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  • Writer's pictureSonia Cuesta Maniar, PhD

A Brief History of Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona

What is Parc de la Ciutadella?

Parc de la Ciutadella, or Ciutadella Park in English, is one of Barcelona’s largest green spaces, built in the mid-19th century after the demolition of the royal fortress that once stood here.

Pond in Ciutadella park

Parc de la Ciutadella History

In 1714, after the fall of the city to the army of Philip V of Spain, the city walls were declared a military site. No one was allowed to touch them or to build anything within a mile of them. This prevented Barcelona from growing as a city and becoming a potential threat to the Spanish monarchy. As a final touch, cannons pointing into the city were included as a visual symbol of permanent military repression. The notorious star-shaped fortification became the largest fortress in Europe.

After many years of struggle between Catalonia and mainland Spain, the central government eventually agreed to demolish the Ciutadella in 1868. For the 1888 International Exhibition, the site was redesigned as a park by architect Josep Fontserè i Mestre. This marked the end of the old provincial and unprogressive Barcelona, and the start of a modern cosmopolitan city. The architect reclaimed the site of the old fortification by designing a space for the recreation of the people of Barcelona. Inspired by Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg, Fontserè i Mestre created a park that served as the city’s green lung.

The park today is filled with historical buildings, memorials and museums, including the Museum of Natural Sciences and Barcelona Zoo. Remainders of its military past, however, can still be seen. What was once the Governor's palace serves today as the Verdaguer Secondary School; and, most ironically, the fort's former arsenal now houses the Parliament of Catalonia. The park also contains monuments honouring the people of Catalonia. At its centre stands Josep Clarà's bronze Monument Als Voluntaris Catalans (Monument to the Catalan Volunteers), which commemorates those killed on the battlefield during the First and Second World Wars. The memorial, which depicts a naked man with raised arms and a laurel branch (a symbol of freedom) in one hand, was covered with a large box in the 1950s due to the nudity of the figure.

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