From Barcino to Barcelona 0 (0)

From Barcino to Barcelona 0 (0)

Discovering the exact origin of the name of a city as old as Barcelona, ​​with more than 2000 years of history, is not so easy. Over the years, various scholars on the subject have developed different theories to explain its name. But with few records of the time, it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion.

However, there are some hypotheses and we share them with you below.

Although those who officially founded Barcelona, ​​in the 1st century B.C. were the Romans, these lands were previously inhabited by the Layetans, who had come into contact with other Mediterranean cultures, the sea being the key point of that connection. Etruscans, Phoenicians and Greeks had already passed through these lands, but without settling.

Layetan coins (Iberian drachmas minted at the end of the 2nd century BC) were found on the Montjuïc mountain with an inscription that, when translated, is the word “Barkeno”. The Layetans, we said, had contact with other cultures, and the Greek will be the most influential, since it was already settled in the north of Catalonia, in Empúries.

Moneda de Barkeno, previa a Barcino
Dracma de Barkeno (photo National Museum of Denmark)

That word, Barkeno, will be the one that will evolve until reaching “Barcelona” today.


That is the big question.

For some, its origin is related to the Barca lineage. Before the Romans arrived, Carthage had already advanced on the Iberian Peninsula, trying to gain ground and recover after the First Punic War. On his way, Hamilcar Barca (or his son, Hannibal, the famous Carthaginian general considered to be one of the greatest military strategists in history), is attributed with the firsts bases of this city with the name of Barca Nova: a new Barca , in tribute and reference to the lineage of his family.

Another version, more “poetic” if you like, involves Hercules, hero of Roman mythology. Legend has it that on their journey through the Mediterranean in search of the Golden Fleece with Jason and his Argonauts, the sailors found themselves in the middle of a storm that destroyed the boats. The ninth boat, Barca Nona, appeared destroyed on the shores of what is now Barcelona. And attracted by the place, Hercules decides to found a city that he will give in the name of that boat: Barcanona … Barcelona, ​​sounds similar, doesn’t it?

However, there is no archaeological evidence to demonstrate these options.


It occurs, in fact, at the end of the 1st century BC. (around 10 B.C.). Here we do have evidence showing the foundation and its full name: Colonia Julia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino.

Yes, yes, that is the full name of Barcelona.

That of Julia and Augusta refers to the Roman emperor who decides the foundation of the city: Augustus. The word Julia is related to the family of the emperor, the gens Julia.

Faventia seems to be related to a sponsoring character. We are left, then, with Paterna and Barcino, precisely the two words that have generated the most problems to identify their origin.

Paterna is likely to do with remembering Augustus’s intention to found a colony for veterans of his army.

And Barcino … Barcino … Beyond legends, some scientists have related the root of the word Barcino to a Celtic, Iberian or Ligurian origin.

Barcino en Barcelona, Plaça Nova

What can be said with a little more certainty is that the Romans have taken the word Barkeno, which we already talked about and that was already circulating in these lands before the arrival of the Roman Empire, and adapted it to Latin phonetics. In this way, the letter “k” is replaced by the “c”.

Now, the last step: from Barcino to Barcelona. We must say that the change was an evolution that went through variations such as Barchinonam, Barcilonam, Barcilona … In the 6th century, when the Visigoths were already establishing themselves in these lands, numismatics and the councils wrote the word Barcinona. And in the Middle Ages, since the 9th century, it is known as Barchinona.

It will only be necessary to let the time pass so that the name sounds like it sounds today.

But if on your tour of the Gothic, you pass by the Cathedral and you find some bronze and aluminum letters that form the word Barcino, then, you will already know why they are there. All you have to do is take your photo, which has become a classic of walks in Barcelona.

Sources: / Catalunya Press

Vestiges of the red zone in medieval Barcelona 0 (0)

Vestiges of the red zone in medieval Barcelona 0 (0)

Walking around Barcelona is, many times, a travel through time. Specially, when visiting neighborhoods such as Raval, Gothic and Born: the walled Barcelona that grew to exceed its limits until well into the 19th century. Through the small streets of the old town one can find, if you look closely, traces of the life of a city that was, in the Middle Ages, an important commercial center throughout the Mediterranean.

And of all the aspects that make urban life, today we are going to focus on one that seems to remain through the history of humanity, no matter what time we talk about: prostitution.

There are many stories around this matter, which is known as “the oldest profession in the world”. And we will be telling you more stories and details in other articles. Because, as you can imagine, there is no lack of curiosities throughout so many centuries.


Today, we will start in the Middle Ages: a time when Barcelona and its port were part of great trade routes; a time when many sailors and merchants arrived by sea. And when there are many men who come to a new port, after spending enough time on the high seas, we all know what they are looking for as soon as they set foot on land, right?

