The story behind Barcelona cathedral's facade

New exhibition explores a history hundreds of years in the making

Overview of the facade of the Cathedral of Barcelona. Tuesday, February 18, 2020 (By: Pau Cortina)
Overview of the facade of the Cathedral of Barcelona. Tuesday, February 18, 2020 (By: Pau Cortina) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 18, 2020 05:24 PM

The sprawling Barcelona Cathedral is an architectural landmark with some construction dating back to the 15th century. What a new exhibition at the Casa de la Pia Almoina attempts to do is reveal the surprising and complicated truth behind the building. 

'Vallmitjana and the facade of the cathedral. Unique stories about sculpture' focuses on the iconic neo-gothic facade that covers the structure, with a variety of sculptures dedicated to the saints and angels of Barcelona.

The architectural competition

The facade, unlike the temple and other portions of the building, was not erected until the 19th century. The process of finishing this had required wealthy banker Manuel Girona to provide funding, and ultimately create a competition among architects to have their design selected.

Girona commissioned his own entry for the competition by Josep Mestres, a Catalan architect and designer. Nine projects were considered, including one by Joan Martorell i Montells, with guidance from Antoni Gaudí.

A design dispute

Girona's commissioned design was declared the winner, an outcome that drew controversy as the design plans became finalized and accusations of copying were made. The final draft saw multiple aspects of Martorell's vastly different proposal incorporated into the facade, which many saw as plagiarism.

The exhibition

The display will be available to the public until mid-April, and includes a variety of photographs, documents and sketches detailing the process behind the construction of the iconic structure. The exhibition is part of the 'Vallmitjana year', a centennial celebration of the lives of Catalan sculptors Venanci and Agapit Vallmitjana, two highly regarded figures in Catalan art history with work displayed on some of Barcelona's most important landmarks.