Archaeologists Discover 19th-Century Chocolate Factory in Barcelona

Housed in a medieval mansion, the workshop once produced sweets for Clemente Guardia, a thriving Catalonian chocolatier

Researchers discovered labels for Clemente Guardia chocolate at the site. Marta Lucas (Global Geomática, SL) via Barcelona Archaeology Service

The remains of a 19th-century chocolate factory have been unearthed in Spain, according to a statement from the Barcelona Archaeology Service.

Discovered during construction at a site in Barcelona last year, the structure has been linked to Clemente Guardia, a Catalonian chocolate company. The workshop once produced candies for residents and tourists alike. As Artnet’s Adnan Qiblawi writes, “The chocolaterie was celebrated as one of the grandest in Barcelona, selling its wares across the Spanish empire’s territories.”

The building, however, has a history that long predates the factory: It was originally a 14th-century medieval mansion. Archaeologists have now carefully documented walls, arches and doors that date to this era.

Later, between the 15th and 16th centuries, the mansion operated as a hostel, known as the the Hostal de Sant Pere. It was eventually divided into three properties in the early 18th century; archaeologists think a set of seven large ceramic containers found at the site date to this period, though their contents have yet to be determined.

Interior Photo
The building once housed a hostel. Barcelona Archaeology Service

Finally, by the late 1800s, part of the space became a chocolate factory. The workshop’s existence is corroborated by archival materials connected to Barcelona’s 1888 World’s Fair, which was a celebration of the city’s development as Spain’s industrial and cultural powerhouse. About 30 other countries, including the United States, Japan and China, attended the showcase of technological advancements and local offerings—including the recently discovered chocolate workshop.

“In the Almanac of the Universal Exhibition of 1888, the factory appears referenced in the address of Plaça de la Llana, 23 as: ‘Guardia (Clemente). Chocolates and pastillaje,’” writes the archaeology service, per Google Translate.

According to late 19th-century advertisements published in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, Clemente Guardia began operations in 1824. As La Vanguardia’s Ramon Suñé writes in a translated article, the chocolatier’s “sweet specialties were ‘particular grinds’ and vanilla and stone chocolates.” Artifacts from the factory include the lead plates once used to make labels, which bear the confectionary brand’s name and the word “Barcelona” below intricately designed illustrations.

Building Image
A view of the building's lower floor Global Geomática, SL via Barcelona Archaeology Service

Researchers from the company Global Geomàtica SL, which specializes in cartography and topography, surveyed the site under the supervision of the Barcelona Archaeology Service and the Catalonian government’s Archaeological and Paleontological Heritage Service.

Marta Lucas, the director of the project, tells Queralt Gómez Cuberes of the Catalan news outlet Betevé that seeing the structure’s evolutions through the centuries will “greatly expand the knowledge we have about the history of Barcelona,” per Google Translate.

Researchers have also scanned and digitally recreated the site. In the meantime, excavations are ongoing, and the team is still working to learn more about the structure’s eras of occupation and operation.

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