Of course, everyone knows about the Gaudí architecture of Barcelona and everyone marvels at the stunning 19th-century additions of the Eixample district. But did you know that the city was once known as Barcino by the Romans and much of the Gothic quarter of the city is founded on Roman ruins? Well, one of the best-preserved examples is to be found in the form of the Temple of Augustus in Barcelona. Here’s how to visit as well as several things to know before you go!
A brief history of the Temple of Augustus
Located in an otherwise neglected and often forgotten corner of the Gothic Quarter of the city, you’ll find one of the last well-preserved vestiges of Roman Barcelona. All Corinthian columns in a covered setting, the structure dates all the way back to the 1st Century BCE and was once the main focal point for Roman Barcino, i.e. the Roman Forum.
Once upon a time, the Forum would have been 120 foot long and surrounded by columns as tall as 30 foot high. The building would have been constructed from sandstone sourced from nearby Montjuïc Hill and it would have been ever-so-impressive, presiding over the rest of the city. Over time, the building was lost to the ages and it wasn’t until the 15th-century that the columns were once more ‘rediscovered’.
You see, the reason that the Corinthian columns of the Roman Forum survived when so many other buildings were destroyed or demolished (just one wander around the former city walls shows how many epitaphs and sarcophagi were incorporated into the fortifications), was that they were actually built into the medieval buildings when the Gothic district expanded.
It wasn’t until the 19th/ 20th-century that archaeologists (under the watchful eye of architect Puig i Cadafalch) realised that the columns had been key pieces of the Roman Forum building. Today, three carved columns survive and a fourth was ‘reconstructed’ in a similar fashion. All in all, they’re a beautiful example of Barcelona’s complex and rich past.
A real hidden gem of the city, these Roman ruins can now be found within the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya (Hiking Club of Catalonia) building. The columns are still in situ, in the exact place where they were first ‘rediscovered’ some five centuries ago and over two millennia after they were first erected in the city which was to become Barcelona.
How to visit the Temple of Augustus
Free to visit and perfect for the history buffs out there, today the columns can be located in a medieval covered building in the Gothic district of the city. Standing at a staggering 9 metres high, the columns are backed by a turquoise painted façade and are surrounded by informative plaques (in both Spanish and English) telling the story of Roman Barcelona, as well as the Temple of Augustus itself.
Elsewhere in the small chamber, there are other Roman ruins, such as part of a plinth and a fragment of a transept. If you’re particularly interested in learning about Roman Barcino, then you’ll also want to head to the nearby tombs of the Via Sepulcral Romana (Roman Funerary Way), as well as the many fragments of the Roman city wall dotted across the Gothic district.
The closest metro station is Jaume I on the green line (L4) and there are plenty of bus routes which serve close to the Temple of Augustus in Barcelona location (17, 19, 40, 45). Due to their ever-increasing popularity, I highly recommend visiting earlier in the day and mid-week if possible.
This way, you’ll largely get the place to yourself, not to mention that you’ll capture the best photos! As space is pretty compact, you’ll want to bring along a wide-angle lens to photograph as much of the columns as possible. Otherwise, follow my free and self-guided Barcelona walking tour to learn even more about the Catalonian capital city.