Ohh Barri Gothic, the ever so romantic neighborhood next to La Rambla, a labyrinth of backstreets where you can wander all day aimlessly. It has a special flavor to it, it’s a huge part of Barcelona’s spirit and inspires a life of long ago, calm in spite of the hustle and bustle of the narrow streets.
Old buildings, gothic architecture from medieval times, history at every street corner… Wait! Stop, stop with the dreaming please. Unfortunately I have to give you somewhat.. unpopular news. Things are not quite as they seem. I was also very surprised to find out that Barri Gothic, to become as we know it today, underwent a complete transformation in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Doesn’t sound very medieval, does it?
This doesn’t mean that Barri Gothic’s charm disappears. But let’s discover the true story of the neighborhood.
Your pocket Gothic architecture guide
Let’s start with the beggining. What is Gothic architecture?
It is a type of architecture that was born and flourished in Europe, evolving from Roman architecture and being succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Its origins are in the 12th century France and lasted until the 16th century.
The Gothic architecture was used mainly in the construction of the great cathedrals, monasteries and churches in Europe. It is also present in many castles, palaces, town halls, universities, and less in private homes. Many of the Gothic cathedrals are considered to be priceless works of art and are even included in the UNESCO heritage.
The Gothic style is represented by several defining elements: the pointed (or ogival) arch, ogival vaults and the so-called flying buttress (arc-boutant). Other features include large windows, often grouped and decorated with tracery (perforated stone ornaments), rose windows, towers, spires and ornate façades.
The Westminster Abbey, the Duomo di Milano, Notre-Dame de Paris and the Catedral de Barcelona are among the most famous Gothic cathedrals we have personally seen.
What is Barri Gothic
Barri Gothic is a neighborhood in Ciutat Vella, the old city center of Barcelona. It is positioned between La Rambla and Via Laietana, and has a labyrinth street plan, with many narrow streets that open into squares. Most of the neighborhood’s streets are pedestrian.
Massive restoration of Barri Gothic
In 2011, with the publication of Augustin Cócola’s dissertation, “The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona: Planning the Past and Brand Image,” a great controversy regarding the authenticity of the Gothic quarter arose. According to the author, Barri Gothic underwent a massive restoration project in the late 1800s and early 1900s, that turned it radically out of a grim neighborhood of housing into a tourist attraction. In the area there were already Gothic buildings from the medieval period, but many were restored and modified, and some buildings were even made gothic from scratch.
Yes, the concept of Barri Gothic was invented, but in addition to the tourism component, it was done to promote the national identity of Catalan art and culture.
Some of the buildings that were restored in the Gothic style are: the façade of the Catedral de Barcelona (built between 1882 and 1913), the bridge crossing the Bisbe Street (newly built in 1928), the Picasso Museum (restored in 1959, Gothic windows and arched galleries were added).
Catedral de Barcelona, the most imposing building in Barri Gothic
The cathedral of Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona, was built in the 14th century and at the end of the 19th century the façade was restored in neo-Gothic style. It is certainly one of the most iconic Gothic buildings in Barri Gothic, and even throughout Barcelona.
A walk on the narrow streets
The streets of Barri Gothic are adorable! Even in the rain, as we got to see them last year. There are small and large squares, old buildings and new buildings, some medieval, others just made to look medieval. After all, the reinvention of the neighborhood did not ruin our walk. The neighborhood still has its unique spirit, owed not only to its architecture, but also to the cobbled streets, people, feelings, flavours and music.
Barri Gothic is a complete experience. The buildings may be more or less authentic. But it’s up to each person how they perceive and live this experience. For us it was wonderful!