Historical walks through the 20th century Barcelona  



Over the years, Montjuïc Castle has gradually become a space for memory. The castle is often considered a symbol of repression, since the city was bombed from the site twice in the 19th century. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), soldiers who had supported the uprising against the Republic were imprisoned and executed here. After Francoist troops had occupied Barcelona, the castle was a key centre for the repression brought to bear by the new regime. The site was turned into a military prison, and many people were executed here, including Lluís Companys, President of Catalonia.

Montjuïc castle, built in 1694 on a site where there had been a military fort since 1640, is a place in the city closely identified with repression. In 1842, General Espartero ordered that, from this point, Barcelona be bombed to quell a revolutionary uprising and, the following year, General Prim ordered another bombardment of the city. In the late 19th century, numerous workers were imprisoned and executed here that had taken part in acts of anarchist violence and, in 1909, those arrested during the Tragic Week were imprisoned here.

In 1936, with the outbreak of the Civil War, the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias – a body created in the month of July to organise the forces that fought against the military uprising in Catalonia and at the Aragon front – seized Montjuïc castle, therefore it came under Catalan ownership for the first time in modern times. The Committee sought to eradicate the memory of the castle associated with injustice and oppression and to turn it into a place that stood for anti-fascism and the defence of freedoms. However, it continued to exercise a repressive role since it imprisoned and executed soldiers that supported the military uprising against the Republic. As of the Events of May in 1937, when the central government assumed powers of public order and defence that until then had corresponded to the Government of Catalonia, the castle was turned over to the Army of the East and continued to be a place of repression. In the course of a year, 173 people accused of treason and espionage against the Republic were shot.

On 26 January 1939, following the occupation of Barcelona, the castle was taken over by Franco’s troops and turned into a detention centre, for Republican soldiers in particular. However, at the end of February, the concentration camp in Horta, where all the castle’s prisoners were moved, began operating. Therefore, it became a military prison exclusively. Though all the mass executions during the Franco regime in Barcelona were carried out in El Camp de la Bota, one very symbolic execution took place at Montjuïc castle, i.e., that of President Lluís Companys, arrested in France by the German occupation forces and handed over to Francoist authorities. Companys was executed in the Santa Helena moat on 15 October 1940.

The site continued to serve as a military prison until 1960 when it was given to the city whilst remaining under the control of the Spanish army. It was not until 2007 that the castle was handed over fully to Barcelona City Council. Today you can visit Montjuic Castle and its permanent exhibition about the history of this site.

Address: Avinguda del Castell || Coordinates: (LAT, LONG): 41.363328594, 2.166134883

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