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Barcelona​ History - Part I of the Barcelona Cruise Stop Series


On those early visits, I discovered that the human occupation of Barcelona dates to the Neolithic and early Chalcolithic periods.  Ancient building structures have been discovered in the El Raval neighbourhood but as one lady, an arqueóloga I met at a museum event told me, it is believed that there may be ancient artifacts just waiting to be uncovered under the many other areas of the city.


In this blog posting I cover the history of Barcelona.


In my next blog entry will cover:

1.​ Places to see

2. Transportation to and from the airport

3. Transportation to and from the port

4. Getting around the city

5. Barcelona Markets

6. Hop on Hop off buses

7. Day trips from Barcelona

8. Fun Facts

History


Before Covid-19 ravaged the world of cruising and hit various countries with a vengeance, Barcelona was a major cruise port that served as both a destination stop and a departure/arrival point. Located on the east coast of Spain, Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the country’s second largest city.


My first visit to Barcelona was in 1989 with my second visit following in 1991. Each trip lasted over a week to allow me to explore the city and surrounding area. I did not discover Barcelona as a cruise port until later, when my love affair with cruising began. There is a lot to see and do in the city, so I will begin with a little history.


On those early visits, I discovered that the human occupation of Barcelona dates to the Neolithic and early Chalcolithic periods.  Ancient building structures have been discovered in the El Raval neighbourhood but as one lady, an arqueóloga I met at a museum event told me, it is believed that there may be ancient artifacts just waiting to be uncovered under the many other areas of the city.


The Romans were everywhere in Europe, and Spain was no exception. They showed up around the 1st century and by the end of the century had set up a town called Barcino. With over a thousand occupants, a brand-new sewer system and defensive fortifications, Barcelona was on the way to growth and prosperity. As with the case of London, England, remains of the Roman fortification wall can still be seen today.


When the Romans left, the Laietani moved in. The Greeks are reported to have made an appearance at some point but that apparently is still up for debate. I consulted different historical books and some say the Greeks were never in Barcelona, others stated the Greeks settled there in 1200 BC and finally a few books indicated that the Greeks settled in Barcelona between the Laietani and Visigoths. We do know for sure that by the 5th Century, the Visigoths settled in the region and Barcelona became their capital. The Visigoths are widely considered to the be the successors to Roman occupation in parts of Europe and about the time they were settling in Spain, they were also setting up in southern France. Intermarriages were common so Latin as the main language was replaced by an eastern Germanic language as the Visigoths intermarried with the Hispano-Roman population.


The Moors also settled here around the 5th century, but unlike certain parts of Spain where the architecture was heavily influenced by the Moors, Barcelona’s architecture was not. The only building I found in Barcelona that looked like it was built in the Moorish style, is the Edificio Alhambra and that was not built until 1875.


Next up on the conquest roll call are the Franks who enter the Barcelona historical picture in 801. At that time Barcino became known by its current name of Barcelona, and the name of the city has remained Barcelona ever since. The Moors were still occupying parts of southern Spain, so the Franks, once in possession of Barcelona, chose to heavily defend the city against possible invasion. Those old Roman walls came back into play in some of the areas of the city and there is one section of the wall that is a historical blend of Roman/Medieval architecture. Wilfred the Hairy (real name: Guifré el Pelós), set up the House of Barcelona as the dominating ruling house during this time but despite the name, the city was firmly under French rule. That lasted until 988 when Borell II declared the county of Barcelona independent of France’s kingdom.


During the 13th to the 15th centuries, Barcelona enjoyed a period of building and prosperity. The Gothic period of architecture flourished, and you can see and visit buildings from this period of time in the city’s Gothic Quarter (more on that in the next blog entry entitled Barcelona, Places to See). The Catalonian culture, ship building, international trade and art all flourished.


From 1478 to around 1834, the Judicial Institution (known as the Spanish Inquisition) was established and flourished with a goal to combat heresy in Spain. Horribly brutal, it was widely feared and at times, extremely unjust. There is a walking tour that I will cover in the Places to See section, which covers this topic well. I mention the inquisition as it seemed to usher in a period of decline for Barcelona.


By the 16th to 18th centuries, the city was in a decline and the inquisition was flourishing. This seems like a good point to mention that contrary to the belief held by some, the 1588 Spanish Armanda did not set sail from Barcelona, it sailed from Lisbon.


In 1700, King Charles II of Spain died without an heir and a dispute arose as to who would succeed him. Although he named Philip, the Duke of Anjou (of the House of Bourbon), as his successor, the Austrian Habsburgs laid claim to the crown which set off the War of Spanish Succession. In 1714, the city fell to the Bourbons, who believing that the Catalonians were against them, suppressed the Catalonian culture until the early 20th century.


In 1931, King Alfonso XIII approved elections to decide the government of Spain, and voters overwhelmingly chose to abolish the monarchy in favor of a liberal republic. For the briefest of times, the citizens enjoyed a certain level political freedom but the civil war in 1936, followed by the restrictive dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, resulted in oppression and economic decline. Barcelona was the Republican capital of Spain during both those periods but being the capital did not mean that prosperity was present.


It was not until democracy was restored in 1978 that Barcelona began to flourish again and the Catalan language and culture returned to prominence.


In 1992, the city hosted the Olympic Games and cruise ships started frequenting the city, becoming a major departure and arrivals port.


Visitors arriving for a cruise, be it a quick day stop or a longer pre or post cruise stay, will marvel at the stunning beauty of the Barcelona Cathedral (real name the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia), or enjoy the dynamic, awe inspiring Basílica de la Sagrada Família. In Barcelona you will find something for everyone.


In my next blog entry I will cover places to see in Barcelona. If you have any comments or questions about this blog, please feel free to put a comment in the comment section of e-mail me at gailgauvreau@gailgauvreau.com




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