L’Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

Besides Gaudí, there’s the “other architect of Barcelona”. Lluís Domènech i Montaner was the teacher of Antoni Gaudí and was the father of Catalan Art Nouveau that built the monumental L’Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1849-1923)

The architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1849-1923), considered the father of the Catalan Art Nouveau, was born into an educated, progressive family of Barcelona’s wealthy middle class. Domènech began his professional career as an architect in Barcelona and in 1875 he became interim lecturer at the Barcelona School of Architecture, with which he was associated until 1920. His students there included other famous Art Nouveau architects such as Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Josep Maria Jujol.

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (or Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul, English) was, probably, the most beautiful functional hospital in the world during its time. Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner at the beginning of the 20th century, this hospital was endowed with state-of-the-art medical, technological, and architectural resources. For this, the architect was inspired by the most modern hospitals in Europe, applying innovations with regard to hygiene and sanitation.

The Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul comprises several independent pavilions, interconnected by a network of underground tunnels and surrounded by green spaces. The pavilions are named after Catholic saints, with the male saints on the right and the female saints to the left. And after being decommissioning of the hospital function (which moved to a modern campus just behind this site) in the year 2009, the former hospital complex became a cultural space called Sant Pau Recinte Modernista.

The Art Nouveau buildings are now modern and functional workspaces where high-social-impact organizations champion a diverse array of projects in the spheres of sustainability, health, education, culture and innovation. These institutions manage their own programs while also establishing collaborative agreements to carry out projects and activities that strive to respond to some of the greatest challenges facing society.

It is well-known that often a building is characterised as Art Nouveau more because of its decorative aspects than because of its structural aspects. The presence of decorative elements such as flooring, stained glass, plasterwork, sculpted stone, wrought ironwork, ceramic inlay and mosaics is a key determinant of Art Nouveau buildings.

The Hypostyle Hall and Underground Tunnels

The visit starts on the basement floor, entered through the tunnels. The network of underground passages at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau was a true architectural innovation in a hospital context, as it allowed the transport of patients and the distribution of materials between the different pavilions.

The Hypostyle Hall is easily accessible from the main vestibule of the building. The numerous columns of the Hypostyle Hall characterise this impressive 465 sqm single space, in which brick and ceramics are the main construction elements. It also gives direct access onto the tunnels leading out to the gardens of the Modernista complex. In the 90’s, it was turned into an emergency department.  These days the hall is ideally suitable for drinks receptions, dinner and presentations, among other events.

The underground was surprising bright with lots of natural light coming through well placed skylights. Access to the surface is provided with all the spiral staircase to the pavilions and a few directly to the Garden Avenue above.

Saint Salvador Pavilion / Pavelló de Sant Salvador

The Saint Salvador Pavilion / Pavelló de Sant Salvador

The Saint Salvador Pavilion (in Catalan, Pavelló de Sant Salvador) was the last building to be restored at the Art Nouveau Site, houses Sant Pau’s new exhibition space.  The building’s two floors are used to exhibit two core themes: (on the ground level) the history of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau since its origins (1401) and (on the upper level) a tribute to its architect, Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

The Sant Salvador Pavilion was built between 1905 and 1912, though it was not brought into operation until 1916, becoming the first working building in the hospital complex designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Although intended as a men’s ward, its first occupants were six women who were transferred from the Hospital de la Santa Creu. When the hospital complex officially opened, Sant Salvador housed men’s surgery. It later became first the Coronary Unit, and then the Intensive Care and Semi-critical Unit, one of the first on the Spanish hospital map.

The first projection on a panoramic screen familiarizes visitors with the main contents they’ll find in the pavilion: the hospital in the history of medicine in Barcelona; Pau Gil’s legacy and the contribution of Catalan civil society to the Hospital; and the creativity of Lluís Domènech i Montaner at the service of the new Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

The upper floor of the building concentrates particularly on the figure and work of Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the form of an original installation. It is a contemporary recreation of an Oriental dragon, a characteristic iconographic motif throughout history that was revisited by the Modernistes. Combined with audiovisual resources, the installation allows visitors to explore three main aspects of Domènech i Montaner: the scholar, the architect and the ideologue.

Saint Rafael Pavilion / Pavelló de Sant Rafael

Completed between 1914 and 1918, Saint Raphael Pavilion was the last one to be executed in its entirety by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, before his death in 1923. The building began by treating diseases of the digestive tract (to women!) and honors Rafael Rabell i Patxot, another of the patrons of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

These days, Saint Raphael Pavilion (in Catalan, Pavelló de Sant Rafael) is an exhibition space for historical recreation, where you can find a faithful reproduction of an infirmary and “day room” (or visiting room) from 1920, while several information boards explain how the hospitalization process worked.

