The neighbourhood of El Raval is one of the most interesting in the city. Let's take a look...
Antic Hospital de Santa Creu
C/ Hospital, 56
The foundation stone of the Hospital de Santa Creu was laid by King Martín I of Aragon in 1401. The city council had decided to unite the six hospitals which tended to the sick of Barcelona into one building, still offering care free of charge. The building, with work overseen by Guillem Abiell, is considered a masterpiece of Catalan gothic architecture and still well preserved to this day. The buildings are set round a central courtyard which was typical of the Eastern influences in Spain at that time. The hospital was mainly run my monks and nuns who ensured all treatment was free of charge in the spirit of Christian charity. Even in the later years of the hospital, in the 19th Century free care was still given with any doctors who worked there doing so without being paid. The Hospital de Santa Creu served the city of Barcelona for five hundred years until the boom in the city’s population and drastic advances in medical science and knowledge of cleanliness and hygiene led to the decision to build a new, modern hospital; the Hospital de Sant Pau I Santa Creu in the Eixample. One of the last patients to be brought to the hospital was one of Barcelona’s most famous architects, Antoni Gaudí was run over by a tram and brought to Hospital de Santa Creu where he died in 1926. Shortly after the hospital closed but the building was bought by Barcelona City Council and is now the proud home to the Catalonia National Library, the Institute of Catalan Studies, and the Royal School of Pharmacy. The courtyard is now a beautiful oasis of calm in hectic El Raval.
C/ Nou de la Rambla, 3
Palau Güell (palau meaning palace in Catalan) was one of the first big design jobs that Antoni Gaudí took on for Eusebio Güell, the rich and powerful industrialist who would enjoy a close working relationship with Gaudí for his entire life. The Güell family already had a house in the street behind what is now Palau Güell and the idea was to buy the houses in front and join them together to create a magnificent residence in the heart of Barcelona. Antoni Gaudí was entrusted to design this new home and work began in autumn of 1886. Gaudí’s oriental inspiration can be clearly seen in the decoration of Palau Güell with the use of tiling throughout and archways reminiscent of the Moorish palaces of the south. The large doors intended for carriages and the entrance courtyard takes its inspiration of the medieval palaces in Barcelona such as those found on Carrer Montcada in the El Born neighbourhood. Although building work wasn’t finished until 1890, Güell couldn’t resist inviting the good and the great who had come for the World Exhibition in 1888 to his new home. At Palau Güell he entertained such visitors as Queen Maria Christina of the Hapsburg family, King Umberto I of Italy and U.S. president Grover Cleveland. After having been passed down through the family and used for various things the building was saved from being taken piece by piece to the U.S.A. by a rich businessman by the City of Barcelona who bought the building and agreed with Güell’s daughter to keep it as a cultural centre. Palau Güell is still much as it was when works were finished. The grand reception rooms show the opulence of the life of Barcelona’s burgeoning bourgeoisie at the turn of the century having made their fortunes in industry or the Americas, and Gaudí’s design separates the public and private life of the family perfectly. Palau Güell is a must visit for anyone interested in architecture, design or history.
MACBA + CCCB
Plaça dels Angels
Barcelona’s Modern Art Museum (MACBA) and Contemporary Cultural Centre (CCCB) are located next to each other in the heart of El Raval. The MACBA, located on Plaça dels Angels, is a sleek, modern building, rising from the medieval buildings and narrow streets of El Raval. The building was designed by American architect Richard Meier and opened to the public in 1995. The permanent collection is focused on contemporary art of the latter half of the 20th century with works mainly by Spanish and Catalan artist but also featuring some international names, and the visiting exhibitions are chosen to highlight and deepen our understanding of today’s social, political and cultural issues. The square outside the MACBA also has a special use: skateboarding. The area in front of the museum is not a favourite hangout for skaters to try their new tricks which is often a show in itself. The Barcelona Contemporary Cultural Centre (CCCB) is located just next to the MACBA in part of the former ‘House of Charity’ of Barcelona and reformed and extended in a project by Albert Vilaplana which won the FAD Architecture prize and the Barcelona City prize in 1993. The CCCB has an eclectic mix of exhibitions covering a wide range of media and viewpoints and also holds lectures, debates and festivals. One of the main exhibitions which the CCCB holds every year is the World Press Photo exhibition showing the participants and winners of the awards and their incredible photographs on contemporary issues.
Sant Pau del Camp church
C/ Sant Pau, 101
Sant Pau del Camp church (Saint Paul of the countryside) gets its rural name from the fact that until the 14th Century it was actually located outside the city walls. The date of construction is unknown but it is thought to be dated from the early 10th century. Records show that the church and monastery it used to hold was attacked various times between the 10th and 12th Centuries by the Moorish rulers from the south. The 16th and 17th centuries were times of great prosperity for the monestary but it was finally abandoned in 1835 due to the new laws brought in to confiscated often under used monastic land in theory for the middle classes though ultimately the rich landowners simply used this law to increase their lands. The church then had various uses until 1879 when, due to the efforts of local people it was declared a National Monument. It now stands, a country church, right in the centre of the city.
Rambla del Raval + Sculpture
Rambla del Raval is a much needed green ‘lung’ in the centre of El Raval. Originally part of Idelfons Cerdà’s plan to add more green space to the most crowded neighbourhoods of Barcelona, it wasn’t until 1955 that the building works started. Many great bars and restaurants line the Rambla and the Filmoteca de Catalunya (Catalan Film Institute) is located just behind it. One striking addition to the boulevard has been the sculpture El Gato del Raval (Cat of Raval) by Fernando Botero. The piece was acquired by Barcelona City Council in 1987 and it wandered the streets trying to find a home until in 2003 it finally settled on Rambla del Raval.
Drassanes Reials + Maritime Museum
Avinguda de les Drassanes
Drassanes Reials (Royal Shipyard) was constructed in the 13th Century although recent excavations have shown that the land had been in use for a long time; a Roman graveyard was found underneath the buildings. The shipyards were used by the crown of Aragón to build their galleys until the War of Spanish Succession when it became a military arsenal. In 1935 the building was passed to Barcelona City Council with the intention to turn the site into a Maritime Museum which opened in 1941 and in 1976 the building was declared a site of National Cultural Interest. Recently the site has undergone major restoration works and has just reopened to the public. The museum now displays collections on the Royal Galleys built in the shipyards as well as temporary exhibitions on seafaring life.