The present church of St. John, located in what was originally the town of Horta, to the NE of the old city of Barcelona is a newer building for this very ancient parish community. Now within the city limits thanks to the expansion of Barcelona, the parish was founded sometime before 1095 – the date of the earliest preserved records mentioning it. However, whether the structure on the site was a permanent parish, a mission church, a chapel, or some other structure, we do not know.
We do know however, that a church on the site was dedicated on June 12, 1260, because a document in the original collection of the monastery of Sant Jeroni gives this date. In fact, we are also given the name of the first pastor of the church, Monsignor Guillem de Feixes, as at this point Sant Joan was officially recognized as a parish. The original bell tower of the previous, 11th century church was preserved for a considerable period of time, but the 13th century church built by Monsignor de Feixes was replaced about a century after it was built with a larger structure.
Over time this building needed significant maintenance and repairs, which were put off, and the parish continued to grow, meaning a new church building was called for. Work on a new church not far from the old one was begun to designs by architect Ramon Riudor in 1905, after land was obtained from a local nobleman for the purpose. Building was nearly completed in 1909, when the Leftists burnt both the old and the new churches.
Construction on the new church had to begin all over again, and this time Riudor put supervision of the plan into the hands of his pupil, Enric Sagnier, who would go on to become one of Barcelona’s most prolific church builders. Work began on the new church in 1910, and was finally completed by 1917.
Subsequently, through somewhat nefarious means, someone from the Barcelona City Polo Club was able to obtain the keys to the old church and rectory, and had these buildings torn down in 1927. To be honest, it is a bit unclear to me in my research how this happened; perhaps the keys or the title to the buildings themselves were lost in a match. This destruction, in any case, caused outrage all over the city, and many editorials were written against this, particularly by architectural historians and preservationists. Some of the stones taken from the destruction of the old church were later used in building the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at the new church.
The new church also did not escape the ravages of the Leftists in 1936, but the building survived and was restored yet again. Today the parish serves a large community, including many immigrants, and has just finished the celebrations to mark its 750th anniversary in 2010. Long may it continue.
Interestingly enough, the great Catalan modern artist Joan Miró painted a landscape featuring the old church (before its demolition) in 1917. The painting is now housed in the museum of the Miró Foundation in Barcelona.