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Colònia Güell and Gaudí Crypt

A site that bears witness to Catalonia’s textile industry

A site that bears witness to Catalonia’s textile industry

One of the best examples of industrial colony architecture, owned by Gaudí’s patron, Eusebi Güell. Gaudí’s church was never completed.

The company town founded by a patron of the arts

An unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí stands on the site of the textile industry company town founded by the architect’s patron, Eusebi Güell. The crypt showcases both the prodigious technique of the genius behind the Sagrada Família and his most innovative ideas.

In 1890, the patron of the arts and textile entrepreneur Eusebi Güell had a company town built at Santa Coloma de Cervelló for the workforce of his Vapor Vell factory in the Sants district of Barcelona. The objective was to move his workers away from the city, which was at that time suffering a period of upheaval, strikes and protests, while providing them with a rural environment with all the amenities of a city, including a church so they could continue to live in accordance with Christian precepts.

Colònia Güell, as the company town was known, had a hospital, an inn, a school, shops, a theatre, a cooperative and a chapel, in addition to the factories and the workers' homes. The Count of Güell, as was his title, gave Antoni Gaudí free reign in the design of the church, but unfortunately, following his death in 1918, his children decided against completing the unfinished construction.

The visit to this unique location includes a tour of the streets of the company town, whose Modernista buildings were designed and built between 1900 and 1917 by Gaudí's collaborators: Francesc Berenguer, his son Francesc Berenguer Bellvehí, and Joan Rubió. The pièce de résistance, however, is the Gaudí Crypt, which was built from 1908 to 1915.

The Gaudí Crypt was to have been the base for the company town’s church, which was planned to include a 25 × 63 metre oval floor plan, five naves, various towers and a lantern tower some 40 metres tall. Gaudí copied many forms found in nature, like hyperbolic paraboloids, helicoids and conoids, in an effort to blend the place of worship into the landscape. He applied this theme throughout the construction, choosing natural colours for the building materials and aligning the various levels of the central nave with the hill upon which it stands. The church was to have been dedicated to the tomb of Jesus and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Calvary, but it was finally devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus when a different builder completed the nave that had remained unfinished upon Eusebi Güell’s demise.

The crypt was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Points of interest

  • Ca l’Ordal, the only residential building at the site that emulates the style of old Catalan country houses.
  • Ca l’Espinal, the highest quality residential building, designed by Joan Rubió i Bellver, one of Gaudí’s disciples.
  • Can Soler de la Torre, the Güell family home before the construction of the company town, an old country house from the 17th century.
  • Torre Salvana, a Romanesque fortress with Gothic modifications.