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Plaça Sant Jaume

Plaça Sant Jaume (16)

This is undoubtedly one of Barcelona’s most important squares. 

Since antiquity, it has been the social and political centre of the city.

For this is the ancient Roman Forum, heart of the mediaeval city, point at which the Cardus and Decumanus, the two main streets in most Roman cities, crossed.

Barcelona also raised its Gothic city around this square, while the city of the artisans developed in Santa Maria del Mar, becoming what was known as the Barcelona of the guilds because it was full of merchants, artisans and professional people.

A square which has borne witness to the most important events in the recent history of Catalonia. In it the Catalan State was proclaimed in 1931; the return of Josep Tarradellas from exile in 1977 was celebrated; and this square is also where Barça fans celebrate the championships they win.

At present, it contains the two most important institutions in the political life of the city, the City Hall and the Generalitat of Catalonia.

The “Palau de la Generalitat” is the seat of the Government of Catalonia and of the Presidency of the “Generalitat of Catalonia”. Today it is one of the few buildings of mediaeval origins in Europe that is still maintained as seat of government and of the institution that built it.

It is a palace that has undergone continuous expansions and modifications, in line with the demands of each historical period.

The house had been owned, successively, by a poet, a surgeon, a treasurer and a moneychanger and their respective descendants. There is practically nothing left of the original construction.

The main facade is in the Renaissance style and was designed by the artist Pere Blai. However, the elegant secondary facade, which gives onto Carrer Bisbe, is Gothic and was the work of Marc Safont in 1416.

In the middle, you can see the niche with the busts of the three deputies of the Generalitat who ordered the construction of the front wall. Above the niche, the shield with the Cross of St. George, symbol of the Institution. The sculpture of the saint, the patron saint of Catalonia, is by Andreu Aleu.

The outstanding feature of its interior is “El Pati dels Tarongers”, the Orange tree Court-yard, a pretty interior patio in the Gothic style, which as its name indicates is full of orange trees. The central part of the Palace holds the Saló Sant Jordi, a spectacular hall with three naves covered by vaults sustained by big square columns and a central dome. Decorated with historical and allegorical paintings of Catalonia.

The palace also has a chapel, St. George’s Chapel, to a marvellous 1434 design by Marc Safont, and we must not overlook the Saló Daurat, the Golden Hall, so named because of the beautiful decoration of its wall panels.

The Palau de la Generalitat is one of the most prized symbols of the Catalan nation, because it has succeeded in overcoming political and historical disasters, and is symbol of Catalan democracy.

The Barcelona City Hall is one of the four echelons of government with political responsibility in the city of Barcelona, alongside the General Government of the Spanish State, the Generalitat of Catalonia, and the Diputació (Regional Council) of Barcelona. The City Council has its origins in the historical Consell de Cent (Council of a Hundred).

The building dates originally from 1372, but it has undergone several periods of rebuilding in its history and now combines several architectural styles.

The main face looking out onto the Plaça de Sant Jaume was built in the Neoclassical style between 1838 and 1847 to a design of Josep Mas.

The side that gives onto the Carrer de la Ciutat is Gothic and conserves a beautiful sculpture of the archangel St. Raphael. This used to be the main entrance until the square was laid out in the nineteenth century. In 1550 two images were placed in the angles, Sant Sever (on the right) and Santa Eulàlia, co-patron of the city (on the left). This door is only opened on Santa Eulàlia’s day.

In the much more refined interior, full of paintings, engravings and sculptures, we highlight the historic Saló de Cent (Hall of the Hundred), with its characteristic half-point arches and decorated wooden beams. It was built to a design of Pere Llobet in the fourteenth century for the hundred councillors of the city. The Saló de Cròniques (Chronicles Hall), a highly spectacular hall planned and decorated by Josep Maria Sert in 1928, is also of interest. The floor is in black marble and the walls and ceiling are covered by huge painted tapestries on a background of gold. The paintings allude to the expedition of Catalans to the East in the fourteenth century. 

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