MYSTERY SURROUNDS THE SKULL PIERCED BY A DAGGER
Recently, we did a piece on the Pont del Carrer del Bisbe, one of the most photographed spots in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Many of you reading will likely have already passed beneath this neo-gothic bridge, but how many of you have ever looked up at the bottom of it to discover one of Barcelona’s unsolved mysteries?
Looking down at passersby, from beneath the bridge, is a human skull with a dagger piercing right through it, from the crown down to the mouth. It’s an eerie discovery to make, and it will more than likely make you wonder what it’s doing there.
The problem is that no one knows. With the passage of time, many theories have been invented to explain its presence. Some say that if the dagger is ever removed, the city will crumble to the ground. Some say that the souls of dead prisoners parade by underneath it. There are also two opposing claims related to what happens when you look at the skull while passing under the bridge: the darker claim is that this results in you being cursed, the more cheerful one is that walking backwards under the bridge while looking at the skull and making a wish results in your wish being granted. People even suggest that the skull is not made of stone but is actually authentic.
Our photographer, Isa, has a theory of her own after photographing it. Whenever a person tries to capture a photo of it, the skull will not permit your photos to be 100 percent in focus, try as you might — everything else in your photo will be, only the skull will be blurred. Maybe the skull is trying to keep its secrets hidden! (Coincidentally, while marveling at the fact that none of her photos came out completely focused, the photo she’s chosen to use for this story happened to be photo number 6666. Is the skull cursed? We’re starting to think so!)
All of these hypotheses are urban legend, however.
What could be true is the following.
In 1927, Joan Rubió i Bellver, a protégé of Antoni Gaudí, presented a rehabilitation project for the area surrounding Mont Tàber — a hill located in the Gothic Quarter, barely perceptible now due to the buildings in the area, with its summit lying just outside the entrance to the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, or Excursionist Center of Catalonia. His idea was to tear down any non-gothic building in the vicinity and add new elements in that style, on which he would include ornamental adornments.
The project was denied. Worse than that, for Rubió i Bellver, it was harshly criticized by the inner circles of Barcelona’s architects and was even mocked in a satirical magazine, L’ Esquella de la Torratxa. He tried to fight for his vision, but to no avail. As if to throw a dog a bone, the city let him go ahead with the construction of his neo-gothic bridge plan.
In 1928, when he went on to build the Pont del Carrer del Bisbe, perhaps he thought, “Why let them have the last laugh?” The skull he included on the bottom of his bridge could be Joan’s way of getting back at those who mocked him. Whether it was a message to those who would more than likely scrutinize it after its completion — his critics — or as a curse on them is anyone’s guess. Some even hypothesize that it was Joan’s way of immortalizing his defeat.
Whatever the reason, Joan Rubió i Bellver may just be content enough to know that hundreds of thousands of people take photos of his bridge every year, making it, as mentioned before, one of the most eye-catching and photographed sites in the Gothic Quarter.
By EMILY BENSON
Photos by ISABEL TROYA
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