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In one late summer night last year I was walking around the streets of Barcelonas Gothic Quarter and accidentially stepped on this square - surprisingly I never heard before about it.
First the sound of the bubbling water of the fountain in the middle of the square caught my attention. The whole square was illuminated by the moonlight. It was kind of creepy. A friend, I was with, told me to turn around and have a look at the walls of the church and the buildings around the square - there were holes, which seem like bullet holes, everywhere - and he started telling me the story of Plaza de Sant Felip Neri:
“This square was built on the grounds of a cemetery and the church on it was built in 1752. Look at the walls..they tells us now the awful tragic past of this little square in the heart of Barcelonas Gothic Quarter. Some people still tell that the holes in the stones of the church were from the bullets of Anarchist execution squads, who had shot priests standing against the wall of the church. Look up there.. can you see the holes halfway up the church? How bad was this squad in shooting? Execution squads? No! This was just one of the lies which were told by the Francoist authorities. They did not shoot the priests here, it was a bomb, which was supposed to go down on Plaza Sant Jaume with it’s governmental buildings, missed it and fell in this square - killing 22 adults and 20 children, which were playing here. Using this lie and renovating the facades of the buildings facing the church, they wanted to cover up the death of 42 people here on January 30 in 1938. The rescue workers pulled out the survivors from the church and another bomb fell in the square, killing more. It was the second worst bombing atrocity during the war.”
This is the tragic story of Plaza de Sant Felip Neri, which is definitely one of Barcelonas most romantic squares, but it gives you goosebumbs at the same time when you think of it’s history. You will find a plaque there (left hand from the church) telling “In memory of the victims of the bombing of Sant Felip Neri. Here 42 people died, the majority children, by the action of the fascist aviation on the 30th of January, 1938”
Nowadays there is a school on this square and children are playing football around the fountain – you can hear them laughing. It is a very special and magical place in Barcelona, which should not be missed.
If you saw Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, you might remember one scene, in which Rebecca Hall (Vicky) and Scarlett Johansson (Cristina) had lunch in the square. It was also being used as one location for “Perfume: The story of a murderer”. Grenouille is observing the plum girl there.
It is a little challenge to find it in the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, but I will tell you, how to get there:
Go off Plaza Sant Jaume to Carrer del Bisbe, after around 150 meters you will see a little square at the left. After this square you can see a narrow street, take this one and follow it – it leads you directly to Plaza de Sant Felip Neri.Pic 1: spanje.blog.nl Pic 2 and 3: © Julia Kaesehage