Been to Barcelona (In Marca Hispanica X)

The portal of Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona

The portal of Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona

I was planning a study trip and it didn’t really work out that way. There was going to be some basic difficulty because of not having the chauffeuse I had last trip, and because of the country largely being shut for a national holiday, but I had done my research on the web and technically it should have been possible to get places. However, the day I was really meaning to get going places, we woke up to this view:


And given as I was staying some way up a hill, that pretty much ruled any distant tourism out, as even if we could have got out, it was pretty unlikely we’d be doing any hill-climbing that didn’t involve off-road vehicles. However, as we had one of those, and a mountain nearby taller than Ben Nevis, we did at least see how far we could get…


In the end I was forced to, you know, actually have a holiday. And though I did at least get into Barcelona, it wasn’t really for study purposes, but to visit some museums. Now, that was actually pretty good, bexcause I’d been told to go to the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, and now that I have I can say, firstly it is huge, secondly if you ever wondered where that national separatist sentiment I’ve talked about here before was getting its grudges from, well, it’s all here. Currently Catalonia is about as independent of Spain as Wales is of the UK: it has its own national assembly and preferential use of the native language on its signs, a rather healthier state of the native language indeed, but unlike for example, Scotland, doesn’t have its own laws (which is a bit poor given that Charlemagne let it keep them). On the other hand it does have its own police force, and various controls over education that Scotland has but Wales doesn’t, so as with so many things it’s not a linear progression. Anyway, the basic situation is that although this time they’ve been autonomous for longer than ever before, this is approximately the fourth try and that’s not even counting the period I know about when the area was never one political unit because of having plural counts. Also, they have much older occasions in mind than me or probably you when they use phrases like “the Great War” (1793-96) or “September 11st” (1714, when the city was sacked by the armies of Philip V after a thirteen-months siege). Anyway, I understand much better now, and as they had a few charters in facsimile as part of the displays, now so do I.

Old photo of the Barcelona convent of Sant Pere de les Puelles

Old photo of the Barcelona convent of Sant Pere de les Puelles

In fact, I know that at least one reader will be interested to know that there was a temporary exhibition on the nunnery of Sant Pere de les Puelles. It had more pictures of the current nuns than of the old monastery, and although it had a genuine lump of cloister too, it was generally quite badly set up, difficult to navigate and without much real thread. All the same, it was there, and gave me joy on two academic counts. Firstly, the list of abbesses they had there included Filmera, daughter of the Vicar Sal·la (and sister of Unifred, whose love life I once speculated on here), whom I recently told someone probably shouldn’t be put in the list because it was only my hypothesis. Well, it seems that someone else has done that maths too so now I think she can be counted, and this pleases me.

1176 copy of the 945 foundation charter of Sant Pere de les Puelles

1176 copy of the 945 foundation charter of Sant Pere de les Puelles

Also, they had a picture of the 945 foundation charter, which although it only exists in an 1169 transcript, from who knows what copy given that the whole place and its archive were supposedly razed in 985 (so though we don’t know when poor Filmera died, we can guess. Though, you know, maybe she discovered a new life as some rich Muslim noble’s new favourite wife, who can say? On the whole though, I suspect her end was not a pleasant one), is still nice to see. Accordingly, for the one or two for whom such things matter, there’s a full-size version of this sneaky facsimile-facsimile under the version here. I’m afraid it’s not very legible, but maybe it’s nice to have.

Replica of Ictineo II, first successful submarine

Replica of Ictineo II, first successful submarine

And lastly, we also went to the Museu Marítim. Barcelona of course has a very proud maritime heritage, but I hadn’t realised that it included the original of this thing, which rejoices in the name Ictineo II. What is it, you ask? It’s a steam-powered wooden submarine, I answer. It successfully navigated the Barcelona harbour and won its inventor a prize in 1862, and is considered the first genuinely sea-going submarine. Next time you want to know who invented the submarine, ask a Catalan… His name was Narcis Monturiol i Estarriol, and he was a nutter, but apparently a successful one in this respect at least. I realise that this isn’t at all medieval but it’s pretty damn steampunk and that means it attracts at least part of the same readership, right?

Anyway, I plan to return in better weather and do the castles thing properly. To do this, though, I really need a tame driver (I don’t drive, because I’ve lived all my adult life in Cambridge where no vehicle wider than three feet is really at all practical and until recently it hasn’t seemed necessary to change this) and a laptop. I don’t know which of these things will be easier to get, given current finances. I’m open to all offers of course :-) But for now, this is what I have, and proper academic blogging with live response and so on will now resume.


3 responses to “Been to Barcelona (In Marca Hispanica X)

  1. Pingback: In Marca Hispanica XXI: the Palace of Saint Stephen, and others « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  2. Pingback: In Marca Hispanica XXIII: a walk across Barcelona | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  3. Pingback: In Marca Hispanica XXXII: coastal Gothic | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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