From splendour to decay

Between the 14th and 16th centuries, Catalonia suffered a great economic and social crisis, and yet this was a period of splendour for the Llotja. In the 16th century the Renaissance-style portico was built, and in the 17th a new chapel replaced the old one. Barcelona’s merchant class had made this building their symbol.

The Llotja was also the place where the principal celebrations of the Sea Consulate and the Council of One Hundred were held, usually in the Contracting Hall, and in good weather in the Orange-Tree Courtyard. On these occasions, the walls of the hall were decorated with sumptuous tapestries and cloths and the floor was covered with carpets. No other building in Barcelona could boast the magnificence, spaciousness and location in the city that the Llotja had.

But from the 17th century onwards, the building suffered a progressive process of decay, in parallel with that of the city’s merchant class itself. This process was also aggravated by the fact that for long periods the Llotja was used as a grain store, a decision that the Council of One Hundred took in view of the poor condition of most of the city’s buildings serving this purpose.

During the 17th century, wars between the European monarchies were incessant, and Catalonia was one of the theatres of these conflicts. And then, in the early 18th century, King Charles II of Castile and Aragon died without issue, which detonated a war for the succession to the crown between the supporters of the house of Austria and the Bourbons. Barcelona, siding with the Austrias, was repeatedly besieged by the Bourbon forces. Due to its seafront location, the Llotja was very vulnerable to attacks by naval artillery. The sieges and bombardments of the years 1691, 1697, 1705, 1713 and 1714 had very serious effects on it.