Apartat históric - [[Què era què al 1700|Qué era qué en 1700|What was what in 1700]] - Barri de la Ribera
What was what in 1700

La Ribera neighbourhood

The construction of the Ciutadella citadel (1716-1748), according to plans drawn up by Joris Prosper van Verboom, entailed the demolition of one-fifth of all the houses in Barcelona. One thousand homes were knocked down, the equivalent to all the housing in cities like Mataró, Girona and Reus in those days. The demolition zone, which covered 17% of the total area of the city, was also an important, highly active economic and social centre in Barcelona. The destruction affected the course of the Comtal irrigation canal, as well as a considerable proportion of the city’s industries, the market area and the port services zone. Tanneries were lost, as were string makers’, the city’s slaughterhouse, fishmongers’, dozens of warehouses, taverns, salt, sumac and tobacco works, etc. All this had a serious effect on the development of these and other activities. The loss of infrastructure in the area was accompanied by the elimination of the entire Born commercial sector, an area occupied by grocer’s shops, hostels and taverns, in such streets as Bonaire, Joc de la Pilota and Pla d’en Llull; part of the Rec industrial zone. Also demolished were the dense blocks of buildings dedicated to activities relating to the sea and the port, industries, pelota courts and market gardens watered by the canal in the Fusina neighbourhood. Buildings with religious and social care functions were also pulled down. These included the convents and monasteries of Santa Clara, Sant Agustí the Clergues Menors, the Hospital of Santa Marta and the chapels of Montserrat and the Sant Esperit.

The city’s nerve-centre for economic and social activity was Plaça del Born, an authentic town square that served as the venue for countless purposes. There was a daily fruit, vegetable and poultry market here, and the square was also the site of religious celebrations, exemplary punishments meted out by the authorities, glass and wax fairs and bullfights. The destruction of La Ribera neighbourhood to make way for the Ciutadella complex turned Plaça del Born into a marginal space that had lost one whole side and parts of two more. The site now looked onto the Ciutadella esplanade, over which rose the silhouette of the fortress, or citadel.

The destruction of much of La Ribera neighbourhood affected the city’s capacity for growth, as it entailed the loss of the space where the most important economic activities took place, and drove families into poverty, condemning them to live in terrible conditions due to the piles of rubble in nearby streets or forcing them to live outside the city walls, in the beach area.

The Born archaeological site

The Born archaeological site was discovered in late-2001. Whilst its existence was known, no one could have imagined that the structures would be unearthed in such an extraordinary state of conservation. The market building, constructed between 1874 and 1878 on the esplanade that formerly separated the Ciutadella citadel from the city, ensured the conservation of what is a tangible site of memory that enables us to learn more about how the Barcelona people lived in 1714.

The market site occupies 5% of the city demolished in order to build the Ciutadella. Sixty-nine families lived in this area, and the intense activity that went on here is illustrated by the number of trades they exercised: thirty-five, including viola stringers, surgeons, shoemakers, harness makers, etc. However, this economic diversity should not eclipse the fact that all the leading brandy producing and exporting merchants were also installed in this area. In Carrer Bonaire, one of the streets that crosses the site, stood the houses of Joan Kies and Arnold de Jägerque, Dutch merchants living in Barcelona who were amongst the leaders of the Austriacist plot against Philip V and the Bourbon viceroy, Francisco Fernández de Velascodels, in late-1702. On the outbreak of war, Fernández de Velascodels had ordered the goods of Dutch and English traders to be confiscated, and he later decreed that foreign traders should be expelled from the country. Although Kies and Jäger avoided expulsion, they never ceased to plot against the Bourbon authorities in support of the Archduke. The site also contains the house of another Austriacist conspirator, Pere Ferrer. Unlike his Dutch counterparts, Ferrer was able to flee in time, avoiding capture and being sent to prison.

Entertainment and recreational activities also went on in the buildings conserved inside the market. Triquets were houses devoted to gaming, whether argolla (a game similar to croquet), ball games, dice or cards and, above all, gambling. Beside these gaming houses were taverns, where wine and other popular cold drinks were served. No gaming or hot food were allowed and, despite the efforts of the authorities to prevent it, prostitution was frequent. Gabriel Colomer’s tavern was in Carrer del Joc de la Pilota street and was one of very few not run by Milanese people. The best-known triquets, specialising in the game of argolla, were those of Ramon Xapelli and Antoni Corrales, both in Carrer dels Corders de Viola. Tobacco consumption was spreading fast amongst the people of Barcelona in those times, and had become a highly lucrative business. The grocer and merchant Josep Duran possessed a large establishment in Bornet where he stocked huge amounts of tobacco, having opened a shop from which to sell his wares.

Over the twenty-five years before the demolition of the houses, the area around the Born site and La Ribera neighbourhood generally had been bombed on five occasions by troops laying siege to the city (1691, 1697, 1705, 1706 and 1714). The inhabitants had become used to discussing the damage to the houses after each bombardment, and did not at first believe the rumours that had begun to circulate around 1715 to the effect that the area was to be razed to the ground in order to build the citadel, or Ciutadella. Such a thing was so unthinkable that, even whilst the Bourbon authorities were making preparations for its construction, the inhabitants of the area were still signing agreements to lease local houses or shops. For example, the grocer Josep Duran leased his Hostal de l’Alba hostel in Carrer dels Corders de Viola

street to Maurici Bernardí for a five-year period at the very moment that Joris Prosper van Verboom was submitting plans for the construction of the fortress.

Even when the first stage of demolition began, reaching as far as the Hostal de l’Alba and Carrer Xucles street, the residents who were displaced moved just a short distance away from the demolished area, convinced that the second stage would not be carried out. Nonetheless, the systematic demolition continued without respite, though the Ciutadella esplanade was not completed until 25 January 1725. A few months later, representatives of Archduke Charles (by now proclaimed as Emperor Charles VI) and King Philip V reached an agreement to end the reprisals and imprisonments that had taken place as a result of the Spanish War of Succession.