Explore the history of the city’s irrigational canal (Rec Comtal in Catalan), which for 2,000 years, and over the course of its 12-kilometer trajectory, has brought the waters of Montcada to Barceloneta, moving mills, watering lands, and serving as part of the city’s sewer system.
Siglo I d.C.
The canal sourced its waters from an ancient Roman structure built near Montcada in the 1st century, A.D. This apparatus supplied the growing Barcino with enough water, but later became obsolete, when its flow stopped meeting the needs of the city.
By the Middle Ages, there was a new water source on the scene: the Rec Comtal would be the irrigation canal for the city. It followed a similar path to that of the ancient Roman aqueduct, but its trajectory took some rather sinuous turns in order to reach all the mills along its route.
The 18th century saw an enormous boom in the city’s population, pushing the municipal borders back to accommodate more inhabitants, and driving the creation of a new area called “Horn i Vinyet”. Nestled between the mills of Clot, the Rec Comtal, and the city, this part of town would be dedicated to supplying the urban population with enough water to fuel the cultivation of wine, fruits, and vegetables.
Things stayed as such for a while. But little by little, the water supply from Montcada grew to be the principal source for Barcelona’s waters, feeding first and foremost the region’s textile mills, favoring these to the older mills which slowly closed up shop and shut down operations.
In the 19th century, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the city adopted the Plan Cerdà, an urban planning project that would drastically and formally change the landscape by building the Eixample between older pre-existing villages. The project also had plans for the Rec Comtal: instead of serving as the foremost supply of irrigation water, it was retrofitted to become part of the sewer system. With that, its route was modified, diverging from the original path to wind throughout and underneath virtually every corner of the city. And thus, the lands that it once nourished became the foundations for residential homes.
Today we find an entirely new vision for the Rec: what was once the heart and literal lifeblood of the city is today an epicenter of Barcelona’s lively arts and culture scene.
The spirit of the Rec continues to flow through the city, and we’re always pleased to be reminded of the canal’s legacy, each and every time we read its name on a street or landmark: The Calle del Rec, the Called del Rec Comtal, and the Hotel Rec of Barcelona.