Catalonia Through the Ages: Exploring History at the Museum of Catalonia

The four bars over a Wilfred the Hairy’s golden shield represent make up the Catalan flag today.

Injured, the Count of Barcelona, Wilfred the Hairy, lies wounded on the battlefield as Louis the Pious approaches to thank him for his bravery.

“How can I ever repay you?”, he asks.

“I need an emblem for my golden shield”, the count manages to say.

Louis dips four fingers into Wilfred’s bloody wound and draws four red bars across what had been the Count’s bare shield.

Those four fingers have become synonymous with the Catalan origin legend and are represented today in the regional flag, La Senyera; though the most common telling has Louis replaced with Charles the Bald (for obvious reasons).

It is not only legends like this, but also the history of Catalonia that any visitor can expect to take in at the Museum of the History of Catalonia.  While most visitors to Barcelona are attracted to the whimsical works of Gaudí or the beautiful beaches, they are always pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the Spanish culture and its many different regions, languages, foods, and more.  Catalonia has its own rich and interesting culture worth exploring and the Museum of the History of Catalonia was created with just that in mind.

The giant brick warehouse that sits over the popular walkway along the Port Vell in Barcelona that many tourists take on their way towards the beaches of the Barceloneta, is home to many restaurants to sit out and people watch while enjoying views of the mega-yachts in the Old Port.  That same building, originally the General Trade Warehouses, built at the end of the 19th century also houses the Museum of the History of Catalonia (Museu d’Història de Catalunya).  It’s one of my favorite things about the city of Barcelona, the ability to take older buildings, create a contemporary use all while maintaining its historic appeal.  

The museum has four stories and all are worth exploring.  The first houses changing temporary exhibits, while the second floor covers Catalan history from prehistory until 1714.  Here you can see the evolution of the area and really uncover the Catalan “Golden Age” of the 13th and 14th centuries, up until the Battle of Spanish Succession in 1714.  The third floor covers the 18th century until present day, as Catalonia shifts from a Mediterranean empire to an industrial hub within Spain and the turn of the century political scene.  This is all ahead of the Spanish Civil War, the following dictatorship, and transitional period, before entrance into democracy.  

Well over 2,000 years are captured, covering not only the history of Barcelona but also the history of Catalonia as a whole.  But what is not to be missed is the 4th floor lookout deck that offers some of the best views in the city!

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