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Palau de la Generalitat

The Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona is the seat of the Catalan government. The Palau has pure Gothic, flamboyant Gothic, Renaissance and baroque elements behind the neoclassical façade. The building was constructed between the 15th and mid-17th centuries and this accounts for the variety of architectural styles. The delicate beauty of the Pati dels Tarongers, the courtyard planted with orange trees, is particularly outstanding.

The Palau de la Generalitat was built to provide a permanent seat for the Corts Catalanes, the Catalan Assembly set up in 1283 which is referred to as "the first parliament in Europe". The Catalan institution was abolished in 1714, when the city fell to Philip V's army, but it was reinstated in the 20th century during the Second Republic, only to be suppressed again by General Franco after he won the Civil War in 1939. In 1977, two years after Franco's death, Spain was moving towards democracy and the former President of the Generalitat de Catalunya Josep Tarradellas returned from exile to Barcelona and uttered the historic words: "Catalans, I am here!". He spoke from the main balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, in front of Andreu Aleu's sculpture of Saint George (1860).

Inside the building there is a superb Gothic cloister, with a staircase designed by Marc Safont, who also created the façade on Carrer del Bisbe (the former main entrance) and the beautiful chapel on the first floor, built in the flamboyant Gothic style. The Pati dels Tarongers, which was built between 1532 and 1547, combines the delicacy of Renaissance architecture with the cooling greenery of native plants and trees, and is the chosen place for many official events of the Catalan government. Other highlights include the main hall, the Saló de Sant Jordi, which dates from the same period; and the Saló de Torres Garcia, which contains paintings by this leading Uruguayan artist.

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