Barcelona's Antoni Gaudi (Part Two) ,
Plus A Day Trip to the Lady of Montserrat

by Willie “Tatang” Vergara




                                              Flag of Spain                                       Flag of Barcelona


Part One may have left some readers wondering: What is exceptionally unique in Barcelona? The Castellers? Or the Font Magica? Or Las Ramblas and La Boqueria? Isn’t it that each place, each city in the world has its own distinctive character in point of art and architecture, music and culture?

After viewing the pictures and reading this particular article, the reader will perhaps agree without a doubt that, indeed, Barcelona stands alone as a city like no other.

A brief history of Catalonian art with special focus on architect and designer Antoni Gaudi is in order.

The Catalan cultural movement began with the First International Exposition of Barcelona in 1888 and lasted until 1911. It was fueled by native born Catalan, Antoni Gaudi, and the desire to reassert Catalan Culture. This artistic revolution was fueled by Catalan Nationalism. Gaudi promoted Catalan sovereignty and hoped to reclaim their distinct identity despite being at the mercy of the Spanish military state that includes almost 4 decades of General Franco’s reign.

Catalan Modernism is almost entirely defined by the predominance of curves over straight lines. Such movement in art and architecture is attributed to Gaudi, especially with the addition of rich and at times puzzling, bizarre details of natural, vegetative, or other organic objects in his design.

The long struggle for Catalan Sovereignty from Spain continues to the present day. Throughout history, artists, architects, craftsmen, and other Catalan born natives have fought to preserve their unique identity in all aspects of life.

Gaudi’s professor in architecture once said that he (Gaudi) either submitted works either of an insane man or a genius, a reputation that many continue to believe until today. Some even erroneously claim that the etymology of the word “gaudy” is no other than Antoni Gaudi himself. Some theorize that Gaudí was color blind and that he excelled only because he was in collaboration with Josep Maria Jujol – an architect 27 years younger than him whom he believed was a genius.

Like many artists, Gaudi was under-appreciated during his lifetime. He died in 1926 after being killed in a trolley accident. Gaudi, who was living like a hermit in his studio for a year, was mistaken for a vagrant and the driver than run over him refused to take him to hospital.

Park Güell

Park Güell is a 45-acre garden complex situated on the hill of Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Spain.

It was designed by Gaudí and built from 1900 to 1914. It is now one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


It is a “must-see” site while one is in Barcelona and is usually crowded by tourists.


It takes a little bit of a hike from the bus stop to reach the Park. Walking to the park on a cloudy

day will take no effort at all because around it are winding pathways with lush vegetation.

The project was intended for a community of sixty single-family residences includes a central plaza overlooking the city. Gaudi was commissioned to draw up plans for a garden city owned by his friend Eusebi Guell with Barcelona’s economic elite as intended buyers.



Along the winding paths are musicians and entertainers surrounded by greeneries.

An author describes Park Guell as “a colorful Candy Land of gingerbread house palaces and

 Dr. Suess-style landscapes, located on a bald Mountain in the neighborhood of Gracia”.

The park entrance begins with a grand stairway featuring the

traditional symbol of the park -- a large, colorful tile mosaic dragon.


Gaudi had a great appreciation for the topography of the site. He avoided any earth leveling, thus preserving the beauty

of the mountain slope. He devised a system of viaducts, supported by tidal waves of inclined columns, which allowed for

 an extensive road system. Antoni and Guell also drew up a mandatory contract for Park Guell which was required to

 be signed upon the purchase of a plot, prohibiting the cutting of trees and other acts that might affect the environment.

Unfortunately, only three properties were sold -- two as a private residence of the Trias family,

 and one for the show-home, which Gaudi eventually ended up buying  and made it his own residence.

Today, the house has been converted into the Casa-Museu Gaudi.


Climb the stairs and find yourself in a square originally designed as an open-air market,

 surrounded by benches decorated with mosaic, and overlooking the city.

Beyond the square is the “Hall of a Hundred Columns” which holds giant overhead mosaics.


The spectacular color of the mosaics combine with a wonderful view for an urban park unlike any you have seen.



Casa Mila


Casa Mila is one of his most recognizable structures in Barcelona.

Casa Mila is another structure built by Gaudi, known for his gothic and surrealist shapes and forms.

The building is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí".

 The building is now owned by Caixa Catalunya.

Gaudi claimed his model was an upright tree, bearing its branches and twigs, and in turn the leaves.

 “Every individual part has been growing harmoniously and magnificently, ever since God the artist created it”, said he.


Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera (Catalan for 'The Quarry') was built

during the years 1906–1910, being considered officially completed in 1912.



