Barcelona: the city of dragons
Dragons – guardians of supernatural power and creatures of wisdom. You may have walked right by them on your way to the beach or rushing to work. They’re everywhere in Barcelona. But where did they come from? And why are there so many?
The dragon is one of those fantastical beasts that inspires curiosity, awe and fear in cultures around the world. In European folklore they symbolize evil and chivalry, while in the East dragons are synonymous with power, wisdom, strength and good fortune. It’s no wonder there is so much enthusiasm around them.
Dragons in Barcelona
Legend has it that the first dragons arrived in Catalonia around the 15th century, along with the legend of Sant Jordi (Saint George). Saint George’s popularity after slaying the dragon and saving the princess became so great that he was declared the patron saint of Catalonia in 1456. You can read our post to learn more about Sant Jordi and how it’s celebrated in Barcelona here.
Josep Martínez – inspired by the countless dragons in the city – authored a book featuring almost 500 dragons. Titled Drakcelona: City of Dragons (drak is the Catalan word for dragon), the publication even spurred the creation of a mobile application to help find the many dragons hidden within Barcelona’s walls.
Where are they?
Chiselled from stone, forged with metals, blown from glass, or made with broken tile mosaics (trencadís), there is no lack of dragons in Barcelona. You’ll see all shapes and colours of dragons – climbing buildings, battling with Sant Jordi, or sunning themselves like lizards.
Walking through the heart of the old city along La Rambla, you may have noticed a beautiful building decorated with umbrellas, fans and an iron Chinese dragon. The Casa dels Paraigües is a testament to the shop that occupied the building in the past and must-see for any passers-by.
Follow one of the narrow streets further into the Gothic Quarter and you’ll see that even the Palau de la Generalitat – the seat of the government of Catalonia – possesses various representations of Saint George and the dragon.
Yes, Barcelona is full of dragons. And Gaudí may have taken his inspiration one step further, designing the biggest and perhaps most famous ode on this mythical creature. Built in 1906, Casa Batlló is a larger than life representation of the legend of Saint George. The colourful rooftop – with its scaly-looking tiles and winding, serpentine shape – is designed to resemble a dragon’s spine. The culminating point is the spire which represents the spear used to pierce the dragon’s heart.
Arguably one of the most famous dragons greets you at the stairs of Park Güell. The beautiful mosaic dragon has become the park’s most popular icon and small sculptures can be found in any souvenir shop around the city.
Have you noticed the dragons either hiding or in plain sight? Next time you take a walk, you may be more aware of them watching you!