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Arch of Triumph

Barcelona

Going up La Rambla to Paseo de Companys you will arrive at the Arch of Triumph; which is something that will make you think about military campaigns, invasions, swords, shootings and dead bodies everywhere. But look, this arch projected by the architect Josep Vilaseca is different; among other things, because it celebrates other kinds of conquers and victories.

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Going up La Rambla to Paseo de Companys you will arrive at the Arch of Triumph; which is something that will make you think about military campaigns, invasions, swords, shootings and dead bodies everywhere. But look, this arch projected by the architect Josep Vilaseca is different; among other things, because it celebrates other kinds of conquers and victories.

Let's go to the year 1888, with the luxuriant modernism showing itself to the world and the city taking giant steps towards the future. Barcelona's World Exhibition is going to speed up those changes; the arch is built to welcome the participating nations and to serve as a natural and symbolic gateway to the event. Its sculptures and reliefs, leave behind the glories of the war and highlight the wisdom, the art, the sciences and the effort. Great idea! Isn't it?

All those sculptural marvels were commissioned to artists who excelled in Barcelona's modernism, in particular, Josep Llimona, author of the frieze on the back of the arch, and who at that time was just twenty-five years old.

The fact is that if you look closely at the monument: at thirty meters high and the delicate work in the brick, maybe you will get an idea of that Barcelona. The Barcelona that had galloped towards the twentieth century erecting jewels of architecture, in the middle of the misery among the working-class neighbourhoods and the social havoc from the industrialisation.

It turns out that there were not only lights and splendour in the city at the time. Along with the brightness of Josep Llimona and other luminaries, there was the darkness of terrible poverty which ended up affecting the mental health of Jacinto Verdaguer, a figure of the Catalan literature, a priest and owner of a very sensitive temperament that made him suffer the crisis more than anyone would advise.

Verdaguer was the confessor and protégé of the Marquis of Comillas and distributed alms following his orders. Doing this, he was a witness to the appalling living conditions of a large part of the people of Barcelona. According to Robert Hughes, his mind had no other choice but to blame one or several diabolical presences for such disaster. Next, of course, the practice of exorcisms started, the obsession with visions, the sanctions imposed by the ecclesiastical authority and a dramatic loss of mind from which he could no longer recover.

But hey, don't be left with a bitter taste while you look at the arch. It was built for a celebration and has also been the protagonist of many festive events in recent times; for example, as the finishing line of some of the most famous races in the city.


Arch of Triumph

Passeig de Lluís Companys
08003 Barcelona

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Tags: Eclecticism

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