A kind of grill in the shape of an iron basket attached to the walls of Santa Maria del Mar and Plaça del Rei are the vestige of Barcelona’s public lighting system during the Middle Ages. Pine wood was burned in them. This system began to be used at the end of the 14th century at specific times and places, such as in large celebrations. It was not until 1599 when its use became widespread with the installation of 60 grills throughout the city. It was the first public lighting system.
Only five of these ancient devices survive in the Catalan capital, two in Santa Maria del Mar, another two in Plaça del Rei and one more in the grounds of the Pedralbes monastery. Until then, those who circulated at night had to light up by their own means. There were even people who dedicated themselves to lighting night passers-by with torches for a fee, according to historian Dani Cortijo on his blog. Other Barcelona. The price was calculated according to the travel time and the consumption of the torch.
With the system established from 1599, continuous lighting was ensured at the 60 chosen points and there were even people in charge of maintaining the fire using a long rod. It would be necessary to wait until the second half of the 18th century for Barcelona to be illuminated at night by 3,000 oil lamps. These were kept at a safe height by a system of pulleys. Part of one of these mechanisms is preserved in Llibreteria street.
Already into the 19th century, gas was introduced to supply public lighting, although it coexisted, first, with oil lampposts and, later, with electricity, which would be consolidated after the 1929 International Exposition.