On our way to Montserrat one day during our recent visit to Barcelona we stopped at the village of Santa Coloma de Cervelló to tour the church designed by Antoni Gaudi that has become known as Gaudi’s Crypt. It’s also sometimes called Güell’s Crypt and also the Church of the Twisted Columns. Gaudi spent ten years designing the church which was supposed to consist of a crypt and a four-story chapel. He began building the crypt in 1908 but in 1914 funding dried up and Gaudi never finished the project. The structure is looked upon today as the architect’s laboratory for his future masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
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Gaudi’s patron was the entrepreneur Count Eusebi Güell who brought his textile manufacturing facility to Santa Coloma in 1890. Güell’s idea was to create a workers’ village along the lines of Robert Owen’s New Lanark model in Scotland. Besides housing for the workers he envisioned a school, a theatre, a few restaurants and a church to be designed by Gaudi. Most of the buildings in Colonia Güell were designed by Gaudi’s associates Francesc Berenguer i Mestres and Joan Rubió i Bellever in the modernista style.
Güell died in 1918 but members of his family kept Colonia Güell going until 1936 when it was taken over by the workers at the onset of the Spanish Civil War. After the war it was given back to the Güell family who then sold their interests to the Bertrand i Serra family in 1945. The mill closed in 1973 and the manufacturing and residential facilities were sold. Workers were later allowed to buy back their houses and many did. Restoration work on the colony began in 2000 and the crypt was renovated to accommodate the expected influx of tourists.
After our tour we all assembled at a tiny museum where each of us was offered a glass of cava. Then we piled back in the bus for our trip north to Montserrat.
Colona Güell and the village of Santa Coloma de Cervello can be found by driving west on Highway B-23 from Barcelona until you reach the junction with the A-2 autovia from Madrid. It’s about 20 km from Avinguda Diagonal in Barcelona.
In my next posting we will take a closer look at the stained glass windows, tile mosaics and strange hyperbolic paraboloid shapes of Gaudi’s Crypt.