Probably one of Barcelona’s quietest squares, Plaça de Sant Felip Neri is a delightful oasis of calm in the midst of the Barri Gòtic and its throngs of tourists. Especially on hot days, the dappled shade of the acacia trees and the sound of the trickling water of its fountain offer solace from the heat and noise of the city.
This pretty square was built on the location of a medieval cemetery and the church dedicated to saint Felip Neri constructed in the 18th Century. Although a peaceful place, it has had its share of tragedy and there are visible signs of this today.
There are several stories about this tragedy or tragedies, which took place during the Spanish civil war. And I’m not sure which is/are the correct one/s…
Some say there were summary executions, there is mention of a bomb exploding here and killing many who had sheltered in the church, and according to the plaque on the wall of the building adjacent to the church, 42 deaths, among which many children, was caused by shots fired from airplanes as they flew over the city in January 1938.
What does seem to be certain, is that several buildings were completely destroyed during the civil war.
In the early 20th Century they were replaced, brick by brick, with 2 Guild buildings that were removed from other sites around Barcelona (where they were pulled down to enable the city to expand beyond the limits of its city walls, which in turn were largely torn down at this time). One of these buildings was the old Shoemaker’s Guild, which now houses the Museu del Calçat.
In one of the corners of the square, by the archway where we entered it, a school is housed in one of the old buildings. Should you happen to come to the square at break time, you’ll be able to see the school kids playing on the square – a delightful sight, but rather noisy!
Next to the school you can find the Baroque church, which is quite beautiful, yet relatively simple. (The double doors at the entrance look like confessionals, don’t you think?)
Its heavily pock marked walls bear the scars of whatever transpired here during the civil war. Whatever caused them must have been horrendous to witness, let alone suffer!
Despite the visible scars of recent history, the square exudes peace and is a great place to come to for a bit of quiet on a hot or busy day. Do check it out if you are nearby – it’s just a short walk from the Cathedral or La Rambla.
Have a great, restful weekend! I’ll be back on Tuesday with more Barcelona loveliness!