What was this before? Where are we? Was that part of the Roman wall? In our museum, we find daily questions of this kind. Visitors are usually intrigued by the architecture of the building, which invites them to think that they are in a place with many years of history, and that is true.
Barcelona’s citizens know the building where the Gaudi Exhibition Center is located as Pia Almoina, in reference to the charity known by that name. However, the first institution which occupied the land where now rises the Pia Almoina building was the Canonical. First references of that bulging are from the 878 a.C.
The destruction of the city of Barcelona by Almanzor (the Caliph of Cordoba) in the 985 destroyed the building. Once he and his troops focused the attention of the Caliph in the Leonese and Castilian territories, the Bishop Aeci made an endowment to the canons in order to lift a place where they could live in community by the year 1009. After the lifting of the new headquarters for the Canonical other charity institutions around appeared, as Pia Almoina and the hospital of the poor and pilgrims, which took a great social value starting from the 13th century.
As buildings that depended on the city’s Cathedral, there are some Pia Almoina in Catalonia. In Barcelona, the first Pia Almoina was the center of the charity diocesan action. It was constructed in the 12th century and function until the 15th century. The first building was located were now a days the cloister’s cathedral is. These buildings came up from the idea of a canon who decided to use his properties to help the poor. During the time that the building was active, it feed about 300 people each day.
Ten years after the broke down of the first building in 1423 the actual Pia Almoina was built, when the king Alfonso the Magnanimous give the land to the Mercedarians. A year later, they sold the land to the canons of the Cathedral. Located in Pla de la Seu, next to the Cathedral of Barcelona, it incorporated part of the Roman walls (centuries II-IV) to the first phase of the building.
Towards the middle of the 16th century a renovation of the entire environment of the Cathedral started. With these works, was annexed a new 3-storey building in 1546. The voussoir’s entrance of the main facade makes us realize that this is a Gothic-style building. Nevertheless, the smooth facade of the second raised part has a gallery at the top. These semicircular arches gallery with Tuscan columns are in a Renaissance style.
Later on, at the end of the 16th century, the wars with France, the War of Succession at the beginning of the 18th century, and a deficient administration of the estate, ushered in a period of crisis that affected the building. In the 19th century with the Spanish confiscation, which put to auction properties of religious institutions, the building became the headquarters of the city police of Barcelona.
A century later, in the process of recovery and revaluation of the wall that carried out the architect A. Florensa, some houses attached to the wall of the building were demolished in 1949.
It was not until the end of the year 1954, when the building was fixed as the seat of the Diocesan Museum, a center where do exhibitions at the service of citizens. That same year, requested the Declaration of the building as a historical monument of national interest, finally awarded in 1970.
All this mix of institutions, epochs and styles has made the building a legacy of the past. Some examples of these elements are a Moresque capitel of sculpted stone from the 9th-10th century, a monumental staircase, a Renaissance Gallery and a head of medusa from a Roman funerary complex, probably from the 3rd century.