1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Barcelona (Spanish city)

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BARCELONA, formerly the capital of Catalonia, and since 1833 the capital of the province of Barcelona in eastern Spain, in 41° 23′ N. and 2° 11′ E., on the Mediterranean Sea, and at the head of railways from Madrid, Saragossa, and Perpignan in France. Pop. (1900) 533,000. Barcelona is a flourishing city and the principal seaport of Spain. It is built on the sloping edge of a small plain between the rivers Besós, on the north, and Llobrégat, on the south. Immediately to the south-west the fortified hills of Montjuich rise to an altitude of 650 ft., while the view is bounded on the west by the heights which culminate in Tibidabo (1745 ft.), and on the north-east by the Montañas Matas. The greater part of the space thus enclosed is occupied by comparatively modern suburbs and gardens of almost tropical luxuriance, strongly contrasting with the huge factories and busy port of the original city in their midst.

Barcelona was formerly surrounded by a strong line of ramparts, and defended, or more correctly, overawed by a citadel on the north-east, erected in 1715 by Philip V.; but these fortifications being felt as a painful restriction on the natural development of the city, were, in spite of the opposition of the central government, finally abolished by the local authorities in 1845. The walls of the moat were utilized for the cellars of the houses which soon occupied the site of the ramparts, and the ground, which had been covered by the citadel, was laid out in gardens. A rapid extension of the city to the north-west took place, and in 1860 an elaborate plan for the laying out of new districts received the royal sanction. Barcelona thus comprises an old town, still consisting for the most part of irregular and narrow streets, and a new town built with all the symmetry and precision of a premeditated scheme. The buildings of the old town are chiefly of brick, from four to five storeys in height, with flat roofs, and other oriental peculiarities; while in the new town hewn stone is very largely employed, and the architecture is often of a modern English style. To the east, on the tongue of land that helps to form the port, lies the suburb of Barceloneta. It owes its origin to the marquis de la Mina, who, about 1754, did much for the city, and is regularly laid out, the houses being built of brick after a uniform pattern. The main street or axis of the old town is the Rambla, which has a fine promenade planted with plane-trees running down the middle, and contains the principal hotels and theatres of the city. The most important suburbs are Grácia, Las Corts de Sarriá, Horta, San Andrés de Palomar, San Gervasio de Cassolas, San Martin de Provensals and Sans. Exclusive of these, the city contains about 334,000 inhabitants, an increase of nearly 150,000 since 1857. Large numbers of immigrant artisans joined the population during the latter half of the 19th century, attracted by the great development of industry. Barcelona is the see of a bishop, and, like most Spanish towns, has a large number of ecclesiastical buildings, though by no means so many as it once possessed. No fewer than eighteen convents were still standing in 1873. The cathedral, erected between 1298 and 1448 on Monte Taber, an oval hill which forms the highest point of the Rambla, is one of the finest examples of Spanish Gothic; although it is not designed on a great scale and some parts have been freely modernized. It contains the early 14th-century tomb of Santa Eulalia, the patron saint of the city, besides many other monuments of artistic or historical interest. Its stained glass windows are among the finest in Spain, and it possesses archives of great value. Santa Maria del Mar, Santa Ana, Santos Justo y Pastor, San Pedro de las Puellas, and San Pablo del Campo are all churches worthy of mention.

