The Gothic style of architecture started its glorious journey across Europe in France in the 13th century. Its growing popularity coincided with the march of Jaume I into Valencia, the annexation of Mallorca and Ibiza, as well with the steady formation of middle class and the trade empire in Spain. Soaring prices of constructing grand monuments naturally became the responsibility of wealthy European cities.
This style of architecture had developed along with the methods and technical aspects of layout design. Buttresses, buttressed arches, ribbed vaults on ceilings allowed architects to erect buildings that were much taller yet lighter than before. The lancet arch became the standard Gothic element along with rose windows that served as sources of light in gigantic Gothic spaces. The typical time frame of completion of an enormous structure like a cathedral was not estimated in years or even decades: 160 years was a standard term of construction, and this is exactly how long it took to finish the Cathedral of Barcelona (La Catedral). It is hardly surprising if one considers the poor conditions in which construction workers lived and the primitive nature of materials they employed. The record for the speediest building was established by the church of Santa Maria del Mar (EsglГ©sia de Santa Maria del Mar) whose construction took only 59 years.
The Catalan Gothic architecture followed its own unique course, straying away from the northern European trends. Decorative elements in churches in Barcelona are rather scant, and its distinctive feature is the triumph of lateral space over the height. North European Gothic cathedrals fly high to the sky, but Catalan churches aim to push the neighbouring buildings aside, fully exploiting their unique vaulted design. The marvelous example of the Catalan Gothic style is the medieval royal shipyards of Barcelona вЂ“ the Drassanes Reials, where the Maritime museum is now located. Barcelona churches are also distinctively steadfast and lateral: Santa Maria del Mar and Santa Maria del Pi illustrate this trend in the Catalan Gothic style well. The absence of spires and turrets is another deviation from the traditional northern European style. Bell-towers are usually crowned with completely flat or almost flat roofs, and some exceptions only support the rule вЂ“ the main facade of La Catedral, with its three bumpy and gnarled spires, somewhat resembles the contours of cathedrals in Chartres and Cologne.
Possibly the swiftest upsurge in construction in Barcelona happened under the rule of Pere III, which may seem strange given that these times were not only the best, but also the worst of times. During the rule of Pere in the mid-14th century Barcelona went through droughts, famine, plague epidemics, pogroms... Perhaps Pere III was not the most attentive ruler. He, however, built or started to build La Catedral, the Drassanes, the stock exchange La Llotja, the city hall and many other structures, not to mention the construction of city walls. The churches of Santa Maria del Mar and Santa Maria del Pi were completed by the end of the 14th century.
The Gothic style remained fashionable in Barcelona for much longer than in the rest of Europe. For example, at the beginning of the 15th century the Generalitat still lacked a building worthy of being called home, so the architect Marc Safont embarked on designing one. Today it can be seen on PlaГ§a de Sant Jaume. Even a century later routine restorations in the city were carried out according to the Gothic tradition, although the Renaissance managed to leave a rather disappointing trace on the city architecture, mainly on that same Generalitat facade.
Carrer de Montcada in La Ribera was the result of the late-medieval urban planning. It gradually became surrounded by expensive mansions of wealthy Barcelonians of the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of them house museums and galleries today. Despite the intimidatingly Gothic exteriors, the interiors of these houses surprise with lovely courtyards and ornate staircases. Many of the buildings went trough a make-over Baroque-style. The vast majority of Gothic buildings in Barcelona can be found within the Old Town boundaries, but some lie beyond, like the monastery of Pedralbes (Museu-Monestir de Pedralbes) in SarriГ .