A Homage to
Catalonia

The Rose of Fire

Anarchism in Barcelona



At the end of the 19th century, the anarchists who peppered Barcelona with bombs proudly called the city the Rose of Fire. These people were the descendants of rural immigrants and their enemy was the bourgeoisie -that is, the city dwellers- and their allies in the military, the church and the state. For these, more prosaically and to their horror, Barcelona was the City of Bombs. Bombs went off in the path of religious processions or military parades and at the opera, but also, and with unnerving frequency, in the public urinals on the Rambla, Barcelona's central promenade, with its theatres and smart cafés where the city's bourgeoisie went to show off their wealth.

In 1893, a bomb went off at a military parade presided by the Spanish state's military delegate in Catalonia. The delegate was unhurt, but sixteen people were injured and one Guardia Civil died as a result. One of the most notorious of these attacks took place in 1896, when a bomb exploded in Carrer de Canvis Nous (El Born) in the path of the Corpus Christi procession, a major event on the Catholic calendar. Eight people were killed and several injured. Revenge was swift. The police rounded up the usual suspects and, on evidence obtained under torture, seven of them were sent to the firing squad and another 67 to gaol. In retaliation for these sentences, the Spanish President of the Government, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, was shot by an Italian anarchist.

But the bloodiest episode during this period was the bomb hurled by an anarchist named Salvador Seguí into the stalls of the Liceu opera house on La Rambla, a favourite haunt of the ruling elite. Twenty people were killed. A second bomb failed to explode and for many years it was though to be the specimen on show in Barcelona's City History Museum. In 1990, though, it was revealed that it was in fact in the possession of the granddaughter of the judge who sentenced Salvador Seguí to death.