Travels

Barcelona’s History Museum Above Ground

How often do you build a museum by moving stone by stone a 15th century palazzo to the current location and accidentally discovered a 1st century underground Roman town? Not more than once in two thousand years and only in Barcelona.

The Museum of the History of Barcelona or in Catalan, Museu d’Història de Barcelona, (MUHBA) is a history museum that conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the historical heritage of the city of Barcelona, from its origins in Roman times until the present day.

The museum’s headquarters are located on Plaça del Rei, in the Barcelona Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic). It also manages several historic sites all around the city, most of them archaeological sites displaying remains of the ancient Roman city, called Barcino in Latin.

Some others date to medieval times, including the Jewish quarter and the medieval royal palace called the Palau Reial Major. The rest are contemporary, among them old industrial buildings and sites related to Antoni Gaudí and the Spanish Civil War.

King’s Square / Plaça del Rei

The square is surrounded by the three buildings that made up Palau Reial Major (Grand Royal Palace), including Saló del Tinell (Tinell Hall), Palau del Lloctinent (Lieutenant’s Palace), the 15th-century tower Mirador del Rei Martí (King Martin’s Watchtower), and Capella Reial de Santa Àgata (Royal Chapel of St Agatha).

On its southern side stands Casa Padellàs (Padellàs’s House), a 15th–16th century palazzo moved here stone by stone from Mercaders Street in 1931. Because of the move, the underground 1st Century Roman town was discovered. The House now serves as the entrance to the museum.

Tinell Hall / Saló del Tinell

Tinell Hall or Saló del Tinell (1359-1370) in Catalan is a classic example of Catalan Gothic. This magnificent hall with solid columns ) was supposed to be where Isabel and Fernando received Christopher Columbus on his return from America.

Built by order of the King of Aragon Pedro III the Ceremonious to the master builder Guillem Carbonell, it is one of the three buildings that are part of the Royal Mayor Palace of Barcelona. Salo del Tinell often houses temporary exhibitions for MUBHA.

The romanesque vaults under the hall also house a small exhibition that outlines the medieval history of Barcelona.

Royal Chapel of St Agatha / Capella Reial de Santa Àgata

Royal Chapel of St Agatha or Capella Reial de Santa Àgata in Catalan is set in the Roman wall and was built in 1302 by order of Jaime II and his wife Blanca D’Anjou. The 16th century octagonal bell tower by Martín el Humano uses the remains of the roman wall, that was also used to build the vestry.

Made up of one single nave of three diagphragmic arches with spurs that supports the woodern roof, a small cross, two chapels and the gallery. A staircase that leads to the tower is accessed from a small room to the right of the altar. A the altar is the tabla de Santa Àgata (15th century), by Master Burgo de Osma, and presiding over the chapel is the Constable altarpiece, painted in 1465 by artist Jaume Huguet at the order of the elected Catalan king Pere IV, Constable of Portugal. Also on behalf of the constable, Alfonso de Córdoba painted the coffered ceiling, where the motto of the king “peine pour joie” appears.

The altarpiece is an original 15th century Reredos of the High Constable, by Catalán painter Jaume Huguet that was painted at the order of the Catalan king Pere IV, Constable of Portugal. The central motif is the Epiphany and it is considered a masterpiece of Catalan Gothic painting.

The History Museum Underground

Entrance to the underground museum is through Padellàs House courtyard, one of the best examples of Catalán gothic courtyards in private houses (built in the 15th and 16th centuries, reconstructed 1931). There you go down the elevator to visit the remains of a whole quarter of the ancient Roman city of Barcino in the archaeological underground. The archaeological area under Plaça del Rei covers over 4000 m2

There is an exhibition about daily life in Roman houses and a walk over factories (laundry, dying, salted fish and garum, winery), shops (tabernae), walls (intervallum, inner parts of the towers) and streets (cardo minor). There are also found the remains of the early Christian and visigothic Episcopal architectural complex (cross shaped church, bishop’s palace, baptistery). We will take a look in details in part two of the tour of the History Museum.

The Gothic Quarter

Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, is a world unto itself, and easily missed in a city that has so much to see. This is where the Romans founded their new town. Don’t miss “the other Cathedral” – Barcelona Cathedral (officially called Cathedral of Santa Eulalia) that is the seat of Archdiocese of Barcelona and often overshadowed by the more famous Basilica de la Sagrada Familia.

Visited Aug 2018

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