The educational institutions of Barcelona have from an early period been numerous and important. The university (Universidad Literaria), which was originally founded in 1430 by the magistracy of the city, and received a bull of confirmation from Pope Nicholas V. in 1450, possessed at that time four faculties and thirty-one chairs all endowed by the corporation. It was suppressed in 1714, but restored in 1841, and now occupies an extensive building in the new town. There are, besides, an academy of natural sciences, a college of medicine and surgery—confirmed by a bull of Benedict XIII. in 1400—an academy of fine arts, a normal school, a theological seminary, an upper industrial school, an institution for the education of deaf-mutes, a school of navigation and many minor establishments. Gratuitous instruction of a very high order is afforded by the Board of Trade to upwards of 2000 pupils. The principal charitable foundations are the Casa de Caridad or house of charity, the hospital general, dating from 1401, and the foundling hospital. The principal civic and commercial buildings are the Casa Consistorial, a fine Gothic hall (1369–1378), the Lonja or exchange (1383), and the Aduana or custom-house (1792). At the seaward end of the Rambla is a large ancient structure, the Atarazanas or Arsenals, which was finished about 1243, and partly demolished in the 19th century to give a better view to the promenade. Remains of the former royal state of Barcelona are found in the Palacio Real of the kings of Aragon and the Palacio de la Reina. At the highest part of the city, in the Calle del Paradis, are some magnificent columns, and other Roman remains, which, however, are hidden by the surrounding buildings. Means of public recreation are abundantly supplied. There are many theatres, the two most important being the Teatro Principal, and the Teatro del Liceo, a very fine building, originally erected in 1845 on the site of a convent of Trinitarian monks. The number of restaurants and similar places of evening resort is very great, and there are several public courts where the Basque game of pelota can be witnessed.

The so-called port of Barcelona was at first only an open beach, on the east, slightly sheltered by the neighbouring hills, but at an early period the advantage of some artificial protection was felt. In 1438 Don Alphonso V. granted the magistracy a licence to build a mole; and in 1474 the Moll de Santa Creu was officially begun. Long after this, however, travellers speak of Barcelona as destitute of a harbour; and it is only in the 17th century that satisfactory works were undertaken. Until modern times all the included area was shut off from the open sea by a sand-bank, which rendered the entrance of large vessels impossible. An extension of the former mole, and the construction of another from the foot of Montjuich, have embraced a portion of the sea outside of the bank, and a convenient shelter is thus afforded for the heaviest battleships. From 1873 the work of extension and improvement was carried on systematically, with the addition of new quays, greater storage room, and better means for handling cargo. After thirty years of steady development, further plans were approved in 1903. At this time the port included an inner harbour, with a depth of 18 to 30 ft. at low tide, and an outer harbour with a depth of 20 to 35 ft. In the following year 8075 vessels of nearly 5,000,000 tons entered the port. Barcelona is well supplied with inland communication by rail, and the traffic of its streets is largely facilitated by tramway lines running from the port as far as Grácia and the other chief suburbs.

Barcelona has long been the industrial and commercial centre of eastern Spain—a pre-eminence which dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. It received a temporary check from the disasters of the Spanish-American War of 1898; but less than a year later it paid about £550,000 in industrial and commercial taxes, or more than 11% of the whole amount thus collected in the kingdom; and within five years it had become a port of regular call for thirty-five important shipping companies. It also contained the head offices of thirteen other lines, notably those of the Transatlantic Mail Company, which possessed a fleet of twenty-five fine steamships. Trades and industries give occupation to more than 150,000 hands of both sexes. The spinning and weaving of wool, cotton and silk are the principal industries, but the enterprising spirit of the Catalans has compelled them to try almost every industry in which native capital could attempt to compete with foreign, especially since the institution of the protectionist tariffs of 1892. The native manufacturers are quite able to compete in peninsular markets with foreign rivals. This prosperity has been in part due to the great development of means of communication around the city and in the four Catalan provinces. Comestibles, raw materials, and combustibles form the greater part of the imports, but this great manufactory also imports a considerable quantity of foreign manufactured goods. The principal exports are wines, cereals, olive-oil, cotton goods, soap, cigarette-paper, furniture and barrels, boots, shoes and leather goods, and machinery.

