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A medieval fountain on the Ramblas

A modest fountain adorned with painted tiles welcomes the many visitors from Las Ramblas into the shopping street Carrer Portaferrissa. Although most people quickly walk past with attention and thoughts elsewhere, this fountain is still a sight to see. In addition, this point has a high historical value.

The medieval iron gate and the fountain

Porta Ferriça’ was the name of the entrance gate that stood at this point in the 13th century. The wall that surrounded the city then ran along the current Ramblas towards the sea. At the Porta Ferriça, carts going to the city were measured with an iron rod. It was checked that the carts were not too big and that they could pass through the gate. It is also said that the gate was decorated with iron and bronze. Hence, this city gate was known as the ‘iron gate’ (‘ferriça‘ means ‘iron’ in Catalan). According to legend, the gate was brought as loot from a military expedition in Almeria to Barcelona by Ramón Berengué IV.

The fountain itself was added to the gate later in 1680. Of unknown hand, the Font de Portaferrisa was built in 1604 with stones from the Montjuïc mountain to provide water for the residents and passers-by. However, the original location was opposite the Rambla. So how did the fountain move and get its current name?

The answer is found with the Jesuits, who managed to move the fountain in 1680 to one of the towers that defended the city gate. At the end of the 18th century, when the city wall was removed, the fountain was fortunately spared. And that’s why we now have a fountain at Portaferrissa, reminding us of the former city gates of medieval Barcelona.

The Font de Portaferrissa then and now

Font de Portaferrisa - Carrer de Portaferrissa - Barcelona
Font de Portaferrissa

The city wall, defense tower, and entrance gate may have disappeared from the streetscape, but the name of Porta Ferriça has remained, although in today’s Catalan it is called ‘Portaferrissa’. The fountain in Portaferrissa still exists, and we can conclude that it has only become more beautiful.

In 1959, there was a major renovation at the fountain that gave it its current appearance. The painted tiles by Joan Baptista Guivernau were placed then, and if you pay attention, you see images of the old medieval Barcelona, the city wall, and iron gate. You also see the holy Josep Oriol, flying over the city and defending the city gate.

Both the street Portaferrissa and the fountain remind us of a time when having water in your house was not taken for granted. A tradition that has briefly returned due to the crisis in Spain. Thus, it is not uncommon to see the (poor) local residents and shopkeepers come to get water.

The next time you walk past here, stop for a moment and imagine what it must have been like here in medieval times.

Address: Les Rambles, 116 / Portaferrissa, 1 / Metro: Catalunya (L1 and L3) and Liceu (L3)

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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