Barcelona

Barcelona’s Secret Bats

A little while ago, Cat from Sunshine and Siestas posted this close-up shot of a hidden secret on Sevilla’s street lamps. I loved it, and got inspired to take a closer look at Barcelona’s lamps…and there were hidden secrets there too.

Like the Sevilla ones, they featured a symbol of the city, the Barcelona coat of arms. But there was an interesting detail on the modernist street lamps on Passeig de Gràcia – a bat perched on top.

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Normally that alone wouldn’t have caught my attention, but I thought of a photo I’d snapped during my first-ever visit to Barcelona. On the Arc de Triomf, I caught a glimpse of this little guy perched on there:

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So then I started thinking. If two important architectural things had bats on them, I was pretty sure that meant there was something special about bats and Barcelona. Turns out, there is!

There are two parts to the secret – a historical reason and a legend. The bat comes from the dragon used as a symbol for the kings of Aragon (dragons are another big symbol in Barcelona).

But the legend is a little more fun. A bat supposedly helped Jaume I of Aragon win a big battle to add Valencia to his kingdom.  Apparently, a prophet told Jaume that he wouldn’t win while the city’s owner’s pet bat flew around at night. One night, the bat was so fascinated by the shiny dragon on Jaume’s helmet that he stayed in, and the next day Jaume won the battle for Valencia.

As far as legends go, that one just made me laugh. Aren’t bats blind anyway?

The Mercat de Sant Antoni

The Mercat de Sant Antoni

Anyway, Valencia is another region of Spain that uses Catalan, so it’s a nod to Catalan culture. Barcelona used the bat in their coat of arms, but for whatever reason it was taken off around the beginning of the 20th century. It was also on the first shield for FC Barcelona, but they don’t have it anymore either.  The bat is still on the coat of arms for lots of Catalan-speaking cities in Spain.

Still, even though it’s no longer an official symbol, there are lots of hidden bats around Barcelona in the buildings. So far, I’ve found them on the lamps on Passeig de Gràcia, the Mercat de Sant Antoni, the Arc de Triomf, and the Boqueria. I’ve also seen photos of a few on the Mercat de Sants, Gaudí’s Palau Güell, and a few little gargoyle-style bats dotted around.

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Can you find the bat?

I bike up and down Passeig de Gràcia every day, so now I make sure to look out for those little bats. I hadn’t ever spotted them but now that I know they’re there, I like looking at them as I go downhill. I always smile, because it feels like a secret between me and the city.

Here are the bats I found while out and about yesterday. Some of them are a little hard to see because they’re so small! You can click on any one of the pictures to see the gallery. 

Besos!

-Jess

(P.S. If you’re really interested in learning more about the history of bats as symbols, here’s my source. It’s in Spanish and very (very) comprehensive.)

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46 thoughts on “Barcelona’s Secret Bats

  1. Fascinating story! I love historical bits (and bats) like this.

    I remember the bat theme from a trip to Valencia but I had no idea what they were in relation to. Now I do!

  2. I love little details like that. It was like when I was in Sevilla and I saw the No8do sign all the time. Thank goodness my tour guide gave us a story. I noticed this when I was in France too with the Louis signs as well. Thanks for sharing this story, I enjoyed it.

  3. This is so cool. I love finding little hidden gems in new places, but it’s especially exciting to find one in your own city. I noticed the dragons in bcn but not the bats, I’ll have to keep an eye out next time :)

  4. These are so cute! I love hidden details. I think I heard somewhere that the streetlamps (as well as the sidewalk tiles) on Passeig de Gracia were designed by Gaudi.

  5. This is awesome, I didn’t know about Barcelona’s penchant for hidden bats in its architecture. And they say Batman lives in Gotham (aka we all know it’s really NYC since Gotham is another nickname for it), clearly he should have made his home in Barcelona (sorry for the comic book reference, I work in a company devoted to publishing comics and I am surrounded by comic book geeks all day long haha, not to mention they were all going nuts this week because of some major character death in the latest Batman issue.)

    It’s kind of like my little game to keep an eye out for the Space Invader graffiti, which can be found all over Paris but in many cities worldwide. The graffiti artist sure likes to get around!

    • Haha yeah, I was surprised to find them! I’ll keep my eye out for any mysterious millionaires. :)

      Did I already ask you about Space Invaders? My friend told me that all the little ones make a giant Space Invader if you look at them from above (like a map aerial view). I have no idea if it’s true – do you? I hope it is!

  6. loved this post! i remember that I saw loads of bats in the gargoyles at the sant pau hospital near sagrada familia, when i first arrived, and murciélago was one of the first animal words i learnt in spanish!

  7. That’s so funny, I would have never guessed there was a connection (or even noticed the bats, probably, I’m not terribly detail-oriented) — learn something new every day, thanks!

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  9. Ack! I think I’ve heard of this before, but completely forgot when I was there! I wish I’d’ve remembered so I could have gone bat-hunting! :)

  10. Jess, This is wonderful! I’ve always enjoyed spotting animals in architecture, but I’ve totally missed bats. Now I have to go back through all my Barcelona pics to see if I inadvertently captured any. Thanks so much for opening my eyes. All the best, Terri

  11. Pingback: Where in Spain Wednesday – Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia | ¡Hola Yessica!

  12. I’m from Barcelona and never noticed them, now that I live elsewhere in Spain I miss it, thanks for teaching things about my city, i’ll follow your blog to cure me of home sickness! :)

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