I have been always in love with tiles. Smooth surface and magical colours shining through the coat of ceramic surface, delicate and strong, easy to clean and if well maintained – practically non-destroyable. I love their decorative properties, they are almost like a stained glass, only they do not really need sun to draw out their beautiful faces. I was bemused with gigantic bench we have seen in Park Guell – the whole surface made out of tiles, ceramic fragments loosely arranged into messy patterns. Surprisingly the bench was quite comfortable and resting on it during hot summer must be a pure pleasure.
In my quest for chasing tiles we went to visit… a hospital. Facing the greatest achievement of Antoni Gaudi – Sagrada Familia, sits the most unusual complex of buildings celebrating art nouveau – Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau. Its history starts in the 11th century when the site hosted a Pilgrim’s hospice. The first hospital – de la Santa Creu – was born in 1401 when six smaller houses were joint together. In the 19th century the growing city imposed on the local authorities’ extension of the site.
The name of the hospital was changed to Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau to honor Pau Gil – Catalan banker who funded the project and thanks to his generosity the works could start in 1902.
The person responsible for the architectural side of the complex was Lluís Domènech i Montaner who achieved something almost impossible – a place where ill people could enjoy beautiful surroundings and be assured that the place they are in meets the highest medical standards possible. Almost 30 buildings created by Lluís Domènech i Montaner placed in a park allowed to achieve a sense of a relaxing spa rather than a hospital.
To fully enjoy your visit step through the entrance for visitors and allow to be taken under the Administrative Pavilion – a church like space with columns.
From there you will lead your way to the network of underground tunnels which connects different pavilions, so the transportation of patients was quick and efficient.
Going further into tunnels will allow you to see how the transportation happened as you can spot a silent movies on the tunnels walls showing patients being transported by the medical staff.
From tunnels you will be led to the gardens and you can have a look around beautifully arranged gardens and see amazing architect in action. You cannot miss domes, roofs, façades, sculptures, stained glass windows and ubiquitous tiles – the colors are there to please you, the shapes are there to show you how one very talented men took on art nouveau.
You can then visit Sant Rafael Pavilion – restored to the exact same shape as it was at the beginning of the 20th century – between 1914 and 1920. It originally hosted the Trauma Department with 44 beds. As you can read from the small plate attached to one of the walls, this pavilion differs from the others in being decorated with the letter R – in honour of Rafael Rabell, who with his widowed daughter Concepcio Romaguerta left money to pay for its construction.
Next you can visit the Main Hall of Administration Pavilion, the Pau Gill room and the Lluís Domènech i Montaner Room – one of the most amazing and colourful spaces in the whole complex. The Main Hall is the hospital main feature and the ceilings and walls here are exquisite! The space is enormous and offers a great view on the rest of the hospital buildings and gardens.
You can finish your visit in the Sant Jordi Pavilion a completely refurbished space that hosts temporary exhibitions.
In 2001, the hospital de la Sante Creu i Sant Pau celebreated its 600th birthday, and since 1997 it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I would strongly recommend visiting this site – an unusual and unique experience costing only 8 euros per person!