|July 28, 2016||No Comments|
The apartment in Carrer Ample 35 greets you like a renowned storyteller welcoming an excitable audience. The tall, narrow corridors speak of days of old and prestigious architectural heritage, and the beautifully decorated rooms emanate the same mysterious grandeur that creeps through the twisting streets of El Gótico. Stepping inside is a joyous experience: the light from the large interior patio falls onto the owner’s gloriously eclectic collection of artworks, and the open windows allow a gentle breeze to dance freshness through the rooms. The history to which the building attests is intriguing. First constructed in the late 15th century, the walls have spectated for over 500 years as Barcelona has transformed from a handful of seaside villages to the symbol of European culture, modernity, and tourism that it is today.
But these walls have their own fascinating storyto tell. The apartment is part of the Palau Mornau which was first constructed for the Santcliment family – Catalan nobles whose significance dates back to the 13th century – before being bought by Josep Mornau (from whom it takes its name). Under Mornau’s ownership, the palace became a meeting place for Catalan nobles who wished to rid the city of Napoleonic rule. Word spread of these gatherings, and, before long, the Emperor of the French caught wind of their rebellious intentions. Of course, Napoleon would not abide the slightest hint of mutiny: of the group involved in the anti-Napoleonic conspiracy, all were hanged.
All, that is, except for Josep Mornau. Napoleon’s men had been sent to capture the final insurgent, and had his house surrounded, only to discover that he had disappeared. Legend has it that, unbeknownst to the French occupiers, a secret tunnel connects the palace with Plaça Catalunya, and thus Mornau escaped to become the last survivor of the gang of rebels. Thanks largely to the work done in the Palau Mornau, the French were soon expelled from the city, and Mornau and his co-conspirators came to be revered as local heroes.
After a fast-paced youth the building gained renewed elegance in its old age at the hands of Manuel Raspall, a disciple of Gaudí’s. He was contracted at the beginning of the 20th century by José María de Nadal Vilardaga, then Mayor of Barcelona, to renovate the entire building and divide one half into apartments. Ever since, it has been considered a modernist masterpiece, and its splendour is on show to the public in the Hemp Museum, located in the large, showy entrance hall and entertainment rooms of the Palace. Inside the apartment the modernist influence is apparent but subtle. The overpoweringly impressive architectural features seen in the museum are omitted, but the renovation has adjusted the space to the tastes of the modern inhabitant, bringing larger, brighter rooms.
Tourists and locals alike often try to determine the “real” Barcelona, and there is much to consider. Of course, the city has a long, rich history, and many feel that the magical old town holds the true essence of the city. However, just as important to the make-up of Barcelona is the modernism that characterises Eixample, one of the world’s most spectacular examples of early 20th century construction. In the apartment in Carrer Ample 35, all of this, as well as the city’s artistic flare, is on full show: however you define Barcelona, this fits.