Think “Barcelona architecture”, and the first name that comes to mind for majority of people is likely that of Antoni Gaudí. It is well-deserved, since a number of Gaudí’s creations are veritable symbols of Barcelona. But there are other tremendous architects who also contributed to this fantastic urban landscape. Among them is Lluís Domènech i Montaner who, as a professor at Escola d’Arquitectura, actually taught Gaudí and other modernist architects. His two most famous building are recognized on the World Heritage list. I first visited the Palace of Catalan Music half a decade ago but did not even carry a camera with me to take pictures then. This year, I managed to close that gap in my photographic portfolio.
Palau de la Música Catalana opened its doors in 1908, financed by and built for the local choral society. In over the century of its history, it has become an esteemed concert venue for all types of performances in practically every known musical genre.
The palace is exhuberant and eye-catching, as behooves a modernist masterpiece. Unfortunately, it keeps close quarters with surrounding buildings which leaves little scope for wide-angle exterior photography. From the outside, I could muster a few partial perspectives and close-ups of some features.
The corner sculptural group above is called “The Catalan song”, symbolizing the music of the proud nation. It is the work of sculptor Miquel Blay. A significant number of artists collaborated with Domènech i Montaner to create the incredible ensemble of the decorations throughout the palace.
The entrance pillars contain ticket boxes which are not in active use nowadays. However, one of them is normally open during the day, acting as an information point for tourists.
Inside, the palace is all about decorative accents, chandeliers, stained glass, and mosaics.
The balcony outside Lluís Millet Hall has two rows of columns that we already glimpsed from the street level. The mosaic decorations are blindingly brilliant.
And then, there is the Concert Hall, inarguably one of the most beautiful spaces of its kind in the entire world.
The back wall of the stage is adorned with muses, each playing a different musical instrument. These are obviously not the muses in the Greek mythology sense; rather, they intend to convey the wide range of musical disciplines.
Here are a few of the young ladies close up.
The enormous skylight of stained glass is among the most breathtaking features of the hall. It was designed by Antoni Rigalt and is clearly meant to suggest the sun and the surrounding sky.
Up on the mezzanine, you can get a better appreciation of the stained-glass windows, the arched supports, and the ceiling.
Here are a couple of attempts to take in the entire magnificence of the Concert Hall.
A close-up of the decorations on the left side of the main arch. The bust is that of Anselm Clavé, a famous choir director who was instrumental in reviving Catalan folk songs. Underneath are sculpted girls singing the Catalan song “The Flowers of May”.
Let’s take another look at that skylight before we leave, shall we?
The Palace of Catalan Music shares its World Heritage designation with another of Domènech i Montaner’s works – Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul (in Catalan, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau). Although a medical institution existed on this site since early 15th century and the present hospital offices inhabit more modern buildings dating from late 20th century, the pavilions designed by Domènech i Montaner and built between 1901 and 1930 are what makes it remarkable.
We are approaching the hospital on the mostly pedestrian Avinguda Gaudí, which connects a Gaudí masterpiece, Sagrada Família, and a Domènech i Montaner one, the hospital. Here is the first sight of its imposing façade.
Another look through a sculpture that depicts good weather chasing the storm away.
And here is an unobstructed view.
Marvelous, don’t you agree!?
On the past trips to Barcelona I never included the hospital in my itinerary and on this most recent short stay I had no opportunity to explore its grounds. These fragments of the façade are the extent of my exploration.
English guided tours of the Palace of Catalan Music are offered daily at different times. In the past, buying tickets in advance was essential for getting in, but on this last trip we saw a significant number of last-minute walk-ons, so you might get lucky even if you make no advance arrangements. The tour lasts about 45 minutes. The palace is located within Barcelona’s central part, no more than 10-15 minutes of walking from most other points of interest.
The Hospital of Sant Pau lies a bit farther afield at the edge of Eixample. There are a couple of metro stops nearby, but it can be reached on foot for those not afraid of slightly longer distances – about 50 minutes from Plaça de Catalunya. I expect that the tour of the grounds would take over an hour.