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The Secrets of the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona

The city keeps its secrets, sometimes in full view, and only an experienced eye can disclosure them.

Every year more than a million of people, locals and tourists, walk through the shady and twistedly narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter.

They stroll alone, in groups, with a guide or without it but all of them eager to discover all about the zone.

But the city keeps its secrets, sometimes in full view, and only an experienced eye can disclosure them.

For instance, people are far from knowing that there’s a Hell entrance, that a cana is more than a white hair, or that the cathedral’s facade is not what it seems to be.

But first of all I want to unveil something that may be surprising: The Gothic quarter, as it is nowadays, isn’t Gothic at all. Not even the Gothic buildings.

Various events of the 19th and 20th centuries have given the neighbourhood its current appearance.

The first event was the opening of a wide new street, Via Laietana, all along the tight zone of buildings. .

The second event was the bombings over the city during the Civil War.

Both incidents caused the knock down of many constructions.

The City Council took advantage of the situation to reorganise the quarter and make it more appealing and historic. But according to a romantic idea about medieval ages.

As an illustration, do you know Sant Felip Neri square? Five hundred years ago it used to be a cemetery a space far away from the lovely square that delight us.

In one of the missing streets, it is said that there was an entrance to Hell and furthermore Satan itself had a house there.

Actually the legend comes from the unbearable noise in the area caused by the blacksmiths that had their workshops there that people compared with being in Hell.

barcelona: secrets of the gothic quarter

The Hell entrance is oddly enough near to the cathedral, one of the most relevant construction in the quarter. Nearly all the building was made in Gothic style, the most fashionable in the 14th century. But  it takes a long time to erect a building like this, so when it was the time to the facade to be done, 100 years later, fashion had changed and it was made in a sober style very different from the pointed and decorated Gothic.

500 years later, in the 20th Century the public opinion considered that the facade wasn’t magnificent enough.

The major who was also a wealthy banker commissioned a new one, fulfilling the plans back from the 14th century. However the original wasn’t demolished. How is it possible?

If we look carefully at the facade we realise that it projects from the walls, it is hanging with a lot of iron hooks from the original which is behind.

Inside the Cathedral there’s an apparently ordinary carving representing Christ. It was in a ship that fought in Lepanto’s Battle when turks shot a cannonball towards it and Christ curved the body to the right to dodge the bullet.

People took it as a miracle and since then is fervently venerated.

Going on with the cathedral’s secrets on one of the outer cathedral’s wall there is a carved mark called Cana.

We agree that it must be something important due to its location, not only in a cathedral’s wall but also in one of the most important streets of the medieval city and near of one of the gates.

Nowadays it goes unnoticed, specially since a street musician stands next to it. But it was made on purpose in a public space to be seen by everybody who entered the city.

What could it be for?

It’s nothing magical it is rather a practical thing, it’s the official length measure of the city. In the medieval ages every city has their own as there wasn’t unit of measures. This fact provoqued constant lawsuits about the accuracy of measures in the trade and overwhelmed the civil servant in charge of it. So if there was any situation anyone could go there with a stick or a rope and take the measure to solve the issue without disturbing the busy mostarraf.

Owing to the lawsuits about the accuracy of the measures in trade were constants, the City Council commissioned to make this carving in one of the city’s entrances to help the mostassaf, the person in charge of ensuring official weights and measures in trade.

If you want to know more do not miss our tour: Stories and Legends of the Gothic Quarter.

Chose you option:  Regular tour or private tour