The top floor now houses the Gaudi museum showing a lot of “bigatures”.

It was built for the married couple, Rosario Segimon and Pere Milà. Rosario Segimon was the wealthy widow of José Guardiola, an Indiano, a term applied locally to the Catalans returning from the American colonies with tremendous wealth. Her second husband was Pere Milà, a developer who was criticized for his flamboyant lifestyle and ridiculed by residents of Barcelona.


Façade details are considered by many as weird and mysterious.

Rick Steves says that “Gaudi put all his architectural daring into this famous house …

 with a roofscape of chimneys and vents resembling abstract sculptures.”


There are no straight line walls anywhere in this building.

 The extraordinary roof has a multitude of  sculpted air ducts and chimneys that

 look so threatening that they have been regarded as “witch scarers”.


Top photos (left to right): Glass Detail, Chimney Detail, Ceramic Detail

The local government objected to some aspects of the project, fined the owners for many infractions of building codes, ordered the demolition of aspects exceeding the height standard for the city, and refused to approve the installation of a huge sculpture atop the building—described as "the Virgin"—but said to represent the primeval earth goddess, Gaia.


Casa Batlló


Casa Batlló is an 1877 building restored by Gaudí and Jujol. It is one of Europe's

 most unusual houses and recently, has opened its doors to the public for the first time.

The house is instantly recognizable because of its façade. Its roof, depending on your viewpoint,

 resembles either a fish or a dragon. The design of the building has skeletal, organic characteristics –

 the local name for the structure is Casa dels Ossos (House of Bones).

The arched roof has been likened to a dragon and the common theory is that the rounded feature to the left

of the center represents the sword of Saint George (Barcelona’s patron Saint) plunging into the back of the dragon.

The building is very typical of Gaudi and his own version of

Art Noveau –  with all the curves and obvious avoidance of straight lines.

Gaudi's style could be described as a mix of Art Nouveau and his own unique

 organic style which was influenced by shapes and structures from the natural world.


The Sagrada Familia

This photo of Sagrada Familia is taken from the roof of Casa Mila.
To one who has not seen the Sagrada Familia, words and even pictures will not be enough to describe this spectacular structure.

If you go to Barcelona and have not gone inside and around Sagrada Familia, then the city deserves a second visit.

The Sagrada Familia is the most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona catering to over 2,000,000 visitors a year.

It is revered by the World of Architecture as one of the most original and ambitious modern buildings.


It is a giant temple that has been under construction since 1882 (no exaggeration!)

and it's not expected to be completed in 30 or even 80 years.

Decidedly, the Sagrada Familia is Europe’s most unconventional church.


Much controversy surrounds the building of the Sagrada Familia. Today new construction

 materials are being used which some believe Gaudi himself would not have used.

When you visit the building you will see the contrast in the stone color between the front and back of the building.

The actual style of construction appears somewhat different between the new and old parts of the building.


Gaudi directed the construction of the Sagrada Familia until his death in 1926. He would often

modify the structure until it was exactly what he had in mind. The present design is based on

reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations.


This giant church, with its colorful broken tile mosaics, and unique

sculptural design, is by far Gaudi’s most recognized work.


However, the architect is not to be credited for the cathedral’s origins nor its beginning stages of construction. The Sagrada Familia was a result of Josep Maria Bocabella’s desire to promote the Catholic Church in a time of social and religious instability in Spain.


In 1876, Bocabella secured the property upon which the church would be built. The following year, Francisco del Villar began work

on drawing the plans. Construction began in 1882. However, in 1883, Villar resigned from the project after disagreements over

 building materials. The project was then handed over to Montells, who declined but offered his young apprentice, Antonio Gaudi.


The Passion Façade is replete with modern sculptures on the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

The Passion Façade conveys the solemnity of the crucifixion as seen in the sharp geometrical

 shapes while the six columns resemble bones. Its sculpted figures are angular are often disturbing.


The Nativity Façade is completely different in style and emphasis.

The Central Nave continues to be under construction.
The church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles.

The tree-like columns of the interior are a unique Gaudí design.


Besides branching like a tree to support their load, their ever-changing

surfaces are the result of the intersection of various geometric forms.

It is like an indoor forest of fluted pillars and is the embodiment of Gaudi’s admiration of nature.

Skylights let in the natural light.

The Nativity Façade is about the birth of Jesus. The doorways symbolize faith, hope and charity.


Steep stone steps form spiral staircases allow access to the towers and upper galleries.


Majestic views reward those who take the steps or take the elevator that go up to the towers.


Above photo shows the Bell Towers; 8 of the 12 spires have been built,
and each is topped by Venetian mosaics.


