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La Model Prison, a symbol of Francoist repression, is shut down in Barcelona

The closure of La Model ends one of the darkest chapters in the history of Catalonia and Spain


08 June 2017 08:41 PM



The men’s prison known as 'La Model', located in the heart of the city of Barcelona, has closed down after 113 years. The prison became a symbol of Francoist repression in Catalonia together with Montjuïc Castle, where political opponents were tortured and executed during the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship. The last remaining prisoners, now common criminals, were transported to new facilities on Thursday.

'La Model' followed the idea of a circular prison, also known as a “panopticon” in order to transmit the feeling of constant control. Neighbors and associations had demanded the closure of the prison for decades. Political leaders of all eras and colors had promised to close it, but it was not until 2014 that the former city council and the Catalan government finally came to agreement on the closure of this significant building.

'La Model' opened its doors on June 9, 1904 and closed them almost 113 years later, on Thursday, June 8, 2017. For many people in Barcelona, this prison represented one of the darkest chapters of the city’s history. Already during the Spanish Civil War the prison held not only common criminals but also many political prisoners. 

Franco used 'La Model' to terrorize and torture more than 13,000 political opponents. Executions continued even during the late years of the dictatorship. Salvador Puig Antich, an anarchist from the Iberian Movement of Liberation group, was put to death in 1974, only one year before Franco's death. His execution by garotte—a very painful form of capital punishment which is now completely banned—created a strong outcry in Catalonia and abroad. 

Antich’s four sisters still remember perfectly the weeks prior to their brother's execution. He was the last victim of the garrotte in 'La Model'. Like many other families of people held prisoner during Franco’s dictatorship, Antich’s family is still waiting for his death sentence to be declared null and void. 

During the last few decades, there have been numerous attempts by the different city governments to take back the space occupied by the prison. In 2014, former Mayor Xavier Trias signed an agreement with the Catalan Government that finally enabled the plan for the closure of La Model by the end of 2017.

Barcelona’s current city government has not discarded the idea of building public housing on the prison grounds. The councilor for Environment, Urban Planning and Mobility, Janet Sanz, highlighted the importance of including social housing projects every time an important transformation takes place in the city, in order to avoid an increase in rents. At any rate, she explained that it will first be necessary to study if this possibility is feasible. 

The former city council had also started a process of citizen participation to decide the use of the newly won public space. The objective is now to close this participative stage and prepare all the projects during 2018 in order to execute them during the next mandate.


  • A prison officer during the last count in 'La Model' (by Xavier Alsient)

  • A prison officer during the last count in 'La Model' (by Xavier Alsient)