3 de April de 1847 Sábado Santo - Barcelona en 1847: la Rambla, comparación con Marsella, edificios públicos, la catedral, Colón (2074)

The Rambla and the People on Promenade—Theophile Gautier—Marseilles and Barcelona contrasted—Public Buildings—The Cathedral—Christopher Columbus

The Rambla, a wide and pleasant promenade, runs from the outer edge of the city, to the water. The trees along its sides had not taken the coloring of spring, and the weather was raw and gusty, but it was a half-holiday, and gentle and simple were taking their noon-day walk. The wealthier classes wore plain colors universally: the men enveloped in their cloaks, the women in rich, black mantillas, the lace of which just flung a shadow on their faces. The poorer people, as in all countries, furnished the picturesque. Full of leisure and independence, for the moment, they went sauntering up and down; the women with gay shawls drawn high around their heads, and their long silver or gold ear-rings, with huge pendants of topaz glancing in the sun; the men in long caps of red or purple, and striped and tasseled mantles, making lively contrast with the rich and various uniforms of the soldiers who were on the stroll. Now and then among the crowd you might discover the peaked hat so general in the south, bedecked with velvet trimmings, and tufts of black wool upon the brim and crown. Accompanying it, there would be a short fantastic jacket, with large bell buttons dangling, while the nether man was gorgeous in breeches of bright blue, with black leggings, and the everlasting alpargata, or hempen sandal. «Who are those troops?» I inquired of an old man, as a squad passed us, half-peasant, half-soldier in costume, their long, blue coats with red facings fluttering loose behind them. » They are the mozos de la escuadra,» he replied. «What is their branch of service?» «To keep the province clear of thieves.» «Are there, then, thieves in Catalonia?» «O! si senor! los hay, creo, en todas partes, como vmd. sabra» («Oh yes, sir, there are some every where, I think, as your worship may know,») said the old rascal, with a knowing leer.

Theophile Gautier, in his pleasant «Voyage en Espagne,» has sufficient gravity to say that Barcelona has nothing of the Spanish type about it, but the Catalonian caps and pantaloons, barring which, he thinks it might readily be taken for a French city, nay, even for Marseilles, which, to his notion, it strikingly resembles. Now it may be true, as Dumas says, that Theophile professes to know Spain better than the Spaniards themselves; a peculiarity, by-the-by, among travelers, which the Spaniards seem to have had the luck of; but I must be pardoned upon this point, for knowing Marseilles better than he, having been there twice, for my sins, and too recently to be under any illusions on the subject. Dust from my feet I had not shaken off against that dirty city, because dust there was none, when I was there, and the mud, which was its substitute, was too tenacious to be easily disposed of. Yet I had sickening recollections of its dark and inconceivably filthy port, through all of whose multiplied and complicated abominations—solid, liquid, and gaseous—it was necessary to pass, before obtaining the limited relief which its principal but shabby street, «la Cannebière afforded. In the whole city, I saw scarce a public building which it was not more agreeable to walk away from than to visit. What was worth seeing had a new look, and with the exception of a sarcophagus or two, and the title of «Phocéens,» assumed by the Merchant’s Club, in right of their supposed ancestors from Asia Minor, there was really nothing which pretended to connect itself, substantially, with the past. Every thing seemed under the influence of trade—prosperous and ample, it is true, but too engrossing to liberalize or adorn.

In Barcelona, on the contrary, you look from your vessel’s deck upon the Muralla del Mar, or sea-wall, a superb rampart, facing the whole harbor, and lined with elegant and lofty buildings. Of the churches, I shall speak presently. Upon the Rambla are two theaters : one opened during my visit, and decidedly among the most spacious and elegant in Europe; the other of more moderate pretensions, but tasteful and commodious, with an imposing facade of marble. In the Palace Square, the famous Casa Lonja, or Merchants’ Hall, stands opposite a stately pile of buildings, erected by private enterprise, and rivaling the beauty of the Rue Rivoli of Paris, or its models, the streets of Bologna, where all the side-walks are under arcades. On the other side of the same Plaza, the palace, a painted Gothic, fronts the Custom-house, which, overladen as it is with ornament, has yet no rival in Marseilles. Toward the center of the city, in the Square of the Constitution, you have on one side the ancient Audiencia, or Hall of Justice, whose architectural relics bring back remembrances of Rouen, while on the other side is the Casa Consistorial, or House of the Consistory, associated in its fine architecture and name, if not its present uses, with the days when the troubadour and the gaye science were at home in Barcelona, under the polished rule of the Arragonian kings. Every where throughout the city, you see traces of the past, and of a great and enterprising people who lived in it. Instead of the prostration and poverty which books of travel might prepare you to expect as necessary to a Spanish city, you find new buildings going up, in the place of old ones demolished to make room for them; streets widened; domestic architecture cultivated tastefully (as, indeed, from the ancient dwellings, it would seem to have always been in Barcelona), together with all the evidences of capital and enterprise, made visible to a degree, which Marseilles, with its vastly superior commerce and larger population, does not surpass.