During those years, brothels will be tolerated. It is clear that prostitution was not socially accepted, but it was tolerated (it was considered a necessary minor evil) and even regulated to ensure coexistence with the rest of the social group (the first ordinances appeared in the fourteenth century).

It is known that the allowed age to exercise it ranged from 12 to 20 years old. And that the Barcelona consellers (councilors) imposed a dress code on prostituted women. Basically, they had to dress differently than the rest of the women who considered themselves “honest”. For example, wearing white with a blue belt, to be easily recognized; or not being able to wear a cape or cloak, even if it was winter and it was cold. Furthermore, they were not authorized to eat or drink in public.

When Easter came, there was a forced interruption of paid sexual services. On holy days, prostitutes had to seclude themselves in a convent, and thus avoid “tempting” any man who might wish to seek an encounter with them.

Las Ramblas and the Raval neighborhood, which was born as the periphery of Barcelona, ​​were the places in the city where prostitution developed in all its variety of colors, without having disappeared to this day.


But today we will tell you about the footprints that the brothels have left in the old town, and not exactly in the Raval.

Earlier we mentioned that many men who arrived at the port sought the services of a young lady. Now, we have to stop at one important detail: these men, for the most part, could not read or write. To identify, therefore, a brothel had to resort to resources that did not include the written word.

In Barcelona, ​​to mark the place of a brothel there was a developed signal system. An example was to paint the lower part of the facade bright red, a clear sign of lust. Another detail was to write the street number in a clearly larger size than the rest of the numbers of other houses or premises.

But the element that has survived the passing of time and that we can still see in some hidden corners of the city were the “carasses”: some masks made of stone that represented the heads of demons, satyrs or medusa.

This signaling was an evolution that came after the Middle Ages, in the 17th century, more exactly after the War of the Segadors, in 1640. It was decided to place these heads in the corners to help the Castilian soldiers, who had acquired the city ​​domain, to easily find a brothel.


Today, through the streets of El Born we can see some faces that have survived time and demolitions. And since we are very good, so that you do not have to go looking for them without any clues, we will tell you where they are.

The most famous and which is very easy to see is on the corner of Carrer dels Mirallers and Carrer dels Vigatans.

She was at risk of being lost forever in 1983, when the building she was in was demolished, when a Ciutat Vella rehabilitation plan was being carried out.

Luckily, the neighbors interceded and saved her: once restored it was placed again, and now we see it in the building that was built on the site where it had been all that time.

The second one is very close and has a name: Flycatcher (Papamoscas).

Right at the corner of Carrer dels Flassaders and Carrer de les Mosques, there is this “carassa” which, it is believe, indicated the location of a brothel.

It seems that this street was a dead end in those times and the brothel, it is said, was one of category.

What’s more, there is a version that tells that some of the women who work there left the profession thanks to the help of a sailor.

How is that?

Well, at that time when a ship was having a very bad time on the high seas, sailors used to ask the Virgin for protection and to save their lives.

What they promised in return was to make some woman happy. So, fulfilling his promise, it seems that this sailor “rescued” one of the young ladies who worked there.

The last of the “carasses” you can find in Born is at the Carrer de les Panses.

Walking down the Carrer de les Trompetes you have to pass an arch, and when you turn on your heels you’ll appreciate the building in front of you. On the third floor there is a half face, with a beard.

In that case, the mask would be marking the exact floor where the brothel worked, to avoid conflicts with the neighbors.

It is clear that there is no fully reliable confirmation that all these faces have belonged to a brothel.

They could also have been part of the ornamentation of the construction they were in.

But, be that as it may, they are the testimony of a past, which is always attractive to discover.

Now all you have to do is grab your map, lift your head and go on your search.


“Historias de la historia de Barcelona” – Dani Cortijo

“Els secrets de la Rambla de Barcelona” – Ángel Ferris y Núria Fontanet

Dragons and magic swords: a legend of Barcelona’s Born 5 (1)

Dragons and magic swords: a legend of Barcelona’s Born 5 (1)

Anyone who comes to Barcelona will discover that in many buildings and public spaces (in the Born neighborhood they will also see it), the famous legend of Sant Jordi is recreated a thousand and one times: a medieval knight who kills a fierce dragon and, by doing so, rescues the princess.

Sant Jordi, or Saint George, is the patron saint of Catalonia and his legend was an essential element at the end of the 19th century, precisely in years where it seeks to recover and revalue Catalan culture and identity.

But Sant Jordi is not the only knight who undertakes the task of killing a dragon. The legend that we share with you today also tells us about the adventure of a medieval knight, brave enough to face that mythological beast.

It is true that he does not achieve exactly the same results … perhaps that is why he is less famous. But his story is still more than entertaining and even mixes with reality.


