Introduction

The Llotja de Mar or “Sea Exchange” is one of Barcelona’s most emblematic buildings, and it has always been the flagship of a dynamic civil society committed to Catalonia’s economic and social progress.

During medieval and modern times, the Llotja was the seat of the Consolat de Mar or “Sea Consulate.” In the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th it housed the Royal Board of Commerce of Barcelona, and since 1886 it has been the home of the Official Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping of Barcelona. For more than six centuries, the establishment has been a prime witness of the development of Catalan trade, art and architecture.

The Llotja consists of a number of superimposed buildings: to the 14th-century Gothic nucleus, formed by what later became known as the Contracting and Consular Halls, there was added in the 15th century the collateral nave, which contains the Gilded Hall. In the 16th century new enlargements were made, and finally, in the late 18th century, the Neoclassical exterior that we see today was constructed.

In its origins, in the late 14th century, the Llotja was the maximum expression of the rise of Barcelona’s merchant class. This enterprising community now had a place for conducting its business, and the building became the symbol of its power and solidity. Ever since then, Catalonia’s political, social and economic evolution has reverberated through the building, which has experienced periods of both splendour and decay. By the late 20th century, the stone walls of the Contracting Hall were covered with a thick layer of soot from cigar smoke, and the Pati dels Tarongers, the “Orange-Tree Courtyard,” was being used as a car park, but between 1997 and 2002 the Llotja underwent a complete rehabilitation process, with the result that it now arouses admiration once again.