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El Modelo Museum Former Panopticon Prison

Former prison 1904 to 2017. Used for political prisoners & executions during Franco dictatorship. Now a museum

Updated: Mar 6, 2023 by: Barcelona Travel Hacks Views: 1.8k

About El Modelo Former Prison Museum

El Centre Penitenciari d'Homes de Barcelona, EL Modelo as it is more commonly known, was a prison for 113 years, only closing on the 8th of june 2017.

La Modelo History

During the Francoist era (1939 to 1975), El Modelo became a symbol of political power for the state, hosting over 1,000 executions, including gruesome penalties as the garroting of Salvador Puig Antich in 1974, which prompted international outcry.

The origins of the design of a circular prison date back to judge and philosopher Jeremy Bentham who in 1787 published works called The Panopticon which detailed how prisoners in an institution could be watched by one central security guard without being able to tell if they were being watched. El modelo adopts this idea of one prisoner per cell overlooked from the central gaurd post. The reality is that the central security booth only sees the corridors and not the interior of the cells.

El Modelo prison was constructed between 1881 and 1904 following designs by architects Salvador Viñals y Sabaté and José Doménech Estapá. The complex has a radial floor plan with the central body covered by a cupula where the six radiating wings converge. The guards watch cabin is located in the centre of the body of the prison on the ground floor.

El Modelo prison was inaugurated on the 9th of June 1904 as the tenth prison in Catalunya. The original name of the prison was The Cellular Prison, but it was given the informal name of El modelo because it was supposed to serve as the model for future reformation centres for prisoners.

The prison has also been used to intern political dissidents during the dictatorships of Primo de Rivera and Francisco Franco with upto 16 people in one cell. Examples of political prisoners include people who went on strike, protest movements, union leaders, communist party members and anyone who disagreed with the franciost state. Also it was used to imprison homosexuals who were persecuted during the Franco dictatorship.

After Spain's transition from dictatorship to Democracy, El Modelo continued to be used as a prison until it's closure in 2017.

The prison has only been empty on two occasions: at the start and end of the Spanish civil war. On the 19th of July 1936 the 831 prisoners were liberated by anarchists. On the 23rd of January 1939, a few hundred prisoners were driven to the French border, some set free and some shot. On the 26th of January, hours before Francoist troops entered the city, the rest of the prisoners were set free.

Visiting El Modelo Former Prison Museum

El Modelo has various annexes such as kitchens, dining rooms, store rooms, workshops, first aid centre, administration block, library, school, theatre, postal room and gym. Also, there was a garden and large outdoor courtyards. Next to the entrance there is a waiting room with booths to visit the prisoners.

Each one of the radial wings was used to house a different type of prisoner. 1: For first offenders. 2: For prisoners with good behaviour. 3: For repeat offenders with good behaviour. 4: For repeat offenders with behavioural difficulties. 5: For first offenders and prisoners that work in the prison. 6: For prisoners kept in isolation.

The Catalan government (La Generalitat) have opened El Modelo as a Museum and Memorial about Repression in Catalunya. Right now, it is free entry, and so far, pretty much in the state when it closed as a prison. Visits can be booked using the below link.

La Modelo Opening Hours & Prices

Summary of Prices

Train/Bus Fare Entry Ticket Additional Information Train/Bus Fare Entry Ticket Additional Information Adult Zone 1 T-casual FREE Child T-familiar FREE Free Entry? Free Entry Thursday & Friday 16:00h to 19:00h, Saturday 10:00h to 14:00h & 16:00h to 19:00h, Sunday 10:00h to 14:00h

Getting to El Modelo Former Prison Museum

Address: Carrer d'Entença 155, Barcelona. 08029

The former Prison occupies two city blocks in the La Eixample neighbourhood of Barcelona, near to Sants main railway hub.

Nearest TMB METRO is Entenca on the blue line (L5).

Documents for El Modelo Former Prison Museum

Click on any one of the 2 PDFs to view in full screen and download.


La Modelo to Las Arenas area map

Author: Barcelona Travel Hacks


Metro Map Modelo Prison


Wikiloc Trail for El Modelo Former Prison Museum

BCN07 - La Modelo Prison - Parc Joan Miro - Arenas Shopping Centre

City walk in Barclona in the Eixampla Right area passing via La Modelo former prison museum, Park Joan Miro and Arenas former bull ring shopping complex at plaza Espana.

Distance: 4.41 Km

Difficulty: Easy

Return Travel Fare: T-Casual Zone 1

Transport Network: Barcelona Metro

Weather for Barcelona

2 Attractions Nearby

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