Ever since I was in college and took art history lessons, I’ve wanted to visit Barcelona.
I fell in love with Gaudi’s architecture from the first time I saw those slides in class, with his intricate, unusual and almost unreal forms derived from nature and from his deep devotion to catholicism.
Barcelona is a gorgeous city and there are tons to see and do, but if I didn’t see anything else, I’d definitely have to see Gaudi’s work. Except they didn’t tell me about his hidden jewel, one of his obscure and most beautiful works.
The Church of Colònia Güell near Barcelona
The Church of Colònia Güell is an unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí. It was built as a place of worship for the people in a manufacturing suburb in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, near Barcelona (Spain). Colònia Güell was the brainchild of Count Eusebi de Güell. However with Güell losing profits from his business, the money ran out and only the crypt was completed.
The Colonia Güell is one of the greatest legacies in architecture and town planning in Spain today. Built at the end of the 19th century, it comprises a factory area, a residential area and the Gaudí Church Crypt, one of the most representative works of Antoni Gaudí
From the Colonia Güell’s Crypt website:
… you can visit the church-crypt “Gaudi’s most hidden treasure “in which the brilliant architect experimented for the first time with many of the architectural solutions he would profusely use years later”. The crypt was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2005.
For this design Gaudí created a model with little sacks of tiny metal balls, to get the inspiration for the overall form of the church. If you would like to read more about the artistry behind the design, click here for the Wikipedia article in Spanish or Catalan.
Why the Crypt is such an intriguing place
To me, this is the most moving of Gaudi’s works because it feels as if he was still around, working on it, taking care of every little detail. Maybe it’s the scale which is minuscule compared to La Sagrada Familia, maybe it’s the lighting or the fact the he designed the very furniture you are sitting on or maybe it’s the sacredness and stillness of a holy place.
From the outside it is hard to imagine how the complete church would’ve looked like, but to me, the unfinished portion looks kind of like a giant spider, crawling forward.
The crypt is a very small, intimate space. The layout is so quintessentially Gaudí, with its twisted columns (there are two different kinds of columns), intricate ceiling and odd decoration.
Every little corner has a meaning and a creative way to express it with trencadís or bricks of different colors. In any case, words cannot do it justice, you have to see it for yourself.
It’s so nice to see that this small crypt is actually used today for mass and that people come here to meditate and pray as Gaudí himself would’ve wanted, being a very devout catholic himself.
Once you’ve visited the interior, you’re allowed to go up to the “roof” which would’ve been the actual floor of the church. This is where you can really see how unfinished it is.
What to pay special attention to
• The furniture, which was originally designed by him, although only 14 benches remain, the rest are reconstructed models.
• The stained glass windows with unusual flowery designs that give the crypt a beautiful light inside.
• The giant seashells used for holy water, they are amazing,
• The mosaics in the entrance, which represent holy catholic tales.
• There is a really nice sitting area outside, I can just imagine the old ladies getting out of mass for a little chit chat outside.
• The columns, you just cannot understand how such whimsical forms can hold the entire ceiling.
• The hidden religious messages inserted in the walls outside, created using trencadís, for instance the small fishes, a symbol of Jesus Christ.
So I hope you’ve been inspired to visit this gorgeous fantasy-like place! Most of the time you’ll have the entire place for yourself as there aren’t many visitors, people don’t seem to know about this peculiar site.
Have you visited the Crypt yet?
How did the space make you feel? What did it evoke for you?
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below in my comments form and if you enjoyed this article, I’d very much appreciate it if you shared it around!
The little town itself is rather quiet and the food is less than great. Getting there is a bit tricky:
20 minutes from Barcelona, by metro, access from the road B-2002 between Sant Boi de Llobregat and Santa Coloma de Cervelló. From the C-31 (direction Sant Boi de Llobregat), the C-32 (salida 53), A2, and A7 (Direction Sant Boi de Llobregat). Ferrocarriles de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) from Plaza España, Barcelona, lines S33, S8, and S4. Colonia Güell Station.
From the metro station, you have a 15 minute walk to The Interpretation Center, where there are several related exhibits and where you purchase your entrance to the Crypt which includes an audio guide that will explain all of the details. In all, allow for half a day for this visit.
They also give you a map and directions to get to the Crypt, which is an additional 5 minute walk and you can also choose to embark in a commented visit to the Colony.
There are no pictures or video allowed, but here’s a gem for you, a virtual tour of the crypt!