The Barcelona School of Nautical Studies celebrates its 250th anniversary

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The Barcelona School of Nautical Studies (FNB), located in the Pla de Palau building, celebrated its 250th anniversary.

A historic building

The building that houses the FNB, which was opened in 1932, was designed by the architects Adolf Florensa and Joaquim Vilaseca. It has a rectangular floor plan and was built in the neoclassical style inspired by the Llotja de Mar building. It is surrounded by four exterior porticos and its interior is arranged around a central lobby. The building stands out for the model of the Carles vessel (1769) that dominates the lobby, the stained glass window over the stairs to the first floor and the chandelier in the shape of the Santa María ship. It also has a planetarium, built in 1948, which is the oldest planetarium in Barcelona.

This year, the School of Nautical Studies received the Creu de Sant Jordi (St George’s Cross), one of the highest recognitions granted by the Catalan government to people or entities.

On 3 October, the UPC’s Barcelona School of Nautical Studies (FNB) held the main events to celebrate its 250-year history. Founded in 1769, the FNB is the oldest nautical school in Spain.

Oct 22, 2019

The main events to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Barcelona School of Nautical Studies (FNB) were a solemn mass at the Santa Maria del Mar basilica, officiated by the cardinal and archbishop of Barcelona, Joan Josep Omella; planting the anniversary tree in the School’s gardens; unveiling the commemorative plaque marking the 250th anniversary; and a cocktail dinner in the School’s lobby, which was attended by the rector of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), Francesc Torres, and the dean of the School, Agustí Martín.

The events were held within the framework of the activities—conferences, exhibitions, workshops and the inauguration of the new Espai Vela in the Nova Bocana at the Port of Barcelona—that the School organised to commemorate its foundation in 1769, nine years after the Board of Commerce was set up. The commercial renaissance of the time made it essential to resume the maritime tradition that had been lost and therefore to train pilots and captains. The School’s first director was Sinibald de Mas, a seaman from Torredembarra (1736-1806) who started sailing at the age of 14.

The University of the Sea
The School not only provided training, but also fostered the construction, along the Catalan coast, of the large number of sailing boats that conducted trade with the Spanish colonies in America in the late 18th century. It also contributed to the creation of the Maritime Museum of Barcelona. It is generally thought that the Museum was created in 1936, when it was set up in the building of the Barcelona Royal Shipyard, but its origins are first reported in a document dating from 1861 that contained the terms and the budget for separating the School of Nautical Studies from the School of Industry, at a time when they were located in the convent of Sant Sebastià, near the Llotja, and that noted the presence of their corresponding museums on the second floor of the building.

The early years in La Barceloneta
The regulations on the creation of the School were approved by the Royal Council of Commerce and Currency of Madrid in 1770, which provided the School with instruments acquired in Marseille and Genoa. The School was originally set up in a building located in La Barceloneta, but it soon outgrew it and had to move to Carrer Viladecols and subsequently to the Casa Llotja. In 1847, the School relocated to the old convent of Sant Sebastià, near the Llotja. In the 1918–1919 academic year, it moved to the Porxos d’en Xifré building. Eventually, in 1932, the School was set up in its current location in the Pla de Palau building.

In 1805, a decree brought the School under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Navy as a condition to avoid closure. In 1815, after the Peninsular War, the School was completely reorganised and, under the direction of brother Agustí Canellas, Sinibald de Mas’s successor, it achieved a level of scientific quality comparable to that of the best schools in Europe. A royal decree was issued on 9 March 1840 that posited the Barcelona School of Nautical Studies as a model to be followed and stipulated that the students of the schools in Arenys, Mataró and Tarragona sit their exams there, despite the fact that their professors were Navy officers. The decree was never obeyed.

In 1847, the schools of nautical studies came under the control of the Ministry of Trade and Public Works, and in 1852 the School was incorporated into the School of Industry. By virtue of the Decree of 17 July 1861, the minister of Development separated the School of Nautical Studies from the School of Industry and renamed it the Professional School of Nautical Studies. It was subsequently incorporated into the Provincial School of Technology and two years later, in 1872, it was renamed the Provincial School of Nautical Studies.

The School continued to be controlled by the Ministry of Public Instruction until it was transferred again to the Ministry of the Navy in February 1924, through the Directorate General of Navigation. When the Subsecretariat of the Civil Navy  was created in 1931, all the existing schools of nautical studies came under its control. Later, in 19 February 1942 created the Subsecretariat of the Merchant Navy, attached to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the schools of nautical studies came under its control. In 1951, the School was transferred to the Ministry of Trade, until 31 December 1989 (Royal Decree 1075/1989, of 1 September), when it was incorporated into the UPC with effect from 1 January 1990.