Plaça del Rei (meaning “King’s Square” in Catalan) is one of the most charming places in Barcelona. However, this emblematic place hides a bloody past—it once housed the prisons of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, a coat of arms in stone is still preserved.
In the Middle Ages, a number of important buildings were established here: the Royal Palace, the Chapel Saint Àgata, and the seven-story King Martí Tower, the highest in medieval Barcelona. In the Inquisition’s old prisons (outbuildings of the Royal Palace), on the façade corresponding to Carrer dels Comtes (now Frederic Marès Museum), you can find a blazon of the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. The insignia features a cross, a sword, and an olive branch (used as a symbol of justice). The chain of links is the symbol of the Order of the Golden Fleece, linked to the kings of Spain, since Tomás de Torquemada was appointed inquisitor general of the crown of Aragon in 1483, in the years of the dynastic union of the Catholic Monarchs.
The proximity of the prisons turned the square into one of the usual execution scenarios. As a scaffold, it was the place of the atrocious death of the most famous bandits in Catalonia. The Inquisition also organized its Auto of Faith ceremonies by mounting a platform where the defendants climbed ridiculously dressed in a tunic and a pointed hat decorated with drawings that referred to the guilt imposed.
Next to the Chapel Saint Àgata was the Casa del botxí (Executioner’s Home), a small house that has been transformed over time. The steps that went up to the façade and overlooked a door have been replaced by a window with opaque glass and the MHB logo, the space that houses the ruins of the Roman city of Barcino.