Sunday, April 5, 2009

Montjuic Mountain and the Castle

Called the Jewish mountain in Catalan and rising 100-meters above the Mediterranean sea, Montjuïc's history is in may ways that of Barcelona.  Artifacts discovered date the first settlement to the second century and the ruins of the Jewish cemetery on the south side hearken back to a different time: when areas such as Barrio Gotico were known as as Calls and were teaming Jewish centers.  Reaching 15% of the population by the time the Lateran Council in Rome ordered non-Christians to wear a special dress (in Catalunya it was gold and yellow, now the colors of the national flag), the Attack of Calls in 1391 saw their population decimated and their tombs used as building materials, while even the converted were expelled with the arrival of Queen Isabel and King Fernando in 1492.

The International Exposition in 1929 transformed Montjuic and Barcelona.  Wild gardens donated by a rich benefactor 20 years earlier became places to lazily wander on hot summer's days with the addition of stairs and paths that all linked to an open-air theater, El Grec, which still hosts many music and dance concerts in the summer months.  The Olympic games in 1992 brought the Olimpic Stadium, the public swimming pools with a city view and the strange looking communication antenna, introducing the second great transformation of its historic slopes.

Because of its strategic location, Montjuic has always had some type of fortification with the current occupant built in 1640.  Used to bombard Barcelona during the Spanish War of Succession it fell from Spanish into Austrian hands for nearly ten years and was overtaken by Napoleon in 1808. In the latter part of the 19th century it was converted into a prison, where the military courts known as Montjuic Process were infamous for the torture handed out to the convicted anarchists and successionists; and it remained in that capacity until the 1960's when Franco ordered it closed and turned into a military museum.  Today, you can find many in Barcelona flocking to its historic grounds in the summer months when the castle becomes a place to meet friends and have a picnic as a movie projects onto its walls or a stand showcases a local band.  Get there early because it's limited capacity.

No comments:

Post a Comment