In the east wing, the renaissance extensions so far had adhered to the Gothic style of the original palace and, with minor modifications, no Renaissance forms were imposed. The facade follows the inspiration of the Italian Renaissance, and is inspired by the Farnese Palace in Rome.
Plaça de Sant Jaume’s Catalan Regional Government Building (Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya) is much more than just a building with a pretty neoclassical façade. The Palau de la Generalitat is the seat of the Presidency and the Government of Catalonia. Inside, there is the intense activity of a government. In this building decisions are made that affect the lives of the Catalans. It also hosts the most important political and institutional events in the country: high-level meetings, institutional visits, delivery of medals and awards, hearings, receptions.
Historically, the Diputació de General de Catalunya, popularly known as the Generalitat, has its origins in the old Catalan Parliament, an assembly of parliamentary representation that shared power with the monarch, and is one of the first bodies of this nature in Europe.
The Central Courtyard is an extraordinary exponent of the characteristic courtyards that Catalan noble houses built from the 13th century on were organised around. Thanks to its distinctiveness, beauty and good state of conservation, this is probably the best example.
Notable architectural features of the courtyard, which is characterised by late-Gothic forms, include an architecture of clear, broad and rich spaces, surrounded by interior walls, with extensive openwork on the first-floor gallery. On the ground floor, the Central Courtyard is very open, to a second courtyard that leads to Carrer del Bisbe. The abundance and quality of sculpture elements is also noteworthy, from the smallest pieces on the staircase to the 26 expressive gargoyles that adorn the perimeter of the opening to the sky. Each gargoyle is attached to a pilaster topped with a pinnacle, and between them are the openings of a sunny gallery. Everything has a stately elegance, but it is also a welcoming space that to this day efficiently performs the basic functions it was designed for, serving as a reception and presentation space, as well as providing access to other parts of the building.
The courtyard can be reached through the doorway on Carrer del Bisbe, from Carrer de Sant Honorat, or from the entrance hall adjacent to Plaça Sant Jaume.
The mezzanine floor houses the Protocol and External Relations Office. Institutional events of the Ministry of the Presidency and the Catalan government are organised in these offices, and staff work on matters related to the representation of the institution and the president at events held at the Palau and elsewhere.
The gallery and upper-floor offices are reached via an elegant open staircase on one side of the courtyard.
The interior courtyard of the Palau is surrounded by a gallery of great architectural interest. The resulting space has a unique charm that probably comes from contemplating the very fine columns that separate the interior spaces and the exterior courtyard, creating a pleasing rhythm that can be fully appreciated as one walks from one part of the building to another.
The corner where the open staircase reaches the gallery is a particularly notable feature. Here we see two sturdy classical columns made of pink marble, adorned with reliefs of Renaissance grotesque figures. Another striking feature is the hanging capital above the opening, created when the space was remodelled 110 years after its construction to give greater prominence to the facade of the Chapel of Saint George, which had just been moved here from the ground floor.
Important rooms are located on each side of the gallery. It is believed that the Accounts Archive was once located next to the chapel. The gallery also leads to a grand staircase, built in 1870, and next to the staircase there is a doorway which since the 17th century has led to Saint George Hall. In the galley on the Carrer de Sant Honorat side, there is a space that was once the Auditors’ Chamber (now the president’s office), and further on, the former Council Hall, known since 1928 as the Sala de la Mare de Déu de Montserrat (Virgin of Montserrat Room). Finally, towards the Courtyard of the Orange Trees, there are three meticulously decorated doorways that were created in the 16th century.
This room, which has borne its current name since the renovations of 1928, retains its original structure and the carved cantilever beams of the ceiling. Around 1425, it was the most important space in the Palau, where meetings of the Consistori (Council) were held. The room faces Carrer de Sant Honorat, with three large Gothic windows opening onto the street. It currently serves as an anteroom or receiving room for the president’s office.
The President’s Office
This room was once used by the Oïdors de Comptes (auditors), important figures who, together with the deputies, formed the governing council, the predecessor of the Generalitat. The president’s office has a small door that connects it to the Gothic Gallery and features one of the large mullioned windows on the Carrer de Sant Honorat facade.
The room now serves as the president’s office, where he works and performs his representative duties.
It has long been believed that this room once housed the Accounts Archive, where important documents were kept and the chief of accounts and other officials worked.
Since 1975, the walls of the room have been decorated with murals and a stained-glass window by Jordi Alumà that feature allegorical depictions of the Palau’s history. The space is now used as a waiting room for visitors who come to see the president.
Chapel of Saint George
Commissioned by the Corts Catalanes (Catalan Courts), this chapel was Marc Safont’s last work at the Palau. Since the 12th century, the figure of Saint George has been closely linked to the lands where Catalan is spoken. There are countless references to the saint throughout the Palau, including in the architecture and furnishings of this chapel, which was originally constructed on the ground floor but moved to its current location in the upper-floor gallery in 1548.
Due to its small size, the formal language of the space is close to precious metalwork. The facade in particular is a jewel of the flamboyant style thanks to the delicacy of its design and the meticulous workmanship. The interior, which has a square floor plan and stellar groin vaulting, should now appear as it did before the expansion carried out in the 18th century. The altarpiece by Bernat Martorell, the altar hanging and embroidered tunic by Antoni Sadurní (which fortunately can still be seen), an exceptionally beautiful silver statuette of Saint George, and other pieces of precious metalwork together form an artistic ensemble of exceptional density.
In around 1738 and 1768, the chapel was extended with a rectangular section crowned by a small false cupola framed by four suspended capitals. The antependium of the current altar (a reproduction in silver of Antoni Sadurní’s Gothic altar hanging) was made by the jeweller Ramon Sunyer in 1956. In this part of the chapel, there are two Flemish tapestries by G. Pannemaker (16th century), depicting the story of Noah, and two monumental baroque candelabra that date to 1670.
Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia
The Palau de la Generalitat, located in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, is one of the few buildings of medieval origin in Europe that have been maintained as a seat of Government and for the same institution for which it was built.
The original house, on Carrer Sant Honorat, was acquired in 1400 and during the 15th century it was expanded and converted into a new gothic palace, the work of Marc Safont. Among the best preserved elements from this period are the Gothic Gallery and the Chapel of Sant Jordi.
During the 16th century, the Palau de la Generalitat grew with a new part which respected the previous Gothic style such as the Cambra Daurada (Golden Chamber) and the first Pati dels Tarongers(courtyard planted with orange trees). The most radical changes came with the extension towards the Plaça Sant Jaume (1597-1619): the current main façade was inspired by the Italian Renaissance, and there are four Doric columns of Roman origin dating from the 2nd century.
The last major changes in the building happened in the period of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya, the Catalan Commonwealth, (1914-1925): items such as the staircase of honour and the equestrian statue of Sant Jordi were added. Notable from the 1970s is the acquisition of more than a hundred pieces of modern, avant-garde and contemporary art by artists such as Montserrat Gudiol, Josep Maria Subirachs, Antoni Clavé, Joan Hernández Pizjuán, and Antoni Tàpies.