All the mosaics on the walls and ceilings are the originals.

Pavilion of the Immaculate Conception / Pavelló de la Puríssima

The Pavilion of the Immaculate Conception (in Catalan, Pavelló de la Puríssima) was built between 1902 and 1912, under the supervision of Lluís Domènech i Montaner himself. It began by hosting the Feminine Specialized Surgery service. And years later, it was used by the departments of Vascular Surgery and Ophthalmology. Like other pavilions at the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, this building has two floors. In the main one, a ward was prepared to contain twenty-eight beds, to which were added some isolation rooms at the back. And on the lower floor, heating and ventilation services were installed, as well as a laboratory.

Administrative Building / Edifici d’Administració

The Administration Building (in Catalan, Edifici d’Administració) is the largest, tallest, and most richly decorated building in the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. That can be seen right away on the Main Façade: the door arches, with blue and white tiles; the stone columns, with relief figures; the neo-gothic windows, with modernist stained glass; and the iconographic elements (crosses, coats of arms, gargoyles, statues of saints and angels, etc.).

To materialize all this majestic ornamentation, Lluís Domènech i Montaner had the collaboration of two great Spanish sculptors: Eusebi Arnau and Pau Gargallo. And inside the Administration Building, the architectural wealth continues in the Vestibule, the Staircase of Honor, and the Domènech i Montaner Hall!

The building was last used for Hospitalisation Admissions, Customer Care Services, Department of Occupational Health, Finance Department and Historical Archive offices.

The Vestibule (in Catalan, Vestíbul) is crowned by nine vaults covered with mosaics, while the Staircase of Honor (in Catalan, Escala d’Honor) is made of marble.

When you go up (or down), don’t forget to admire the large octagonal stained glass window on the ceiling, which was created in the workshop of Antoni Rigalt i Blanch.

On the first floor, the Domènech i Montaner Hall (in Catalan, Sala Domènech i Montaner) steals all the attention. At almost 18 meters high, the former main hall of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau includes sculptures by Pau Gargallo, a painting by Aleix Clapés, polychrome mosaics and ceramics, and a stone balustrade narrating a prayer through its balusters. Unfortunately it was closed for filming when I was there. That 4K footage would most likely be shown on 4K OLED TVs in electronic stores all around the world.

The walkways on the ground floor that connect to the annexes on both ends of the building are definitely worth the visit for their elaborate mosaics of the Catalonian emblems on the ceilings.

The annexes were offices of the hospital and have ornate mosaic floors and walls. The annex office on the left side of the building was converted to a cafeteria that can be accessed without a ticket and a cool reprieve from the unforgiving Spanish sun. Other spaces were converted to meeting rooms and auditorium for rental.

Saint Apollonia Pavilion / Pavelló de Santa Apol·lònia

Saint Apollonia Pavilion (in Catalan, Pavelló de Santa Apol·lònia) is one of the smallest of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, together with its “twin” Saint George Pavilion (in Catalan, Pavelló de Sant Jordi).

Saint Apollonia Pavilion / Pavelló de Santa Apol·lònia

Saint Apollonia Pavilion had a very curious function when the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau was inaugurated. Apparently, this was one of the pavilions used to accommodate suspected cases of contagious infections! In more recent times, it was the Dentistry department.

Pavilion of Our Lady of Montserrat/ Pavelló de la Marededéu de Montserrat

The Pavilion of Our Lady of Montserrat (in Catalan, Pavelló de la Marededéu de Montserrat) is one of the most beautiful pavilions in Sant Pau.

With one more floor than the previous pavilions (the others have two floors), the Nossa Senhora de Montserrat Pavilion is the fourth of the women’s pavilions, which make up the west wing of this hospital complex. It was assigned to Female General Surgery and, unsurprisingly, features a figure of Our Lady of Montserrat on the façade, made by Eusebi Arnau.

Operation House / Casa d’Operacions

The Operations House (in Catalan, Casa d’Operacions) is located in the centre of the hospital complex’s main avenue, between the pavilions of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Mercy, Saint Raphael, and Saint Leopold.

At the rear of the building, three apses served as operating theaters (or operating rooms, hence the name).

Over the years, in addition to being the city’s hospital of reference, Sant Pau has become a prominent landmark within the cultural heritage of Barcelona and Catalonia. It was declared a Historic Artistic Monument in 1978, and was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

Visited Aug 2018

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