Barcino, the ancient name of the city, is usually connected with that of the Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, its traditional founder in the 3rd century B.C. After the Roman conquest, it received from Augustus (27 B.C.A.D. 14) the name of Julia Faventia (afterwards Augusta and Pia), with the status of a Roman colony; and thenceforward it rapidly grew to be the leading mart of the western Mediterranean, rivalling Tarraco (Tarragona) and Massilia (Marseilles) as early as the 2nd century A.D. As its remains testify, the Roman city occupied Monte Taber. The bishopric of Barcelona was founded in 343. In 415 and 531, the Visigoths chose Barcelona as their temporary capital; in 540 and 599 church councils were held there. Barcinona or Bardjaluna, as it was then called, was captured by the Moors in 713, and in 801 it passed, with the rest of Catalonia, under the dominion of the Franks. From 874 the counts of Barcelona ruled as independent monarchs. But the accession of larger resources due to the union between Catalonia and Aragon in 1149, brought the city to the zenith of its fame and wealth. Its merchant ships vied with those of Genoa, Venice and Ragusa, trading as far west as the North Sea and the Baltic, and as far east as Alexandria. In 1258 James I. of Aragon empowered Barcelona to issue its famous Consulado del Mar, a code of maritime law recognized as authoritative by many European states. Consuls represented Barcelona at the principal commercial centres on or near the Mediterranean; and the city was among the first communities to adopt the practice of marine insurance. But the union of Castile and Aragon in 1479 favoured other cities of Spain at the expense of Barcelona, whose commercial supremacy was transferred to the ports of western Spain by the discovery of America in 1492. The citizens attributed their misfortunes to the “Castilian” government, and a strong party among them favoured annexation by France. In 1640 Barcelona was the centre of the Catalonian rebellion against Philip IV., and threw itself under French protection. In 1652 it returned to its allegiance, but was captured by the duke of Vendôme in 1697. At the peace of Ryswick, in the same year, it was restored to the Spanish monarchy. During the War of the Succession (1701–1714) Barcelona adhered to the house of Austria. The seizure of Montjuich in 1705, and the subsequent capture of the city by the earl of Peterborough, formed one of his most brilliant achievements. In 1714 it was taken after an obstinate resistance by the duke of Berwick in the interests of Philip V., and at the close of the war was reluctantly reconciled to the Bourbon dynasty. In 1809 the French invaders of Spain obtained possession of the fortress and kept the city in subjection until 1814. Since then it has shared in most of the revolutionary movements that have swept over Spain, and has frequently been distinguished by the violence of its civic commotions. For the historic antagonism between the Catalans and the other inhabitants of Spain was strengthened by the industrial development of Barcelona. Among the enterprising and shrewd Catalans, who look upon their rulers as reactionary, and reserve all their sympathies for the Provençal neighbours whom they so nearly resemble in race, language and temperament, French influence and republican ideals spread rapidly; taking the form partly of powerful labour and socialist organizations, partly of less reputable bodies, revolutionary and even anarchist. Strikes are very common, seventy-three having occurred in such a year of comparative quiet as 1903; but the causes of disturbance are almost as often political as economic, and the annals of the city include a long list of revolutionary riots and bomb outrages. A strange contrast is presented by the co-existence of these turbulent elements with the more old-fashioned Spanish society of Barcelona. Church festivals, civic and ecclesiastical processions are almost as animated and picturesque as in Seville itself; and many medieval customs continue to flourish side by side with the most modern features of industrial life, giving to Barcelona a character altogether unique among Spanish cities.

The literature relating to Barcelona is extensive. For a general description of the city, see A. A. P. Arimon, Barcelona antigua y moderna, two illustrated folio volumes (Madrid, 1850); and J. Artigas y Feiner, Guia itineraria de Barcelona (Barcelona, 1888). For the antiquities, see S. Sampere, Topografia antigua de Barcelona (1890). The economic history of the city is dealt with by A. Capmany in his Memorias historicas sobra la marina, comercio, y artes de la antigua ciudad de Barcelona (Madrid, 1779–1792); and, for its political history, the same work should be consulted, together with Historias e conquestas dels comtes de Barcelona, by T. Tomich (Barcelona, 1888), and the Colecció de documents inédits del Arxin municipal de la ciutat de Barcelona (Barcelona, 1892). The spread of the revolutionary movement is traced by M. Gil Maestre, in his El Anarquismo en España, y el especial de Barcelona (Madrid, 1897), and in his La Criminalidad en Barcelona (Barcelona, 1886).