Saturday, 28 February 2009

Camí de la Cartoixa, Castell de Montjuïc

6 December.

Castell de Montjuïc in its present-day form was built in 1751, designed by military engineer Juan Martín Cermeño. A fort was first built on this site in 1640 during the revolt against Felipe IV. A moat surrounds the fortress on all but its eastern side, which overlooks the steep fall of Montjuïc to the sea. Camí de la Cartoixa winds round the western side. Steps at various points descend to the moat, whose broad course follows the irregular line of the fort's exterior walls.

Rounding one of the corners the symmetrical arrangement of shrubs and plants of a garden, and then around a further corner a stand of three trees, underneath which benches, looking on to other lines.

Friday, 27 February 2009

From Montjuïc, looking over the commercial port

25 October. Ascending by Carretera de Montjuïc and taking the path below the walls of Castell de Montjuïc.

The commercial port first moved into the Llobregat Delta in 1966 and there are plans to divert the Llobregat two kilometres further south in order to accommodate its further growth. The maritime ambitions of medieval Barcelona were at first thwarted by the advancing sand of the Llobregat delta which, together with frequent storms, hindered safe navigation and anchorage. The old port was constructed east of Montjuïc.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Cementiri de l'Est, Poblenou

I visited Cementiri de l'Est, or Cementiri Vell [Old Cemetery], on the blustery, showery afternoon of 18 October.

Cementiri de l'Est was founded in 1773 by Bishop Josep Climent and became a civil cemetery in 1838 (local parish cemeteries were closed by military order in 1816 for health reasons). By the 1870s no more large tombs could fit into the cemetery and the wealthier classes on expiring moved out to Cementiri del Sud-Oest (opened in 1883) commanding a fine view of the sea from Montjuïc.
Laid out according to the eighteenth century ideal of a park, the newer tombs in blocks of stacked niches line the avenues near the entrance, the older tombs towards the rear are arranged more haphazardly, with variously Roman sarcophagi, Gothic shrines and Byzantine tombs attended by expressive sculpted figures and emblems of the deceased.

I encountered many cats, pigeons perching on ledges and statues, seagulls drifting over from the sea nearby. A flock of starlings (?) occasionally took flight between a bare-branched tree overhanging the north-east wall and a large evergreen tree close to the monument commemorating the victims of the 1821 yellow fever epidemic.

I ought to record here my gratitude to the security guard who kindly indicated the way to the emergency exit upon finding me a little anxious of mien at the wrong side of the entrance some quarter of an hour after closing time, somewhat puzzled at finding me there specifically, but mercifully sympathetic to my plight!

Passatge del Cementiri Vell

18 October.

To the north-east of Cementiri de l'Est.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Parc de les Tres Xemeneies

Les Tres Xemeneies in Poble Sec were built by AEG in 1896-97 for Sociedad Española de Electricidad, by 1912 forming part of an electricity station for Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company Limited (known as La Canadenca on account of the company having been established in Toronto). The chimneys stopped being operational in 1989 and presently form part of the offices of Fecsa/Endesa electricity company (who in the 1970s built the other 'Tres Xemeneies' in St Adrià del Besòs).

The adjacent
park, blessed with many walls, ledges and space for pitches, took on its present form in 2003 and is a focal point for sports, music and art (for example being one of the locations for the Urban Funke festival), and hanging around.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Carrer Carolines

12 November. The heavy ironwork door to this entrance hall was ajar when I first passed – the cast shadows drew me in – but was closed when I passed again later on the way back home.

More highly wrought ironwork is to be found further down Carrer de les Carolines, at number 24, Casa Vicens (1883-1888), commisioned in 1878 from Gaudí by tile manufacturer Manuel Vicens i Montaner. The gates and fencing are of cast-iron palmetto leaves, on the window grilles sit small forged-iron dragons, and the further linear forms in the ironwork are inspired by plants and Arabic calligraphy. Casa Vicens is a product of nineteenth century Orientalism (photographs by Frith and Fenton, paintings of Delacroix, Gérôme and Leighton, Flaubert's Salammbô, Burton's rendering of One Thousand and One Nights, Verdi's Aida, ...), Gaudí's study of photographs of "exotic" motifs from the East, and the more immediate influence of Mudéjar architecture.
The ironwork gate of Casa Vicens was not ajar when I passed. It wasn't Saint Rita's Day.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Seminářská zahrada

This eastern side of Petřín hill formerly comprised orchards belonging to the Carmelites of Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné [Church of Our Lady Victorious], built as the Holy Trinity by Giovanni Maria Filippi in 1613 for the German Lutherans. After the battle of the Bila Hora [White Mountain] in 1620 the church was given by Ferdinand II to the Carmelites in gratitude for their part in the victory. (Father Dominic blessed the Catholic army with a painting by Johanites in Strakonic of the Adoration of Christ. This had the effect of swinging the luck away from the Protestants, who up until then had the upper hand, back to the Catholics. The Virgin received due acknowledgement in the church's dedication in 1624. Father Dominic had rescued the damaged painting —the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the shepherds had had their eyes poked out from a confiscated monastery.) The church was renamed the Infant Jesus upon donation of the latter (in the form of a Spanish wax effigy) in 1628 by Polyxena of Lobkovic. The white friars held on to their church, and their orchard, despite the Swedes, from the Thirty Years War until the decree of Joseph II ordering that the Discalced Carmelites leave the Church in 1784. The church parish came under the care of the Knights of Malta. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk invited the Carmelites to return in 1993.

More fruit trees were planted in the Seminary Garden in the early twentieth century and the gardens opened to the public in 1930. The alleyways of trees are good for sledding...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The view from Strahovská zahrada

17 January. Looking north-east over the steep drop of Petřínské Skalky.

Růžový sad na Petříně

As the astrographs of Štefánikova hvězdárna had some respite under the cloud cover so the roses of Růžový sad were enjoying a longer hibernation under evergreen branches and the cover of snow.