Nor, even as to the people, are the caps and trowsers the only un-French features. The Catalan, of either sex, is not graceful, it is true, or very comely. The women want the beauty, the walk, the style of the Andalusians. The men are more reserved in manner, less elegant and striking in form, more sober in costume and character than their gay southern brethren. But they are not French men or women, notwithstanding. Imagine a Marseillaise in a mantilla! «Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown»—even if it be but the crown of a bonnet; and it is impossible for one who has been bred to the use of those great equalizers of female head-carriage, to realize, much less to attain, the ease of motion, the fine free bearing of the head, neck, and shoulders, which the simple costume of the Spanish women teaches, and requires to make it graceful. Where, in the mincing gait on the trottoirs, will you find the proud, elastic step which the Spanish maiden is born to, even if it be her only inheritance? And where (to speak generally) among the loungers of cafes, and readers of feuilletons, or the proverbially brutal populace about them, do you see the parallel of that all-respecting self-respect, which it is a miracle not to find in the bearing of a Spaniard, be he high or low? It is an easy thing, M. Gautier, to condense a city into a paragraph!

From the Rambla, we went down, along the sea-wall, to the Palace Square, where we found our way into the Lonja. The chambers of the commercial tribunals were in excellent taste. In each, there hung a portrait of the Queen, and, as all the likenesses were very much alike, I fear that they resembled her. We were shown through a gallery of bad pictures and statues—not very flattering testimonials of Catalonian art. During one of the recent revolutions, some indiscriminating cannon-balls had left these melancholy manifestations untouched, and had done a good deal of damage to the fine Gothic hall of the merchants. None but bullets fired in a bad cause could have conducted themselves so tastelessly. I would fain believe, however, that the more judicious Barcelonese have satisfied themselves, that the practical, not the ideal, is their forte, inasmuch as the extensive schools in the Lonja which are supported by the Board of Commerce, are all directed with a view to usefulness. Those of drawing and architecture are upon a scale to afford facilities, the tithe of which I should be happy to see gratuitously offered to the poor, in any city of our Union.

An attractive writer (the author of the «Year in Spain») tells us that » the churches of Barcelona are not remarkable for beauty.» Externally, he must have meant, which, to a certain extent, perhaps, is true; but as to their interior, it is impossible to understand such a conclusion. The Cathedral and Santa Maria del Mar are remarkable, not only as graceful specimens, in themselves, of the most delicate Gothic art, but as resembling, particularly, in style, in the color of their dark-gray stone, and in their gorgeous windows, the very finest of the Norman models. Indeed, the great prevalence of this similarity in the churches of the province, has induced the belief, among approved writers, that the Normans themselves introduced the Gothic into Catalonia. Santa Maria del Mar reminds you, at a respectful distance, of St. Ouen, in the boldness and elevation of its columns and arches, and the splendor of its lights. It has an exquisite semi-circular apsis, corresponding to which is a colonnade of the same form surrounding the rear of the high altar; a feature peculiar to the Barcelonese churches, and giving to their interior a finish of great airiness and grace.

From Santa Maria, we rambled up to the Cathedral, through many by-streets and cross-ways, passing through the oldest and quaintest portion of the city, and occasionally creeping under a queer, heavy archway, that seemed to date back almost to the days of Ramon Berenguer. Fortunately, we entered the church by one of the transept doors, and thus avoided seeing, until afterward, the unfinished, unmannerly facade. It would not be easy to describe the impression made on me by my first view of the interior of this grand temple, without the use of language more glowing, perhaps, than critical. When we entered, many of the windows were shaded; and it was some time before our eyes, fresh from the glare of outer day, became sufficiently accustomed to the gloom, to search out the fairy architecture in it. But, by degrees, the fine galleries, the gorgeous glass, the simple and lofty arches in concentering clusters, the light columns of the altar-screen, and the perfect fret-work of the choir, grew into distinctness, until they bewildered us with their beautiful detail. What treatises, what wood-cuts, what eulogies, should we not have, if the quaint carvings, of which the choir is a labyrinth, were transferred to Westminster, and the stalls and canopies of the Knights of the Golden Fleece were side by side with those of Henry the Seventh’s far-famed chapel! The same dark heads of Saracens which looked down on us from the «corbels grim,» had seen a fair gathering of chivalry, when Charles V., surrounded by many of the gallant knights whose blazons were still bright around us, held the last chapter of his favorite order there! Perhaps—and how much more elevating was the thought than all the dreams of knighthood !—perhaps, in the same solemn light which a chance ray of sunshine flung down the solitary nave, Columbus might have knelt before that very altar, when Barcelona hailed him as the discoverer of a world ! Let us tread reverently ! He may have pressed the very stones beneath our feet, when, in his gratitude, he vowed to Heaven, that with horse and foot he would redeem the Holy Sepulcher! «Satan disturbed all this,» he said, long after, in his melancholy way, when writing to the Holy Father; «but,» then he adds, «it were better I should say nothing of this, than speak of it lightly.» May it not have been, even in the moments of his first exultation, that here, in the shadow of these gray and awful aisles, he had forebodings of hopes that were to be blighted, and proud projects of ambitious life cast irretrievably away?

, Glimpses of Spain; or, Notes of an unfinished tour in 1847 (1849). Read on

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  • Alexander S. Mackenzie (1) Alexander Slidell Mackenzie (Nueva York, 6 de abril de 1803 - 13 de septiembre de 1848) fue un marino e historiador militar, así como hispanista, estadounidense.
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