"Carassa" means “big face” and was the sign that brothels used during medieval times to pinpoint their location. It was unthinkable to place a readable sign because most of the
habitants of Barcino were illiterate. Therefore, this big face or Carassa, was placed in the facade of the building, specifying the activity exercised there.
Currently it is difficult to find these signs on the Gothic Quarter or Born Quarter as the government, in its desire to revamp these neighborhoods, caused that many of them just disappeared. However, still some can be found! So, do not be discouraged and look around in the old Barcino and maybe you’ll spot one!
One of this big faces you can find on the Panses, left of street number 5, above the arcade/tunnel. It is not easy to find because it is just bellow the balcony on the 3rd floor of the building. You can spot
another of this carassas in the Miralles street. This one is probably easier to find and it is the best conserved of all of them. On Mestre Casals i Martorell street you can find
the "Caterina". This carassa suffered a sad destiny: the building where it was located was demolished, and with it the carassa.
The 2 most famous carassas are the "Papamoscas" which pointed to what was considered a high-end brothel. You can find it on Moscas street with Flassaders street. And, finaly, the carassa of most famous brothel: the one in Avignon street... This brothel inspired Pablo Picasso to paint "The young ladies of Avignon". The carassa is located at the rear of the building, in the Carabassa street number 7, and although its condition is deplorable, it is still visible.
A curiosity: It is believed that when a visitor entered the brothel he received a lighted candle, a normal thing in a time when there was no electricity. However, it not only served to illuminate his way but also measured the time that he spent inside the brothel and was thus used to calculate the amount to be paid. The more the candle was worn, the higher the bill!