pay attention to the skull with a dagger that can be seen when passing underneath- on the occasion of the international Exhibition,to be held a year later. This does not take away a bit from your interest right? Do you know other streets of Barcelona and its Gothic quarter? If so, we will like to know. Send us your comments and surprise us!