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  • The Academic Victor, a graffiti from the past

    What mystery do these centenary red symbols keep on the walls of the Gothic Quarter?

Historic University Vandalism

What at first seems to be confusing symbols painted in red, they are actually words that keep secrets from a long time ago.

While walking through the crowded streets of the historic downtown of Barcelona in the Stories and legends of the Gothic Quarter Tour, our most curious customers tend to stop in front of what in first sight seems a confusing set of symbols painted in red. However, when they look closely they realize that those are words with a specific meaning despite their apparent disorder.

Although they could remind us about the modern graffiti art, the so-called Academic Victors (Víctores Universitarios in Spanish) are of Renaissance origin and used to be inscriptions that celebrated the graduation of University students. Therefore, the remaining Victors are usually located nearby Academic buildings. One can always find the word ‘Victor’ written in capitals as an anagram, which is usually followed by the name or surname of the graduate to whom this inscription gave honor.

As we explain in our Slow Gothic Tour, though it’s been proved that the red color used in these inscriptions came from animal or vegetable pigments, their authorship remains a mystery today. However, the most accepted hypotheses suggest that it was the students themselves who wanted to communicate their university triumphs to the world. The richer the student was, the bigger was his Victor. Therefore, the owner of the “Victor Huguet” located on the facade of the Hospital de la Santa Creu in Carrer del Carme was for sure from an important family due to its magnitude, which continues surprising both tourists and locals. This Victor was probably dedicated to someone who turned out to be a new doctor because of its proximity to the Royal Academy of Medicine.

¿What does Victor mean?

This anagram, which is derived from the Latin form vitor, would be equivalent to the current “Hurray!” and preceded the name of the graduated student. Some experts say that the origin of the ‘Victor’ symbol comes from a dream that the Roman Emperor Constantine had just right before a battle where he saw it and said: in hoc vinces (with this sign you will win).

There are two more examples of Victors in the facade of the Arxiu de la Corona de Aragó building placed between Plaça del Rey and the Catedral. One of them is dedicated to a so-called “Viñals” and the other, not so well preserved, used to celebrate a big personality due to its large size. Two more Victors top the corner between Placeta de Marcus and Carrer Assaonadors in Sant Pere neighborhood. The first of them commemorated the triumph of “Teixidor” and the second allude an “Eva”, who would have never been a woman owing to the fact that women could not access to University till the 20th Century.

These and other inscriptions are part of the charm and mystery of the Gothic Quarter and they are also prove of the importance of the past in Barcelona.

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