Historical walks through the 20th century Barcelona  



Over the course of the 20th century, the crossroads between Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia has gradually become a historic memory site. The obelisk in the centre has changed its meaning on several occasions while the square has received  different names.

At the beginning of the 20th century, this square was popularly known as the Cinc d’Oros (five coins), due to the shape of the roundabout in the middle and the four lampposts surrounding it, which reminded people of the playing card of the same name. On 12 April 1936, a monument was unveiled in honour of Francesc Pi i Margall, Catalan politician and president of the First Spanish Republic. The obelisk by the architects Adolf Florensa and Josep Vilaseca was erected and crowned by, Josep Viladomat’s sculpture "Flame”, representing a nude woman, symbol of the Republic, and holding a laurel wreath in her hand. At the base of the monument, a medallion engraved with a portrait of Pi i Margall was installed.

Just a few months later, during the military uprising of 19 July 1936, the Cinc d'Oros was the scenario of the first fights between rebel soldiers from the Pedralbes and Sant Andreu barracks and trade union workers defending the Republic. And in 1938, a farewell parade was organized in this square to say thank you and goodbye to the voluntary men and women of the International Brigades for their fight against fascism.

After the war and the victory of the Francoist forces, Barcelona City Council renamed the square, which became Plaza de la Victoria, and the medallion of Pi i Margall and the Republican sculpture were removed. The Falangist coat of arms was installed at the base of the obelisk, along with the sculpture that had been placed second in the competition for the original monument. By Frederic Marès, this sculpture also represented a woman with her arm raised. The obelisk was crowned by an Imperial eagle, for which reason the square became popularly known as “Parrot Square". The monument was inaugurated on 26 January 1940, during the first anniversary of the occupation of the city by Franco’s troupes in what was one of the first examples of monumental propaganda at the service of the fascist regime.

After the Allied victory in World War Two, the Franco regime decided to withdraw many fascist symbols from the public space. In the case of the Cinc d’Oros, the eagle was taken down, and the site became known as “Pencil Square”. During the post-war period, the monument did not escape the actions of the anti-Franco movement, which attacked it on several occasions; and during the transition it was the scenario of several demonstrations claiming for freedom and amnesty. On 14 December 1979, after the restoration of democracy, a group of people pulled down the inscription in honour of the rebel soldiers and the Francoist coat of arms. Finally, on 27 February 1981, the square was named after Joan Carles I, king of Spain.

In 1990, the original sculpture, "Flame", returned to the public space, though in a new home: Plaça de Llucmajor in Nou Barris district (today Plaça de la República). In 30 January 2011, in accordance with the so-called Historical Memory Law, Barcelona City Council withdrew Frederic Marès’s statue of the Francoist Victory from the base of the obelisk. Finally, in 2017 the local government changed the name of the square again to that of Cinc d'Oros, thus recovering the popular name, and installed two panels explaining the history of the square.

Address: Plaça de Joan Carles I || Coordinates: (LAT, LONG): 41.383379732, 2.145296135

  • Periods:
  • Second Republic
  • Civil War
  • Francoism
  • Transition