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Barcelona Underground (I): La Rec Comtal

Everybody knows the Paris’ Catacombs, a huge underground labyrinth centuries old that is giving the Paris Hall a major headache (notice the joke, please). But is not the only city that have such a structure. Maybe not so big and mysterious, but Barcelona cannot be let apart in the topic of underground constructions. Here begins a series of articles about the ancient structures that lays unnoticed below ground level. Today, we introduce “La Rec Comtal”.


It’s hard to know when begun the construction of this ambitious project. But most of the expert point out the Roman Empire and their aqueducts to reroute sweet water to the fields around the city. Based on this first project, around 10th century, the idea took a higher scope: Barcelona had enough wells to provide water to the population, but there was something that the Romans never had to deal before, technology. The rising population of the city needed lots of cereals to survive and the animal traction was unfunctional for those new purposes. An engineer came up with the idea of using the old aqueducts to build a huge energy system for the water mills, now used to grind the grain, and in the tannery proto-industry.


You can see remains of the medieval Rec Comtal in the Cultural Center of the Born. As the city grew, the City Hall saw the necessity to built over the, till that moment, stone made river, and change his use, as the technology evolved, into sewers, changing several times, the course of the underground current of water. There is a street called Rec Street, because below the ground runned the stream, is very near the Ciutadella Park.


That part of the Rec were really troublesome, because was so near sea level that every time it rained, all that part of the city flooded… But really, it was a reason for the laugh for the people of Barcelona, given that the reason of changing the course of the artificial river was that the Borbonic troops that sieged the city, took the Born as residence and claimed a clean sewers system… Alas, the Borbonic quarter flooded with detritus from time to time.


With the coming of the XIX century and the big update of the city that the Eixample project represented, the Rec Comtal disappeared and only little remains can be found on very distant locations of the city. But if you don’t want to play detective in Barcelona, just visit the CC Born and contemplate one of the most well preserved.

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