Montjuïc Hill, standing 173 meters above the city, overlooking Barcelona’s harbour, is home to some of Barcelona’s best art museums, gardens and sporting venues. Bordering Barcelona to the south, Montjuïc is one of the hills surrounding the Catalan capital, and its strategic position by the sea has made it an important site throughout history. The name Montjuïc is ‘Jewish Mountain’ in Catalan and is believed to be called so because of the ancient Jewish cemetery discovered on its southern flank. Packed with attractions, Montjuïc Hilltop is understandably a popular tourist stop, yet this historic site has a very dark past.
Dominating the top of the hill, Montjuïc Castle was built in the 17th century as a military fortress and played an important role during the Siege of Barcelona in 1705 and the Spanish War of Succession in 1714, during which Catalonia lost its independence. Later, the castle was demolished and entirely redesigned by the architect Juan Martin Cermeño, who completed the project in 1799.
Montjuïc’s Dark Past
Since the Catalan defeat in the War of Succession in 1714, the mountain has been considered by some locals as a symbol of their defeat. The castle has been under control of the central government, and over the past 300 years, Montjuïc’s cannons have been used against Barcelona’s own residents, especially in the tumultuous years following the defeat.
In the years that followed, the castle served primarily as a prison as well as military command point, and during the end of the 19th century, it was also used as an execution ground. Records show that a number of prominent anarchists were assassinated by government forces in the moat surrounding the castle following a period of conflict between the two sides.
While Montjuïc’s history has long been stained with violence, its more recent past is particularly uncomfortable. During the Spanish Civil War, the castle was used by both Republican and Falangist forces of General Franco to imprison, torture and execute their opponents. Over 170 people are believed to have been executed on at the castle between 1936 and 1938 alone.
One notable death was that of the Catalan politician Lluís Companys, executed at the castle in 1940 after being deported by Nazi Germany and handed over to Franco’s troops. The Francoist government continued using the castle as a political prison for a number of years after the end of the Civil War, until it was eventually handed over to the city of Barcelona in 1960.
Main events of Montjuïc
Montjuïc has witnessed some major events which were significant to the redevelopment of Barcelona, the most important being the 1929 International Exhibition which prompted the development of Montjuïc, and more recently, the 1992 Olympic Games, which brought about major renewal and investments within the city, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe today.
Highlights at Montjuïc
Montjuïc is also home to museums, such as the Miró Foundation, the Archaeological Museum, the Ethnological Museum and the National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC). The National Palace, the main site of the 1929 exhibition. Beneath the palace we can find a superb example of Bauhaus architecture: The Barcelona Pavilion which was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich as the German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exhibition. Across the road from this is the former Casaramona textile factory, a modernista landmark by Puig i Cadafalch, now home to CaixaForum, a cultural centre which hosts some of the best modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
Close by you can find the ‘artisan village’ of Poble Espanyol, constructed for the World Exposition of 1929 with the intention of demonstrating the architecture and essence of the Spanish culture.
The Magic Fountain first performance was on May 19, 1929 during the Great Universal Exhibition. The magic fountain is a spectacular display of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics – if you mix these elements together in just the right combination, you end up with pure magic!
The Olympic Ring, the main site of the Olympic Games, features the stadium, the Estadi Lluís Companys, the Palau Sant Jordi, and the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. Nearby, the Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport Joan Antoni Samaranch and the Botanical Gardens are also unmissable sights as you explore the Parc de Montjuïc.
La Ciutat del Teatre, this theatre complex has given fresh impetus to the city’s rich and varied cultural offer and become one of the world’s foremost centres for the performing arts. It is made up of the Mercat de les Flors and the Teatre Lliure de Montjuïc.
Today, Montjuïc is a popular tourist attraction, regularly hosting public events like exhibitions, conferences and live music. For those visiting from abroad, it’s hard to imagine that this place once instilled fear and terror in locals, some of whom still recall the horrors that took place here.
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