Located in the Part Alta of Tarragona, Casa Canals looks rather unassuming from the outside. Yet the interior reveals an understated old world opulence made of chandeliers and eighteen century furniture. It’s very tempting to make your self comfortable and read the Sunday papers (and smoke a cigar).
And here comes a bit of history curtesy of the Museu d’Historis de Tarragona information sheet: “… The first reference to the Canals family as owners of the property is related to the reforms carried out in the houses 1 to 11 in Granada Street in order to put up King Charles IV, his wife Maria Lluisa and his court from the 11th to the 15th of November 1802, for the inauguration of the port of Tarragona. The east wall of the house opens up to the Roman Wall and from the balconies the monarchy enjoyed the fantastic sea views and the festivities carried out in their honor.
The Canals, originally from Reus, had noble titles and got related through marriage to other distinguished families in the city, like Joaquim Canals, married to M. Antonia de Castellarnau in 1852. The building was at its maximum splendor at this time and most of the furniture dates back to this period. The ballrooms has neo-classical decoration on the walls and ceiling. It is worth pointing out the mirrors and Elizabethan pews, as well as the three chandeliers from the mid XIX century.
The extremes of the lounge are dominated by a painting of M. Antonia de Castellarnau and another one of Joaquim Canals. The family oratory is covered by a cupola and is decorated with family shields and the Maltese Cross as Joaquim Canals was a King of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The bedrooms have an antechamber and an alcove, separated by neoclassical style arcs. The furniture that can be seen in the bedrooms, living rooms and dining room date back to between teh XVII and XX centuries with example of neo baroque, Louis XV neoclassic, Alfonse or Elizabethan styles. The romantic garden with its rock fountain is not near the street, it is on the noble floor.
The house was used by the Canals family up the last third of the XX century. In 1992 it was aquired by the Catalan Government which finally gave it over to Tarragona City Council; it was opened up as a museum in 2006….”
In complete contrast to the classic opulence the upper floor of the house has been converted to a gallery and conference room.
While I was there waiting for a rain to pass I viewed the fascinating fotographic exhibition by Jorge Ribalta about the deconstruction of Poblenou in Barcelona.
In collision with the noble history of the house here was the history of people and derelict factories and the advance of unsympathetic town planners and developers deaf to memories.
A great contrast which generated a far more lingering memory of Casa Canals than chandeliers, mirrors and Luis XV chairs in their mothballed glossy environment.