Barcellona is a great capital city, the capital of Catalonia, and an important economic, artistic and intellectual centre, as well as the leading port of Spain, with a population of about 3 million inhabitants and a clearly international vocation.
It was originally a small Roman colony, which was of far less importance that the nearby Tarraco. Barcellona made its mark in relation to nearby towns only when the dynasty of the counts founded by Goffredo the Villoso succeeded in imposing its will on all the surrounding countryside, ending up by absorbing them.Following marriage to the heir of the Aragonese crown, count Berengario IV, founded the powerful Catalan-Aragonese federation, which was to completely dominate the Mediterranean area between the 13th and 14th centuries. We shall not now spend time in describing all the artistic qualities of the town, as there are too many to describe, we shall therefore limit ourselves to considering only those in Romanesque style
WEALTH OF MUSEUMS
Barcellona, between the 11th and 12th centuries was still enclosed within its Roman walls termed Barri Gotic. As the name suggests it was clearly re-modelled during the golden years of Catalan culture (14th century), but its buildings remained in the same style and plan of the original Roman town. For example the House of Ardiaca was built in the 12th century on the roman walls before being totally renovated in the 15th century. The Palace of the Counts was built from the 11th century on these same walls, which was later to become the Palaiu Reial. Nothing now remains of the Romanesque cathedral of the 11th century, which was replaced by a Gothic building.
The Frederic Marès museum in the Barri Gotic, features an important series of medieval sculptures especially in Romanesque style, coming from all over Catalonia. It is also possible to admire the bas-relief of the portal of Sant Per de Rodes, the work of the Master of Cabestany, which represents the apparition of Christ the Resurrected, to the Saints Peter and John. The National Art Museum, set on the hillside of Motjuic, features a wonderful collection of Romanesque paintings, collected during the 19th century from numerous rural churches. Which have been mounted on special supports so as to reproduce the scales of the buildings from which they came. The excellent frescoes of the Val di Boi are particularly worthy of note.In the suburbs of Barcelona it is also possible to visit the monastery of Sant Cugar del Vallès, featuring one of the most beautiful Romanesque cloisters in Catalonia. The capital sculptures are particularly fine. The nearby church which was renovated in the Gothic period, has conserved its bases and Romanesque plan, as well as the apses and the bell-tower, predominantly dating back to the 11th century.
A EUROPEAN CAPITAL
A visit to Barcellona should in no way be limited to its monuments and Romanesque collections, despite being very fine specimens. A Romanesque itinerary through Catalonia will provide an insight into the various features of this town of great appeal and allure in all fields and especially those of the arts. The recently acquired independence of Catalonia has given a great dynamism which is in many way comparable with that of a European capital.