The Frederic Marés Museum is one of Barcelona’s best-kept secrets. It contains within it a juxtaposition as paradoxical as life and death — ecstatic creation and utter destruction. It’s almost too conceptually massive to write about but I’m going to give it a try because …fuck it.
An eccentric artist’s lifelong compulsion to collect, create, and preserve has filled this medieval building in Barcelona’s already-mysterious Gothic district with room after room after room of trinkets and baubles and rare, vintage oddities, the likes of which have visitors positively drooling from an overwhelm of awe and wonder. But the building itself has a freaky history.
Once used as the palace headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition, its exterior is still scarred by horror. Several of the stones used to make up the building complex are, in fact, Jewish tombstones, stolen from the Jewish cemeteries on nearby Montjuic when they were destroyed. And a tower overhanging the cobblestoned alleyway between the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia and the Frederic Marés Museum itself was originally built to terrorize the local population with the threat of burning-hot tar being dropped on them from above.
I suppose the logic around dropping it from so high up was, if anybody got really mad about their loved one being melted to death, the culprits could just point upwards and mutter something about how God did it.
To top it off (not with tar), the Frederic Mares Museum itself is hidden with a kind of blink-and-you’ll miss it forcefield of distractions. If you get stopped by the woman who’s covered herself head-to-toe in flowers or the man playing the Spanish guitar like he’d probably play your heart if you let him, you’ll miss it. If you indulge your instinct to get lost in the Medieval-era labyrinth of Barcelona’s Gothic District, you’ll miss it.
You have to stop yourself half-way down an ancient alleyway which inexplicably draws you forward. You have to turn around. You have to take notice of the little framed entryway tucked around the corner. You have to decide…