The Middle Ages

In the 8th century, the Arabs irrupted in the Peninsula and settled in Barcelona for almost 90 years until the year 803, when the Francs liberate the city from the Arabs and counts start to rule the city. The most important of them was Grifé el Pelós and he built the house of Barcelona.

The Roman churches located inside or out of the city, constitute the art of this era. Sculptures fuss with the architectural elements and perform Biblical passages among others. The city started growing and the ring of the Roman wall was not big enough so more houses were raised outside the wall. This new suburbs usually had a church or a monastery at the centre as happened with the church of Santa Maria del Mar.

In the 13th century, Barcelona needed a new wall to defend the new suburbs and Jaume I (James I) orders it. At the west side of the city, the current Rambla already existed but it at that time it was merely a stream that gathered water from other small streams that came from the mountain. In addition to the wall, Jaume I gave Barcelona’s citizens and assembly the power to rule the city: El Consell de Cent, made up of four councils who belonged to the upper-class of the city plus 100 elected members chosen by the citizens.

The commercial and military expansion towards the other Mediterranean settlements increases the trade and the wealth of Barcelona and it turns the city into one of the main maritime European powers.

At the beginning of the 14th century, following the pace of the mercantile and seaworthy activity, the industry of Barcelona also experiences a significant development. It managed to create a small empire that included Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Valencia, the Balearics and the French regions of Roussillon and Cerdanya. Therefore, in order to cover a vast amount of different job positions, already in the Middle Ages a hard-working population migrated to Barcelona.

The prosperous Barcelona of rich bourgeoisies and merchants started a period of important constructions of both Civil and religious Gothic buildings. In the meanwhile, El Raval, a new neighbourhood that grew at the other side of La Rambla needed to be protected and a third wall was built.

However, Barcelona had to face some tragic and troubled moments too. Its seaworthy activity brought the Black Death and other epidemics to Barcelona’s harbour in 1348 and many of its inhabitants, as well as of the whole country, died.

In addition, those inhabitants of Hebrew origin and beliefs settled in their own neighbourhood near the cathedral (the Mosque) were murdered as a consequence of the economic crisis that explodes in the 14th century as they were considered to be culprits of the situation.

Furthermore, once the Crown of Aragon happens to take part of the new Hispanic monarchy, the arrival of the of the warlike Turks and the discovery of America displaced the trade and navigation’s centre towards the Atlantic Ocean and, consequently, Barcelona lost significant part of its seaworthy activity.