You can find submarines all over Barcelona. Some are the stuff of local legends, such as the one doing the rounds in Barceloneta that claims one of the neighbourhood’s giants, the fisherman Pep Barceló, came from Atlantis to marry Maria la Néta, onboard Narcís Monturiol‘s Ictineu. In fact, the appearance of submarines in the real life of the city looks like a tribute to this illustrious Catalan. If you continue reading this post you will discover where you can find these vessels, which are spread around the city.
Beaches are a good place to look for them. Poblenou’s beach, for example, has one. Although you can only guess where it is in the landscape, it is not really difficult to spot. You should note, however, that while the feeling conveyed is one of a submarine arising from the grass, the pieces, are, in fact, fragments from an old vessel recovered from Poblenou’s beaches during building work for the Olympic Games. Landscape artists decided to place several of them, half-buried, at a distance of 30 metres from each other. The item in question, the one imitating a submarine, is a chimney with ventilation shafts. A book entitled Petits paisatges de Barcelona [Small Barcelona Landscapes] published by the Institute for Urban Landscape and Quality of Life, mentions that the journalist Joan Subirà wrote in the paper formerly known as Avui, that it gave “the impression of the landscape of a shipwreck that could have risen from the depths of the sea after spending centuries in the company of fish…”. There is also a building that reminds passers-by of a submarine, located between the beaches of Mar Bella and Nova Mar Bella. This is a restaurant reminding you of one partially out of the water. You can find it at the Bac de Roda wharf. Its proximity to the sea only heightens this sensation.
Leaving aside these rather isolated examples, we can tell you there are other submarines to be found throughout the city. In this case, however, they are the real thing, submarines adorning city sites. One of the best known is probably the one at the CosmoCaixa, the science museum belonging to the Obra Social “la Caixa”, who received it courtesy of the then Minister of Defence, Narcís Serra, in 1986. That submarine is popularly known as the Tiburón [Shark] and it was able to take up to six people inside it. Despite coming from the Spanish Army, it never saw any action in war, spending almost its entire existence as a decoration. It was open to the public during its early years and is currently on display outside the museum, by the Ronda de Dalt, propped up on pedestals.
The Museu de Cera, the city’s wax museum, also has a replica submarine. Actually it is a replica of a bathysphere, a submersible developed in the 1930s consisting of a sealed steel sphere linked to a boat by a cable. It fits in with the museum’s tribute to Jules Verne, given that whoever built it for the museum, according to the museum’s curator, could well have been inspired from that legendary figure.
As regards the most characteristic submarine to come out of Catalonia, we have to say it is the Ictineo, a model designed by Narcís Monturiol in 1858, which gave rise to three versions: the Ictineo I, II and III, all of which are on display at various locations in Barcelona. We have two copies of the Ictineo I , one a monument on the triangle making up the junction between Av Diagonal and C/ Provença, which was designed by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, unveiled in 1963 and promoted by Mútua Metal·lúrgica, who own the building on that junction. In addition, there is life-size copy of the Ictineo I in the gardens of the Museu de les Drassanes Reials, the royal shipyards in medieval times . The Ictineo II is the one that can normally be visited in the Maremàgnum gardens, though it has been temporarily withdrawn from its usual site for repairs.
Both submarines are replicas created for the Francesc Bellmunt 1993 film, Monturiol, el senyor del mar [Monturiol, the lord of the sea]. These are life-size but are not exact copies of the originals. The original models of the first two Ictineos can, however, be found at the city’s maritime museum, the Museu Marítim de Barcelona. They were put together in the museum’s workshops years ago. The Ictineu III is currently a prototype but if you would like to find out more about it, you can enter the website of the company building it.