In that medieval Barcelona there was a family of knights called Vilardell. In fact, the street in which they lived was known by their last name: Carrer d’en Vilardell. Today, that same street is called Carrer dels Cotoners and it is in the Born district, one of the most charming areas of the city of Barcelona.

Carrer de Cotoners. Born. Barcelona.
Carrer de Cotoners. Born. Barcelona.

The point is that, in those years, there was a dragon that attacked anyone who passed by the road that linked Barcelona to Girona: it didn’t matter if they were people or animals, the hungry dragon devoured them all.

Tired of this situation, the knight Soler de Vilardell decided to take action on the matter and prepared to undertake the great adventure: go kill a dragon.

When he was about to leave his house, he met a homeless man at the door. The man, who evidently lived in very poor condition, asked the gentleman for spare change.

Soler de Vilardell left his sword resting on the door and entered the house to look for some coins, to help the poor man.

However, when he returned to meet him, he was no longer there. But not only was the tramp missing, his own sword was also missing!

The strangest thing about the case was that instead, there was another. A sword of great mettle with a precious handle. And with a special detail: on the sheet there was an inscription that read like this:

“Espasa de virtut

brac de cavaller

pedra i drac

jo partire”

(“Sword of Virtue

knight’s arm

stone and dragon

I will split”)

With such a sword in hand, Soler felt that he could not fail. He was ready to go on his journey and kill the dragon.

Halfway there he thought it would be better to test the sword, to see if what the inscription put, was really fulfilled.

He chose a large rock on the way and, saying the magic words, he loaded it:

“Espasa de virtut

brac de cavaller

pedra i drac

jo partire”

Espada invencible de Soler de Vilardell
Espada de Vilardell “La Vilardella”

The rock split in two without difficulty, and at that moment, the knight realized that he had the best sword to obtain victory. So, without hesitation, he continued his journey to find the famous dragon.

And the moment came: there was the beast, hungry and fierce. Soler de Vilardell attacked the animal, without fear. His magic sword gleamed as he gripped it with all his might and thrust it into the dragon’s neck. With a single blow he cut off his head, while saying:

“Brac de cavaller

espasa de virtut

pedra i drac

jo partire”

(“Knight’s arm / Sword of Virtue / stone and dragon / I will split ”)

Glad that he had won, he did not realize that he had not said the words in the correct order. And, while his arm was raised with the sword up, a drop of the dragon’s blood slipped down the sword blade, passing through his arm and finally reaching his heart. Only a moment passed, and the brave knight fell dead from poisoning.

Soler de Vilardell luchando con su espada mágica (Catedral de Barcelona / barrio del Born)
The door of Sant Iu (San Ivo) of the cathedral of Barcelona and the representation of the knight Soler de Vilardell

If you are on your way through Catalonia, and you pass through Sant Celoni, you can see a mountain of stones that, people say, covers the corpse of the knight. Everyone calls it the “Roca del Drac” (Dragon’s Rock).

And the sword? It stayed in the family for a long time. Many kings and princes wanted to possess it, for being so precious and special, but the Vilardells did not want to part with it.

However, there is a curious record, in the year 1270. A sentence in the Courtesy Archive of the city nullifies a duel in which two gentlemen clashed: Bernat de Centelles and Arnau de Cabrera. The reason for the nullity? It appears that the winner had used Soler de Vilardell’s magic sword and, as everyone knew at the time, it was forbidden to use magic weapons in cavalry.

Finally, it is known that the sword passed into the hands of the Counts of Barcelona, ​​a jewel that they inherited in the family. This is stated in the documents of those years that are preserved in the Archive of the Crown of Aragon.

Source: “Fantasmas de Barcelona” Sylvia Lagarda Mata / @cuadernodeLuis

The origins of Barceloneta: Maians Island. 0 (0)

The origins of Barceloneta: Maians Island. 0 (0)

An undeniable attraction of the city of Barcelona, ​​especially when summer comes, are its beaches.

In the months of June, July and August, the Barceloneta neighborhood becomes a hotbed of tourists and the occasional local, seeking to cool off in the sea and a sunbathe.

The charm of the streets and the people of the neighborhood, its gastronomic offer and the fact that it is the closest gateway to the Mediterranean form the center and old town of the city, make Barceloneta and its beaches a very popular and demanded spot by those who visit Barcelona.

On days when we feel that summer is just around the corner, and we imagine ourselves in bathing suits enjoying a good dip, we thought that it would not be bad to remember what the origin of this little piece of land near the sea is.

Because it must be said clearly: Barceloneta did not exist (and I do not mean the neighborhood, but the lands where it is located today) until the fifteenth century, when the first sediments began to be deposited that, over the centuries, would give rise to this emblematic neighborhood of Barcelona.

