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 Barcelona bat perched on top.
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 Barcelona bat perched on there:
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?
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.
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.
(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.)
Hey chiki, thanks for the shout out! I noticed these bats in Valencia when I was last there, and was intrigued by the legend. Had no idea they were all over BCN, que chulada!
De nada, thanks for the inspiration! I’ll be on the lookout for more bats when I go to Valencia now.
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!
Thanks! I like them too. I’ll be looking for bats in Valencia now when I go in a couple weeks.
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.
Cheers! I love finding out about details like this too. The No*do sign is EVERYWHERE in Sevilla.
From now on I’ll go around the city looking everywhere for bats. I love them! And I only knew about the Arc de Triomf’s one.
I love them too! Let me know if you find any other ones. They can be tricky to spot because a lot of them are so small.
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 🙂
Cool, let me know if you find any ones I’ve missed!
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.
I think he designed the tiles, but the lamps are by another architect, Urpí. 🙂
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!
No I hadn’t heard that! I’m not sure the artist is that meticulous. I’ve been on the artist’s website and there wasn’t any mention of that but it could be possible. I will have to investigate!
I’m not sure about it either, but I hope it’s true! 🙂
oh my!! muy interesante!
Gracias! I’m a little bat-crazy right now- I can’t stop looking for them. 🙂
What a interesting (and cute) piece of history! I’ll definitely have to keep my eyes peeled for this architectural charm when I finally get to visit Spain!
Thanks! I think they’re really cute too.
Soo cool!!! I had no idea about the legend… There’s also a famous bat in the Bacardi rum bottles… the founder was born in Sitges and then moved to Cuba.
Oh I didn’t know that! Another secret bat. 🙂
Great post, I LOVE bats and I love the legend, nicely written 🙂
Thanks very much! I like bats too, and I think these ones are great.
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!
Thanks! I’ll have to head up to the hospital now to have a look for some more bats. 🙂
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!
Well, it took me over a year of biking past them twice a day pretty much every day to spot them! But I’m glad I did eventually.
I now will have to search for little bats in the hundreds of photos I have of Barcelona.
Thanks a lot!
Hehe have fun! I’m sure you’ll find at least one or two. 🙂
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! 🙂
Wow, I’d never heard of it! Haha it’s fun to go bat-hunting, I was out with friends this weekend and obsessively looking for bats all night.
I want to say that James from Plus Ultra mentioned it in one of his posts about Barcelona, but I can’t be sure. Haha! Sounds like fun- I bet you could make a scavenger hunt out of it, too! 🙂
Interesting! Let me know if you come back across it 🙂
Haha a scavenger hunt sounds perfect….I might have to do that this weekend!
I did a quick search before posting the original comment, but I just did another one, and it turns out that it was about a bat being on the coat of arms in Valencia. Ah, how my ol’ brain jumbles things around. But it was bats and Spain so close, no? 😉
Here’s the post http://notesplusultra.com/2011/06/22/valencia-take-4/ It’s mostly in the comments that we talk about bats 🙂
Also, please please do the scavenger hunt ‘twould be fun to say that you’ve run all over the city in search for inanimate bats 😉 I also think it would make for a pretty fun vayable tour.
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
Thank you very much! I was so pleased to find these little guys. I’ve seen a lot of them on markets, so that’s a good place to start if you’re looking. 🙂
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! 🙂
You’re welcome! They’re so tiny, I’m not surprised nobody has noticed them. I got really lucky, and only after passing by them twice every day for a year! 🙂
And if you find any way to cure homesickness, let me know! I love Barna but it happens every so often.
well I don’t have a cure yet!! but I buy fuet, and I watch TV3 channel, online just to hear Catalan for a while, hehehe
Anyway i’m leaving wordpress. and going to hubpages, but don’t worry i’ll keep checking your blog.
Cheers! Hope Hubpages works well for you. 🙂
Wait this is amazing!! Nice find lady 🙂 Miss you!!!
Thanks! I was pretty stoked about them. 🙂 Miss you too!
I’m an ecologist involved in bat research (the real ones) and I’ve just got home from BCN for my annual trip to see some of La Merce.
I’ve never seen these decorative bats before. I’ll keep my eyes open next time. Saw a few real ones flying around at night.
Oh, bats aren’t blind hehe, that’s just a misconception/old wives tale.
Yes, there are quite a few at night! I hope you enjoyed La Merce, it’s such a fun festival.
Are bats at least near-sighted then, or is it just completely made up? 🙂
Great article. I’ve written 3 books abput Rei Jaume and descendants and didn’t know about the bats. They are also the symbol of Bacardí, of course, and you know that. Any connection?