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Barcelona: History

Introduction to Barcelona

Barcelona was founded on the Mediterranean coast between two rivers more than two thousand years ago. It is located in the North East of the Iberian Peninsula, just a short distance from France. Romans, Arabs and Christians all influenced Barcelona throughout the centuries. Traces of this diverse history with contrasting cultures can be found all over the city. From the Gothic Quarter built on Roman ruins to its Art Noveau Eixample district dominated by Gaudí's exuberant architecture: Barcelona surely is a city of contrasts.

Catalonia

The emotional relationship of the Catalan people towards their golden age is very intense as for a long time they were deprived of their own state. During the 13th and 14th century the Catalonian empire was a great power in the Mediterranean area and Barcelonans dominated sea trade. The Gothic Area is a relic of the wealth of this expansive era. With all its magnificent medieval buildings it is unique in Europe.

The Eixample – Barcelona under construction

In the middle of the 19th century Barcelona’s population slowly burst the medieval walls that surrounded the city. The extension of Barcelona (in Catalan Eixample, in Spanish ensanche) was planned according to the design of the engineer Idelfons Cerdà. The construction of Eixample began in 1860. The linear pattern can still be seen today. Cerdà’s plan divides the 9 km2 into 550 blocks, uniformly crossed by streets and three boulevards. All blocks should have included open and green spaces; some should have been left out and have become parks, unfortunately this remained a dream. On all of the blocks houses were built much higher than in Cerdà’s original plan. Still, Eixample is a good example for utopian civil engineering.

Anarchy in Spain

Spain is the only country in the world that widely accepted and supported anarchy as a model for society. In Andalusia it appealed to workers without property and in Catalonia industrial workers during the late 19th century, disappointed by the church and politics, supported it. The intensity of this fanaticism was almost as strong as the hated religious eagerness in the country, which was strongly refused by the Anarchists. In Barcelona it culminated in bomb attacks on bishops, military and aristocracy. The most noted assassination was committed by Santiago Salvador in the Opera house Liceu. During a performance of Rossini’s Wilhelm Tell he detonated two explosives and killed 22 spectators in on the most expensive seats.

 

Barcelona - facts and figures

27 B.C. – 14 A.D.

 

The Roman colony Barcino is founded under the reign of emperor Augustus

late 3rd, early 4th century.

The city wall is built as a defense against the Franks and Alemanni

415

The Visigoths found the kingdom of Tolosa (Toulouse), from which Catalonia emerges

717

The Arabs conquer Barcelona (Barjelunah)

801

The Franks join Barcelona and the kingdom of Charlemagne

876

Guifré el Pilós (Wilfredo I., the Hairy) reigns the Frank county south of the Pyrenees

1131-1162

Federation of the counties Barcelona /Catalonia and Aragón under Ramón Berenguer IV. Barcelona ascends to an important trading power

1213-1276

1213-1276 Jaume I. conquers Valencia, Ibiza and Mallorca from the Moors. The expanding city builds new walls

1354

Catalonia’s legislative council (Corts Catalans) founds the Generalitat in order to control finances.

1410

Martí I., last king of Barcelona, dies without descendent. Catalonia is more and more patronized by Madrid who prefers investing in over-sea expeditions than in the stagnating trade of the Mediterranean Sea.

1462-1473

Catalonian civil war, economic decline.

1640

Rebellion of Els Segadors against Castilian.

1714

French and Spanish troops conquer Barcelona during the Spanish war of predecessors. Catalonia becomes Spanish province, the citadel a symbol of violence.

1813

Napoleon’s troops leave. The textile industry encourages economic and population growth.

1859

Cerdàs plan of Eixample, the extension of the city outside the walls is accepted.

1888

The world exhibition attracts more than two million visitors.

late 19th / early 20th century.

Improvement of Eixample with Modernist buildings.

1909

Setmana Tràgica (tragic week): Churches and convents burn

1914-1918

The neutral position of Spain during World War I stimulates Barcelona’s economy.

1929

World exhibition on Montjüic.

1931

Alfonso XIII. goes into exile. The republic is declared and Catalonia an autonomous region.

1936

Workers defeat a military revolt that is headed by the nationalistic General Franco. Dispute between Communists and Anarchists weakens Franco - resistance.

1939

Entering of the Franco-Nationalists. The suppression of Catalan culture and language as well as economic decline results. Spain remains neutral during World War II.

1977

Monarchy is reintroduced after Franco’s death in 1975. Juan Carlos I. allows the reconstitution of the Generalitat as a provisional, later regular government of the autonomous region of Catalonia.

1992

After a decade of improvements, the Olympic games provide Barcelona’s comeback as cosmopolite metropolis.

2003

Barcelona has become one of the most exciting and dynamic cities in the world and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

 

 




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