But let’s go to the beginning, to understand it better.


he city’s coastline was not what it is today, not even remotely. In the 6th century B.C. there was a bay between the Montjuïc mountain and Mount Táber, which allowed the waters to enter well into what is now Barcelona (it is believed that the sea reached where Plaça Catalunya is today).

The process will be slow, but constant: the sea will withdraw, giving rise to small islands and lagoons at the beginning, and to firm lands later. It will be in those lands where new inhabitants will settle. Layetanos (the original inhabitants), Romans and Visigoths will pass.

PBy the 13th century, Barcelona will be a medieval city with a deep relationship with the sea. A sea that came very close to the now famous church of Santa María del Mar (the same one that gives its name to Ildefons Falcones’ book, “The Cathedral of the Sea”); and the beaches, full of merchants, boatmen, fishermen and, why not also pirates and corsairs, stretched between what we now know as Pla del Palau and Parc de la Ciutadella

Pla del Palau. Barceloneta. Barcelona.
Pla del Palau

With the XV century comes the sea wall (one of its limits is where the plaza Antonio López is today), which will spread to the entire seafront over the years. Also, the works for a port begin. With its consolidation, the commercial activity of the beaches will be transferred to the new port life of Barcelona.

The works of the port begin at the request of King Joan II of Aragon, in 1477. In this context, it is when a breakwater is created to join the coasts of Barcelona with a sandbank, known as Maians Island. From there, the old port of Barcelona will begin to grow.

And it is with this port that a dike appears, known as “Dique del Este” or East Dike, which is key to understanding the emergence of the origins of Barceloneta. Settled on the old Maians Island, it will grow in extension over the centuries, it will contain the sands transported by the maritime cycle and the remains of sediments carried and deposited by the Besòs river.

In this way, the natural process of formation of a beach will accelerate, which will win 500 meters to the sea in the first 200 years; and they will be between 800 and 900 meters today.

The name of Maians, according to some versions, comes from the surname of a merchant who docked his ships there when he came to trade in the city.

And the truth is that before becoming the embryo of the port, that bank of sands did not have a great function. But thanks to the work of the genoese Stassi of Alexandria, the breakwater that annexed the fate of the Isle of Maians to that of Barcelona, ​​allowed the birth of a port that would not stop growing. And unintentionally, the origin of one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city.

So, from now on, when you walk through the area that includes the Pla del Palau and the Estació de França, remember that you walk on an island that is almost, almost forgotten.

Estació de França. Barceloneta. Barcelona
Estació de França

Sources: / / La Vanguardia

The “Malcuinat”, the food of the poor 5 (1)

The “Malcuinat”, the food of the poor 5 (1)

XIII century Barcelona was a booming city. Of the 5,000 inhabitants that were there in Roman times, the medieval city of Barcelona came to have about 40,000 approximately. This, not counting the visitors who were passing through. Or those that did not get to be registered.

Many of the latter lived on the edge of the Ribera neighborhood with the sea: a more depressed area and center of marine life.

This sector, which was known as “La Marina”, was also the place of residence of outsiders who did not live in the best conditions: without work, without family and many times they were not counted in the city censuses.

To live, these people would resort to theft, of small things, in order to get some money to eat. Salvation came if he managed to be recruited as part of a crew, among the ships that arrived and left the port of Barcelona.

Now what could they buy with those few coins? What kind of food? That’s when the title of our article comes in:

The “Malcuinat”.

The translation of this word would be “badly cooked”. As you notice, the word tells us everything. We can assure you that it was not the best gastronomic offer in the city, nothing to do with what we like to show you on our channel.

What was it about? Basically, it was a kind of stew made with the remains of what is not usually chosen to eat. Meal leftovers, guts, bones and the worst pieces of meat. It was also commonly called cap i pota (this means in catalan, “the head and the leg”).

To be able to get a “malcuinat” dish, it was enough to go to one of the “casquería” stalls, where this stew was sold. There were so many of these stops that in 1375 the sale of meat was banned in some areas of the city.

Imagine the scene: sidewalks or small stalls on the streets of Barcelona, ​​and very humble and hungry people queuing up to gobble up a little of that “malcuinat”.

There are records that it was sold, for example, in the Carrer dels Capellans, a few meters from the Cathedral; also in the Carrer de les Freixures, supplied by the market that used to be in the Placa de l’Angel (where the Jaume I metro station is today) and in a small street, that we usually walk through a lot, very close to Santa María del Mar.

The name remains: it is the Carrer del Malcuinat, and it is just outside the Fossar de les Moreres. Walking through there we can imagine these very poor people, living between the city and the sea, next to the port, and passing through that street to eat, at least, something that helps to tackle the hunger.

Source: “Historias de la historia de Barcelona” – Dani Cortijo

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