Cripta de la Colònia Güell
YEAR OF CONSTRUCTION
1890 - 1917
Carrer Claudi Güell, s/n, Colònia Güell, Santa Coloma de Cervellóhttp://www.gaudicoloniaguell.org/
The construction of the Güell Industrial Colony began in 1890 at the initiative of the entrepreneur Eusebi Güell, on his Can Soler de la Torre property in the municipality of Santa Coloma de Cervelló.
Wishing to provide social improvements for his workers, Güell commissioned the construction of facilities to various architects and put Gaudí in charge of building the church. Güell did not set any limits on either the budget or the type of structure to be built and for Gaudí this project became a test bench for the construction of the Sagrada Família. The work was left unfinished, however, and only the bottom nave came to be completed, which is why the church is commonly called the crypt.
A DIFFERENT TYPE OF INDUSTRIAL COLONY
The industrial colonies or mill towns were endowed with the latest industrial technologies at the end of the 19th century, offering employment and housing to workers. The only thing that was required in exchange was loyalty to the company, which imposed some very demanding working conditions in spite of it all.
Eusebi Güell adopted the industrial colony model current in Catalonia at that time, while equipping the Güell Industrial Colony with all the necessary schooling, social and religious facilities. He commissioned the projects and the management of the works to the best Modernista architects.
A TEST BENCH
In 1889, with the textile industry running at full throttle, Güell commissioned Gaudí to build the church which would overlook the village from a little hill on the edge of the property. The architect took advantage of this project to try out building forms and solutions with a view to applying them on a larger scale to the Sagrada Família church, where the architect had already been working for nearly 15 years.
In the preliminary studies for the project, Gaudí had the help as usual of his loyal assistant Francesc Berenguer, who worked with the great architect until his death in 1924. The architects Joan Rubió and Josep Canaleta also worked on this project, as did the engineer Eduardo Goetz, whose calculations of the structure were especially important.
A GROUNDBREAKING SCALE MODEL
The contributions of the model maker Joan Beltran and of the carpenter Joan Munné were decisive for the building of the various scale models required for the project. This was especially true in the case of the big polyfunicular scale model, which was a thoroughly innovative architectural projection instrument invented by Antoni Gaudí.
This ingenious model was made of cloth, strings and little weights that allowed the determination of the architectural forms on the basis of the static behaviour of the building which was to be erected. The model was kept in a shed next to the building site, where Gaudí’s studio was located as well.
AN UNFINISHED BUILDING
The cornerstone of the church was laid on 4 October 1908. The works remained under the management of Gaudí until 3 October 1914, when the Güell family decided to halt the construction of the church for reasons which are unknown to us.
On suspending the works, the basement, which included the lower chapel known as "the crypt" and the adjoining porch, on top of which the entrance stairway to the church was to be built, had already been completed. The main nave, which was to be crowned by several towers including a domed lantern tower in the centre, was intended to be built on the upper level, but only the posts and lintels of the portico finally came to be erected.
After Gaudí had left the project, a roof, with a certain air of provisionality, and a bell tower were built in order to be able to open the church for worship. The consecration of the church took place on 3 November 1915 and the works continued until 1917.
After the Spanish Civil War, the factory changed owners and in 1973 it closed down. In the course of time, several interventions were carried out on the altars, walls and surroundings of the church. In 1990 the whole Güell Industrial Colony was listed as a Cultural Interest Property-Historic Complex, and the restoration works subsequently began. The last important restoration was carried out in 2002.
FROM CHURCH TO CRYPT
By the time when the work on the church was halted, Gaudí had only been able to build the lower chapel, which is why it is popularly known as the crypt of the Güell Industrial Colony, even though this is not, properly speaking, what it is.
Some drawings, which are unsigned but reasonably attributable to Gaudí, and the photographs of the polyfunicular scale model, give us an idea of what the final appearance of the project would possibly have been like. We cannot be categorical about this, however, because it is well known that Gaudí constantly improvised and the final results of his work were hardly predictable.
EXTRAORDINARY ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY
It is interesting to point out the variety and diverse provenance of the many materials used over and over again by Gaudí in this first phase of the church. Basalt and calcareous stones, different kind of bricks, cast iron slag, ceramics, glass and wrought iron combine their textures and colours to provide a brilliant integration of the building in its surroundings.
Both the interior space and the exterior of the crypt are of extraordinary architectural quality. Gaudí thus offers us a posthumous architectural manifesto expressing in a humble and moving way the sublime and indivisible harmony between architecture and the applied arts. This is a unique space where the atmosphere of peace characteristic of a holy place is masterfully created, forming a structure of unquestionable authenticity and one of Antoni Gaudí’s finest works.
Winter hours: Weekdays, 10:00-17:00 h / weekends and public holidays, 10:00-15:00 h
Summer hours: Weekdays, 10:00-19:00 h / weekends and public holidays, 10:00-15:00 h
Closed: 1 and 6 January, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and 25 & 26 December
HOW TO GET THERE
Car: Access from road B-2002 between Sant Boi de Llobregat and Santa Coloma de Cervelló. From road C-31 (direction Sant Boi de Llobregat), road C-32 (exit 53), and motorways A2 and A7 (direction Sant Boi de Llobregat)
FGC trains: From Plaça Espanya, Barcelona. Lines S33, S8 and S4. Trains every 15 minutes. Colònia Güell station
Wifi in the Visitors Centre, rest areas, free parking for vehicles and coaches, lavatories and store.