Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 27, 2015

If you had to be sick…

A good place to be in the early 1900s would have been the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona. I think it was way ahead of its time for patient care and comfort.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau


Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

It was built between 1902 and 1930. There were 27 pavilions built, 16 of which are in the Art Nouveau style. The architect, Lluis Domenech i Montaner,(Gaudi was not the only architect in Barcelona) built isolated pavilions, each one assigned a specific medical speciality and linked to the others by means of a kilometre of underground galleries.

This is a model of the site.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

It is no longer a hospital and has been renovated and transformed into a research centre in the fields of healthcare, sustainability and education. The Art Nouveau Site, one of Catalonia’s cultural and artistic treasures, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

It is magnificent. Come for a walk through this incredible place with me.

Our introduction to the site was through one of the underground tunnels…amazing.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The materials chosen for the Art Nouveau Site were the best, the most durable and the most suitable, without overlooking the artistic aspects, for the purpose of creating pleasant, natural surroundings for the patients.

The buildings are of brick. The gable roofs are covered with semi-cylindrical Spanish monochrome clay tiles in a variety of colours. They also feature ventilation shafts surmounted either by glazed ceramic or decorated stone and ornamental pinnacles, also in glazed ceramic.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The hospital-garden concept was a new one when the site was built. Domenech’s aim was to create a cheerful, optimistic atmosphere that would alleviate the pain and suffering of the patients.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The stone sculptures, capitals, floral details, corbels and guardian angels were designed by the architect himself. Beautiful ceramics adorn every building.

Not all buildings are open to the public, but it is possible to enter a few. The Sant Rafael Pavilion was decorated with ceramics to guarantee hygiene, since they were easy to clean. The gentle colours also serve a therapeutic purpose.

Santa Pau Art Nouveau

There is a wonderful photo of the ward when it was in full swing.

Santa Pau Art Nouveau

The Administration Pavilion is the largest of the buildings and the richest in ornamentation and decoration. Built between 1905 and 1910, it was conceived as the main entrance and to house the administrative and hospital admission offices.

I would love these rose coloured tiles on my ceiling.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The magnificent staircase that leads up from the foyer has a ceiling with 9 vaults resting on stone and marble columns. The vaults are all clad with rectangular pink-lilac tiles arranged like sprigs. The small cupola over the stairs is a stained glass skylight.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The upstairs rooms are magnificent.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau


Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

It must have been a delight to come to these offices to work each day.

How far ahead of its time was this hospital?? It would almost be worthwhile being sick to be admitted to this incredible place. The photos do not do the site justice. It is impossible to convey the size and grandeur of the place.

If you come to Barcelona, do NOT miss this. As a bonus, it was remarkably free of crowds, unlike most of the wonderful sites in Barcelona.


  1. He was Gaudi’s teacher

  2. So stunning, Deb! Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • There are many amazing things to see in Barcelona. I glad we didn’t miss this.

  3. And if my memory serves me it’s where Gaudi was taken when he was run over and subsequently died

  4. Your photos are excellent, Debra and they really show one of the two masterpieces of Domenech’s professional work, the other one being the Palau de la Musica Catalana, both UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. And yes, he was Gaudi’s teacher although they did not get along too well. Domenech’s was highly pragmatic In his approach to architecture, Gaudi’s was more of the artist, Domenech’s other interest was politics, while Gaudi’s was religion and he was a bit of a mystic… In any case, they are both the greatest exponents of Modernist architecture in Spain.

    • The work of both men is wonderful. How lucky we are that their work survives.

  5. What an extraordinary building. It’s so very beautiful as well as the philosophy behind the design. And I don’t suppose all those little tiles came pre-stuck on to sheets did they! Even the underground galleries haven’t been treated as merely functional pathways from A to B.

    • The whole site is amazing. I could easily move into anyone of those buildings.

  6. They certainly don’t build them like that anymore do they! What an amazing building!

    • We don’t have benefactors like that anymore. It is incredible.

  7. Thank you for a fantastic lesson: my God how much money was spent on the brilliant buildings and their decoration! Being a strong believer in mind-body medicine I can imagine how this place would make one well in spite of every corner being an infection gathering dust trap when thought of in the modern sense!!

    • I think most of the decoration was on the outside and in the administrstion area. The big ward we saw was quite simple and very functional.

  8. What a marvellous building! But with all that decoration, not the best design for a medical centre!

    • The interior of the one ward we could go into was actually quite simply decorated. The ceiling was high, to allow good ventilation and the walls were tiled, making them easy to clean. The administration building was beautifully decorated inside.

      • Ok! 😀

  9. Spectacular … and a place I didn’t know – thus I’ve add this to my list.

    • It really is soectacular, you must visit if you come to Barcelona.

  10. We both fell in love with Barcelono as soon as we arrived there. Part of the reason is buildings and architecture like this! 😀

    • This is our second visit to Barcelona, but we still didn’t see everything we wanted to see…next time.

  11. I am stunned!!! Just incredible how far ahead they were. I think we’re still catching up!

    • We absolutely loved this place. It was recommended by a friend or we may have missed it…as most other visitors do. All of the other places on the tourist bus route were packed, but not this one. Lucky us.

  12. Holeee Hannah! I am awestruck. That place is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    • The buildings are gorgeous. I wish I could move in.

  13. beautiful images of a stunning building Debra. Thanks for the tour.

    • I really recommend visiting this site, it is gorgeous.

  14. […] should go to Barcelona at least once. It is worth a visit for Gaudi alone…but don’t miss the great food at the […]

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: