The topography of the city of Barcelona and its urban context in eastern Catalonia : from the third to the twelfth centuries
Among the Roman foundations in modern Catalonia was the colonia of Barcino, which, unlike several of its neighbours, had no local native predecessor. The growth of these cities was slow, and an air of mediocrity shrouds them all, save Tarraco. With the decline of nearby communities in the third century, the significance of Barcino increased. New defences and economic activity, supplemented by the presence of civil and ecclesiastical powers in the Visigothic period, ensured the survival of urban life, although a tendency to contraction around the religious centre is apparent in the topography of the 6th. century, marking the beginning of the transition to the medieval plan. In the following centuries the fortress function was foremost: only from the mid tenth century can changes be detected, with the appearance of suburbs and a 'Port'. Braked by Almansur's raid, the impetus of growth was soon recovered. The development of the city during the succeeding two centuries can be traced from nearly a thousand documents, mainly unpublished. In this period, Barcelona's population increased ten-fold, with corresponding alterations to the townscape, while details of topography which have survived until the present day were often determined in this period. Three main zones are detectable: the adapted pattern of Antiquity within the defences, the spontaneous growth of the inner suburbs, while those of c.1080 onwards contain elements of planning. By 1200, open land, once commonplace, had disappeared and the medieval city of narrow streets and tightly packed houses had been formed. The reasons behind this growth are diverse. Historical circumstances and the precedents of the Visigothic period played some part. Equally significant were the decline of Barcelona's neighbours and the maintained agricultural strength of its plain. Finally, Barcelona formed a focal point not only for this territorium, and a wider hinterland, but also for the emergent Catalonia.