Barcelona, much like London, Paris, Buenos Aires, or Washington D.C., has an extraordinary artistic and architectural heritage based in Freemasonry. Masonic symbols like pyramids and the all-seeing eye can be found in cemeteries, libraries, sculptures, even government buildings. Passeig Sant Joan (“Saint John Avenue”) is devoted to Saint John, the chosen patron of Christian Freemasons. Ildefons Cerda, the urban planner who designed Barcelona’s layout, was a member, and imagined a utopian city based on Masonic principles. At the turn of the century, there were nearly 170 Freemason lodges in Spain alone.
Rossend Arús was an influential journalist and playwright of the 1800s who used his Freemason associations for republican political favor. Along with his fellow Masons, Arús had control of the city from behind the scenes. He began to host meetings in his home in 1888, and it soon became an official Masonic Temple. After his death in 1891, the house was turned into a library dedicated to Freemasonry.
During Franco’s regime, almost every Freemason building was torn down and the Masons were prohibited from meeting. Like many fascist leaders, Franco feared uprising from independent organizations, as well as having misplaced antisemitic beliefs about the Freemasons’ purposes. Some in power sympathized with the Freemasons though, and the Rossend Arús library was shut down and hidden from view during the Franco years. After the dictator’s death and the end of his regime, Freemasonry slowly but surely crept its way back into Spain.
After timidly growing less and less private and secretive, the Freemasons of Barcelona have opened Biblioteca Publica Rossend Arús to the public in Passeig Sant Joan. The luxurious reading rooms, golden frames, and precious marble of the 19th century still impress visitors. The collection includes important Masonic texts, as well as anarchist collections and rare magazines and literature. The third original version of the Statue of Liberty also resides in the main entrance. Today, the Rossend Arús is the best library for studying the working class history and Freemasonry in Catalonia.
Photo: Neus / www.lamevabarcelona.com