The reconstruction of Vilanova de la Barca


    On account of the Republican offensive in August 1938, 75% of the buildings in the town had been blitzed; hence, on 21 October 1939 General Franco took over the town and included it in the reconstruction projects carried out by the General-Directorate for Devastated Regions.

     . In May 1940 the criminal detachment, formed by war prisoners and political hostages, began construction on the new town. The detachment in Vilanova de la Barca comprised 225 prisoners.

     The first dwellings were delivered in 1944 although the social amenities the town needed were not yet complete.

     The project also envisaged the construction of a bridge to link the two sides of the river Segre, a task that concluded with the erection of a chapel on the slope leading up to the bridge. The central arch in the chapel currently bears a depiction of the mosaic of polychrome tiles stemming from Talavera de la Reina, by Ruiz de Luna, illustrating the Mare de Déu de Montserrat, a dedication chosen as a token to reconcile the country with such a representative symbol of Catalonia. The original work can be seen in the town hall.

     All in all, the new town, the bridge and the chapel became one of the few, best preserved urban ensembles in the region of Lleida which were formed by the Directorate-General for Devastated Regions during the first half of the Franco regime.



antes actual



The bridge and the Chapel of Vilanova de la Barca


      Vilanova de la Barca Bridge is part of the constructions made after the Civil War by Devastated Regions, in order to redress a particular territory punished for nine months straight which became the Segre River in April 1938 to January 1939. Most of the existing bridges were dynamited by the republican army in its retreat (Those of Sant Miquel of Balaguer and La Sucrera of Termens are the closest to Vilanova on the north, and the both of Lleida on the south) and it was necessary rebuild them once the war ended. Vilanova Bridge is probably the first new plant replacing an old boat passage. Obviously this generosity and constructive time of economic hardship, as was the post war period, is also motivated by the consequences of the terrible battle that from 9 to 19 August took place in the area of the river, just in front of Vilanova de la Barca and that led to the destruction of almost all the village.


     Vilanova Bridge is an interesting work to check the aesthetics, clearly influenced by a kind of neoclassicism, a feature in many works of that period of the 40's in Spain, which wanted to evoke the style of Imperial Rome in various functional work needed to be done in one country ravaged by war. The possibility of building a new bridge in Vilanova was a good time to apply those trends, it is worth mentioning plastic result was well managed and therefore become a good model of the constructive way of the time.


    The frame of a chapel that hid the slope was an aesthetically successful complement to cap the functional work Vilanova Bridge. The eristic language of the construction frames more properly within Franco trends, probably the chapel is later than all the work not only the bridge but the same population and is more related to more sophisticated tastes and style of official Spain at the time, for example we can relate it to the facade of the Rambla Ferran the parish church del Carmen and therefore should place the work in the decade of the fifties of the last century. There is no know chapel in Lleida and around the country having this elongated form to fulfil the function screen of a slope. In addition, the aesthetic of Madonna’s Chapel of Montserrat of Vilanova de la Barca is one of the few buildings with aesthetic taste so clear of the fullness of Franco time and at the same time without explicit political demonstrations. Even the chosen avocation is particularly suggestive, to reconcile the country with a political regime not fond of Catalan symbols , but immersed in a National Catholicism -that makes a singular work according to the official taste of Spain time (it is curious that the tiles are brought from Talavera de la Reina). Do not forget that the Virgin of Montserrat is a particular popular devotion to the west of Catalonia at that time (altar of the Cathedral of Lleida, new parish of Montserrat on the road to Huesca, etc.). When we contemplate the monument that dominates the entrance to Vilanova on the left of the river Segre, it looks more to be a door, see a triumphal arch than to be a chapel. Difficult to forget the influence of plateau area in the balcony details which is a particular work of a difficult period time of the country.


     The construction of a new village was the compensation that the new Franco state decided for Vilanova de la Barca. The work is not finished in its Southern part but in the north part it has the interest of being a testimony of the construction of the moment, transplanting a kind of square "a la castellana"(typical Spanish square) in the Catalan city. This set has the corresponding patrimonial declaration that guarantees the conservation of one of few urban sets, and probably better preserved in the province of Lleida.


     At the time of building the new village, it was taken care of providing it a modern bridge and a beautiful chapel. That is all the work of the forties which is part of the same project of renovation of Vilanova de la Barca and consequently, it is necessary to consider these three elements with the same cultural or environmental interest.


                                                                                                                                                                                                        J.R. González.  I.E.I



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