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Montjuïc Castle

Montjuïc Castle

The landmark of the mountain of Montjuïc is undoubtedly its castle, built in 1751 by the military engineer, Juan Martín Cermeño. Prior to the 17th century, and thanks to historic documents, we know that originally there was only a lighthouse or small signal tower at the top of the mountain, which warned the city of approaching vessels. The first basic fortress, built in 1640, saw its first battle just one year later when Catalan and French defenders fought off an attack by Spanish troops on 26th January 1641, known as the Battle of Montjuïc.

The fortress withstood the entire siege of Barcelona, and didn’t surrender until the city was finally captured on 11th October 1652. Ownership of the castle subsequently came under the Spanish crown, which promptly installed a garrison with more than 300 troops. The fortress’s importance in the defence of the city was evident, a fact which impelled Spain to continually introduce improvements to its defences, especially towards the end of the 17th century, when the old fortress was reinforced and an outer wall was built to increase its resistance. However, it was not until 1751 when the Bourbon authorities took the decision to turn give the fortress a complete overhaul, and commissioned the project to the military engineer, Juan Martín Cermeño. Reconstruction continued until 1779, when the castle would take on its current aspect. Cermeño demolished much of the original fortress, and in its place erected a large quadrangular building, with a central square, where the castle’s services and officers’ barracks were built. One of Cermeño’s main contributions was the building of a defence structure that separated the two areas of the castle by a glacis, a covered pathway, moat and two ramparts at the rear.

In the last 350 years Montjuïc Castle has played a decisive role in the history of Barcelona, becoming a symbol after the Catalan defeat to Spain in 1714, a date that has become of significant importance. Under Spanish rule, Montjuïc cannons bombarded the city and its citizens on various occasions, and Montjuïc was used to imprison and torture dissidents.

Several archaeological excavations were carried out between 2006 and 2010 enabled historians to map out the dimensions of the old fortress as well as the castle later on. In 2006 the northern rampart of the outer wall was restored, as well as structural parts of the defence system, that had remained unknown until then: 8 buttresses, a quadrangular building, possibly to house the guards and the true dimension of the external area.

In 2010, within the framework of the Masterplan of Montjuïc Castle, an archaeological dig was carried out in the large quadrangular building and central square, the highest part of the fortress, and which, up until that time, was home to the Military Museum of Barcelona.

Finally, in 1984, at the upper-most part of Montjuïc Cemetery, above the place of the common grave, an oven for baking building material from the Baroque period was excavated. The oven was made up of two chambers, one on top of the other: one for the fire and the other for loading and baking, with a grating dividing them along with a door. The whole structure had been built into the rock.

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