In the basement of an apartment block in Tarragona hides one of the most impressive archaeological finds in recent years: a monumental 17-meter-long Roman fountain. It emerged in 1998 when work on the building began, the archaeological excavation was carried out and, following the instructions of the Generalitat's heritage commission, the Roman fountain was covered again with gravel while a building without a garage was built on top. And so until today. After years of failed negotiations, its owner – the builder of the block – has decided to create a private non-profit foundation with the aim of museumizing the fountain and being able to show it to the public.
“I am ashamed to note the ineffectiveness of Tarragona, in another place this situation would be unthinkable,” says Joan Ramon Martorell. The monumental fountain, with fountains sculpted in the shape of a lion, was built in the 2nd century BC. and used until the 8th century. According to experts, its value and heritage interest is indisputable. Negotiations with the City Council and also over the years with the Port Authority, since the building is very close to the Serrallo (on Pere Martell street), have so far been unsuccessful.
“I have never wanted to make money with the fountain, but I have never wanted to lose it either,” maintains its owner. The purchase price was estimated at 2.4 million, a figure that included the price of the last appraisal of the fountain – requested by the City Council – and the extra costs involved in the successive modifications of the projects so that the structure of the building did not damage the monument and facilitate its future museumization. Neither the option of sale, nor the possibility of a land swap, raised in 2016 when Josep Fèlix Ballesteros was mayor, came to fruition.
Martorell now proposes the creation of a foundation, so that, within a framework of public-private collaboration, the fountain can finally be excavated and shown. The foundation will be called Mac-Obama and is scheduled to be formalized this month. “It will be a way to solve the problem and constitutes a great opportunity for all parties,” says Martorell. The contribution of the administration is to be determined, but Martorell hopes that both the City Council and the Generalitat will be involved as employers, as well as other entities such as the port and representatives of other entities, such as the port of Tarragona or the Rovira i Virgili University (URV). ) or the Institut Català de Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC), “their participation can be very beneficial for achieving the objectives of the foundation,” maintains Martorell.
The objectives are, first of all, the dissemination and study of the fountain of the lions for its future museumization and opening to the public. Dissemination and archaeological research or promotion and collaboration in cultural and scientific activities will also appear as secondary objectives. “For the patrons, the foundation will provide prestige and social image and for the administration, it will facilitate the opening of the monument to the public, the co-financing of the management, greater agility in the procedures and the possibility of opting for subsidies,” argues Martorell. The meetings and negotiations that took place during the mandate of Ballesteros (PSC) were reduced to a minimum during the previous mandate of Pau Ricomà (ERC) and have been reactivated with the current mayor, Ruben Viñuales. Contact with the previous and current president of the port has also been maintained in recent months.