When finished, there will be total of eighteen tall towers representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles,

 the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ.


Themes throughout the decoration include words from the liturgy. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna", "Excelsis", and "Sanctus".

His is an approach where structure and decoration blend together. His highly original designs are irregular and fantastically intricate and, in some cases, almost possess hallucinatory qualities. His influence can be seen throughout the city, be it in lamp posts, benches, or colorful mosaic balconies.




A visit to Barcelona and Catalonia is not complete without a trip to Montserrat. Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Christian,

believer or atheist, it would be a shame and such big loss of opportunity not to spend a day at Montserrat.

From Barcelona's Plaça d'Espanya station, Montserrat can be reached by
taking the Regional Train that will take you to the foot of the Montserrat Mountains.

While on a train, you will know for sure if you have arrived at Montserrat, a mountain like no other.

From the foot of the mountain, you may take a cable car that goes up the monastery.

 "Montserrat" literally means "jagged mountain" in Catalan. It describes the peculiar aspect of

the  rock formation, which is visible from a great distance. The mountain is composed of

 strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock, popular with climbers.

An ancient Benedictine Monastery sits high in the mountains overlooking the Catalan plains.


Reaching the mountain by cable car you get an immediate sense of something special given its

natural beauty  and the scenic setting of the magnificent monastery located between the mountains.


Between the 12th and 15th centuries the Romanesque church was built and the statue of Our Lady was

 created and still stands in the Monastery where thousands make the pilgrimage to see her every year.

Between the 17th and 18th centuries the monastery at Montserrat became a centre for cultural

and historical appreciation. There is a world famous boys’ choir that sings at certain times of the day.

Inside the cathedral is a statue of the Madonna and Child known as La Moreneta, the dark little one.

The monastery was virtually destroyed by Napoleon's armies in 1811 and was abandoned except for one single monk.


In 1844 the monks returned to Montserrat and reconstruction of the monastery began.

Its 1000th anniversary in 1880 marked the coronation of the image of Our Lady as Patron St. of Catalonia.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the monastery became a refuge for Catalan nationalist guerillas.

After the war ended the monks returned to the monastery.


Since then the monastery has developed into a significant spiritual and cultural centre of the Catalan people.

Nearly all Catalans have made the pilgrimage to Montserrat, some several times.

Waiting at the Funicular Santa Cova
The abbey can be reached by road, or cable car, or by the Montserrat Rack Railway. From the abbey,

 the Funicular de Sant Joan funicular railway goes up to the top of the mountain, where there are

 various abandoned hovels in the cliff faces that were previously the abodes of reclusive monks.

The funicular of Santa Cova was built in 1929 to make easier the access to the Stations of the Cross,

and the Santa Cova chapel, which are at a lower level than the Monastery.

The funicular Sant Joan was built to link the Monastery to the top of the

Santa Magdalena  mountain where a footpath lead to the hermitage of Sant Jeroni.
The summit of Montserrat stands at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above sea-level. It is accessible by hiking trails

which  connect from the top entrance to the Sant Joan funicular, the monastery, or the base of the mountain.

The track is absolutely straight with a maximum gradient of 66%.

The hike from the end of the Funicular to Santa Cova Chapel is both scenic and tiring.

To the pious Catholic, one could pray all 15 mysteries of the Holy Rosary in each station.


One could also pray the 14 Stations of the Cross while on a hike.


A Church doctor notes that the Shrine of Montserrat is among the best candidates for former sanctuaries for the

 Holy Grail. Further, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries esoteric Christian sects proliferated, though not primarily in Spain.

The dark color of Our Lady of Montserrat is attributed to the innumerable

 candles and lamps that have burned day and night before the image.

The statue of Our Lady was discovered in a cave and was brought out and placed in a small church

 that was soon erected. The statue has always been considered one of the most celebrated images in Spain.


This multitude includes secular and ecclesial rulers as well as a number of canonized Saints. The most

notable of these was St. Ignatius of Loyola, who laid down his sword and embarked on his religious

mission "after spending  a night praying before the image", a miracle in the order of grace.


The statue presently kept at the Montserrat shrine appears to have been introduced in the twelfth or

thirteenth century. Its Romanesque style is consistent with this estimate. The shrine has received

 innumerable pilgrims over the years, currently at the rate of at least one million per year.


Right photo shows part of Montserrat, the architect’s inspiration in designing the
Agbar in Barcelona (left), one of the 20 buildings in the world with the most unusual shapes.

To the reader: I hope you enjoyed not only our day trip to our Lady of Montserrat (serrated mountain) but also the works of Antoni Gaudi, the architect that has influenced Barcelona in its present state – A City Like No Other.




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