The Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, has a multitude of surprises for lovers of history, architecture and art in general. One of these jewels, that isn’t even well known to people living in the city, is the Casa de l’Ardiaca (in English the Archdeacon’s House), which was the former residence of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The building, which is listed as a ‘Bé Cultural d’Interès Nacional’ or ‘Heritage Site of National Interest’, is of clear gothic style, and it underwent a significant reform at the start of the 16th century by order of the head of Barcelona’s Cathedral at the time, Archdeacon Lluís Desplà. During these works many Renaissance elements were incorporated, a clear example being the entrance hallway. The courtyard was also renovated at the same time, and the building was extended, turning it into a small palace in the heart of the city centre.
After having been deemed the political epicentre of the city, and even adopted by artists in order to create their works, in 1895 it became the headquarters of the Association of Lawyers (the Bar) of Barcelona. During that period there were further reforms to the building, for which the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner was brought in, thus introducing modernist elements, an examples being the stone letterbox that stands out at the front.
A work of the sculptor Alfons Juyol, the letterbox is located on one side of the entrance, and the detail of a turtle, five swallows and seven leaves can be seen, all of which have symbolic value relating to justice.
The current appearance of the Casa de l’Ardiaca dates back to its last major refurbishment in 1962. At this point several buildings were demolished that originally stood on the city’s Roman walls, as well as the inner courtyard being turned into a small cloister.
The Historical Archive of the City of Barcelona
In 1920 the Casa de l’Ardiaca was bought by Barcelona’s City Council, and a year later it was converted into the headquarters of the ‘Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona’ (AHCB) – the Historical Archive of the City of Barcelona – a purpose it still serves today. Its immense archive, comprising of some 80,000 volumes, includes the most valuable documents relating to Barcelona’s government from the 13th century to the beginning of the 19th century, such as all kinds of bibliographies and files belonging to the city.
Everyone who wants to can access the information in the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona free of charge and on request, so it serves as a huge help to those who wish to extend their knowledge about the city itself, as well as the structure of its government over the years.
Unless you’re a scholar of Barcelona’s history, require information for a project or thesis or would like to find out a specific fact about the city, it’s unlikely that you’d want to search through all the thousands of documents available to you. However, the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona is worth a visit, even to see the so-called Saló de les Pinyes, with its magnificently decorated ceiling.
We think you would enjoy a visit to the outside of the Casa de l’Ardiaca, comprising the cloister and the terrace on the upper floor, as well as entering the main hall, where there are often exhibitions on display.
One of the first things you will notice is the beautiful central fountain in the Cloister, on which the traditional Ou Com Balla (‘dancing egg’) takes pride of place on Corpus Christi day, as well as a huge palm tree at its side. If you take a good look at the walls you’ll see that parts of them are decorated with a frieze of tiles. In the background you’ll see one of the most important historical elements of the building, part of the old Roman city wall, which is steeped in over 2000 years of history.
It would be unforgivable to leave the site without going to the first floor and spending some time on the terrace. Although it’s not very high, you’ll get a good view of the Santa Llúcia chapel, and you’ll see the full magnitude of the palm tree in the cloister. It’s such a peaceful haven, in an area of Barcelona that is otherwise so busy.
Just before the entrance to the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona, you’ll find a small room where exhibitions are sometimes organised, the underlying theme usually being the city of Barcelona itself.
On the same street as the Casa de l’Ardiaca, the carrer (street) de Santa Llúcia, and on the corner with the carrer del Bispe you’ll often find street musicians performing classical music and opera, which serves as great entertainment to the many passers-by.
c/ (street) Santa Llúcia 1, Barcelona.
From 1st September until 1st July: Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 20:45. Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00.
From 2nd July until 31st August: Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 until 19:30.
Entry to the building, and to the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona is free of charge.
How to get there
Metro: Liceu (line 3) and Jaume I (line 4).
Buses: lines 45, 59, 120, V13, V15, V17 and tourist bus.
By foot: ELocated in one of the most central points of the city, you can walk to the Casa de l’Ardiaca from all nearby places of interest.