MUHBA Plaça del Rei

Barcelona's History Museum

MUHBA Plaça del Rei is located in Gothic Casa Padellàs and has been the main installation for Museu d’Història de Barcelona since its foundation in 1943

The following article describes a visit I made to the museum in 2013.

I've been back again recently and little has changed so the overview is still a good guide for what you're likely to see.

The crucial factor in the founding of the Museu d’Història de Barcelona was the moving of Casa Padellàs, brick by brick, from Carrer de Mercaders to its location in Plaça del Rei on the corner of carrer del Veguer in 1931 following the opening up of Via Laietana.

During the excavations for the foundations of the building an important Roman archaeological site dating from first century Barcino was uncovered.

The resulting archeological project continued until the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and this, along with the restoration of Palau Reial Major, the dismantling of the Museum of Santa Àgata and the recuperation of Saló del Tinell (occupied until 1936 by the old convent of Santa Clara), led to the decision to make Plaça del Rei home Barcelona's History Museum.


MUHBA - Plaça del Rei

The photo above gives a very good idea of what you can expect to see at MUHBA Plaça del Rei - a first century Roman excavation down below and the the Gothic splendour of medieval Barcelona up above.

The Origins of Barcelona

The first section shows the origins of Barcelona with displays covering prehistoric and bronze age settlements in the area.

It was interesting to see the distribution of early settlements and this Bronze Age skull and jewellery caught my attention.

The Iberian culture fascinates me so information about the Laietans and finding out about their Barkeno settlement under the city as well as on Montjuïc and other hilltops was very interesting.

I really enjoyed seeing their rudimentary alphabet.

The Roman Remains

After an audiovisual presentation of the History of Barcelona and a room full of exhibits describing life in the city during Roman Times, you take a lift down to what remains of Roman Barcino.

First Century Roman Walls

Bearing in mind that the Roman Walls that are currently visible in Barcelona date from the 4th century, I was excited to get the chance to see parts of the original 1st century walls.

You can even go inside an early Roman circular defence tower.

Roman Laundry and Dye Workshop

In the 2nd century, Barcino had an area dedicated to textiles located next to Cardo Maximus and in the ruins you can see both a laundry and a dyers' shop.

You can see the area where clothes were washed and dried and the various dying areas.

There are also brief explanations of the dyes and detergents used.

Salting and Garum

There are remains of a salting workshop dating from the 3rd century where the salted fish was cut, cleaned and stored.

This was where the fish paste known as garum was made - Barcino was celebrated throughout the Roman Empire for the quality of its garum.

Vinicola Area

Next to where the garum was produced there is a winemaking area that worked between the 3rd and 4th centuries with storage space for 10,000 litres of wine.

Winemaking Facilities in Roman Barcino

Remains of fruit, yeast, honey and cinnamon have also been found and research based on studies of amphorae show that Barcino wines were distributed throughout the Roman Empire.

Episcopal Palace

The Bishop's Palace dates from between the 4th and 7th centuries and reveals a lot about Barcino's first Christian community.

You can see remains of the font where baptisms took place and there's also signs of a primitive church with an altar and even an early cemetery.

This is one of the best preserved early Christian remains on the Iberian peninsula and would have occupied about a quarter of the walled city.

There are many more interesting things in the Roman part of the museum, such as lesser streets such as Cardo Minor and cold water baths, for example, but let's move on.

Medieval Barcelona

After the Roman section you enter a hall with impressive Romanesque vaults.

This is the ground floor of the Palau Comtal or Counts Palace that had three floors and backed onto the Roman Wall.

The hall now houses the Barcelona in the Middle Ages exhibition, which includes over 200 exhibits, and covers 600 years of Barcelona history, including Visigoths, Muslims and the formation of the Spanish March under the Carolingians, in quick time..

Chapel of Santa Àgata

Building of the Capella de Santa Àgata began in 1302 during the reign of Jaume II and Blanca d'Anjou and the master of works was probably Bertran de Riquer.

The chapel is dedicated to Santa Àgata, who was originally from Catania in Sicily, because prior to becoming Count of Barcelona and King of Aragón, Jaume II had been King of Sicily.

Most of the chapel is built on top of the 4th century Roman Walls and consists of a single nave decorated in polychromed wood with a magnificent retablo by Jaume Huguet in the centre.

The Chapel of Santa Àgata was closed to worship in 1835 and designated a national monument in 1866.

From 1877 to 1832 it was the Museu d'Antiguitats and so in many respects is the precursor to MUHBA Plaça del Rei and the rest of the Museu d'Historia de Barcelona installations.

Saló de Tinell

The magnificent Saló de Tinell was built by Guillem Carbonell for Pere II the Ceremonious and was first used as a Royal Chamber in 1370.

33 metres long, 18 metres wide and 12 metres high, this imposing Gothic Hall was reportedly where the Catholic Kings received Christopher Columbus on his return from the Americas.

In the 16th century it became the Reial Audiència and the seat of the Spanish Inquisition and in 1718, it was given over nuns from the Order of Santa Clara.

Saló de Tinell was recuperated and restored in 1936 and the arches were reinforced with steel in the late 20th century.

Visiting MUHBA Plaça del Rei

MUHBA Plaça del Rei

Plaça del Rei, s/n
08002 Barcelona
Tel. 93 256 21 00

Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday, open from 10:00 to 19:00; Sunday 10:00 to 20:00. Closed Mondays.

Admission: Tickets include access to all MUHBA centres Standard ticket: € 7 Groups of over 10 people: € 5  Concessions: € 5  for people under 29, over 65, and holders of Barcelona library cards, targeta rosa reduïda, large family cards and single-parent family cards.

Admission is free all day on the first Sunday of every month and every other Sunday after 3 pm

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