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Art nouveau in a hospital

To most tourists Gaudí is identical with Barcelona. However one of his friends/rivals, the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, built renowned Barcelona’s landmarks too. One of Domènech i Montaner’s masterpieces is Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. This is the world’s largest art Nouveau Site.

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Pic courtesy of Wiki España

History
The hospital was founded in 1401 by a fusion between six hospitals in Barcelona. At that time the hospital was called Hospital de la Santa Creu (Hospital of the Holy Cross). This fusion was needed due to the pest outbreak in 1348.

At the end of 19th century medicine world required new facilities. This means the hospital needed to be expanded. Big renovation project started funded by the legacy of a wealthy Catalan banker Pau Gil. With his donation Lluís Domènech i Montaner was assigned to lead the project. The project began in 1902. In 1930 Domènech i Montaner’s son completed it. A couple of times the renovation stood still due to lack of finance. At the end 27 pavilions were completed above the 300 square metre ground. Honoring its benefactor the hospital has since been called Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

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Conversion to Art nouveau site
This was until 2009 a fully operational hospital before it moved to the new facilities somewhere else in the city. After that the complex had been under construction for 5 years. In February 2014 the hospital, now called Sant Pau Recinte Modernista was reopened. From 27 Pavilions there are only 16 left. Visitors can enter only 4 pavilions. The rest were closed or under construction.

This was the most significant restoration projects in recent years. There have been parts of building added in and outside the pavillions since 1930. The goal of the restoration was to bring the complex in the original state. This meant getting rid of the added elements. This resulted in a fabulous, most complete and biggest Art nouveau site in the world.

This is the exhibition space in Administration pavillion. There is a video, an interactive touch table and a maquette as introduction.

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This was the emergency department once. Imagine the hectic of the medical staff providing first aid to patients.

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An extensive underground tunnel network connects the pavillions. Staff used this tunnel so that the patients did not have to go outside to reach another pavillion.

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Following the exit sign in the tunnel, visitors come upstairs and see this. 20140805-185054-67854730.jpg

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Now you see how big the site is with the garden and Valencian orange trees, the pavillions with colourful roof, façades, sculptures and mosaic.

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Exhibition of the restoration in Sant Jordi pavillion

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Me in front of the entry hall in Sant Jordi pavillion

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The main hall at the Administration pavillion

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Look at Gil above one column, the holy cross and Catalan weapon symbol on another.

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Richly decorated ceiling

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Detail of the staircase

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The Lluis Domènech i Montaner room

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Domènech i Montaner worked together with several Catalan artists building this hospital; Pablo Gargallo (sculptures), Francesc Labarta (paintings & mosaic) and Josep Perpinyà (ironsmith).

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This hallway downstairs left me speechless & overwhelmed. It is so stunning how the natural light is brilliantly reckoned with. Awesome!

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Trivia

  • In the old days female and male patients stayed strictly in separate pavillions. Female patients were taken care of in the pavillions with female saint name and male patients stayed in pavillions with male saint name.
  • This hospital is only 7 minutes walk from la Sagrada Família. The route is via Avinguda Gaudí. Not many tourists know this.
  • Since 1997 this hospital has been acknowledged as Unesco heritage together with another Domènech i Montaner’s work, Palau de la música Catalana.

  • Seeing all this Art nouveau (modernista) splendour, I can hardly imagine it was a functional hospital once. Sant Pau Recinte Modernista is highly recommended to visit.

    Sant Pau Recinte Modernista
    Carrer Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167
    08025 Barcelona
    Open daily
    For more information browse the official website

    Entry (prices from July 2014)
    Self-guided visit € 8
    Guided visit € 14

    Sources:
    Brochure Sant Pau Recinte Modernista
    The Sant Pau modernista precinct

    Previously published in my Spain travel stories:
    Route du Soleil
    Travel like a local in BCN
    The Holy Family
    Park Güell revisited

    15 thoughts on “Art nouveau in a hospital

    1. Interesting architecture for a hospital…. though for some who design and built hospitals, to today’s standard, those intricate ornament details are considered unhygienic…😦
      However, thank you for sharing, I will pencil it as my list to visit next…

      • Yup, that was why the administration added some new elements in the pavillions. Visitors can see pictures of this in the archives. It is strange to see patient being rushed into a surgery room with beautifully decorated ceiling. There are pictures of rooms where patients slepts with colourful arcades. Beautiful but intriguing. New building of the hospital is hitech and very modern.

        • Yes, hospital is about modern technology instead of antique art, besides, when you are sick you won’t appreciate those beautiful art…🙂

          • Exactly but reading about modernista after the industrial revolution, it was really all over the place. I mean modernista was at that time a way to express (or should I say, show off) the wealth and prosperity, even in hospitals! Definitely a must-see.

      • Aku ngebayangin kalo melahirkan disini pasti seneng ya Cha, bagus rumah sakitnya. Cuma ya ngga praktis, coba bayangin kalo mosaik langit-langit dikamar operasi lepas padahal ada pasien dioperasi dibawahnya, bahaya 😃

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