AN ANTONI GAUDI DRAGON HUNT...
Barcelona is a city of dragons. Saint George killed a dragon and saved a princess, and he is the patron saint of Catalonia – our region. So of course dragons are popular here! Specially since the Modernism times, when going back to the roots and the local traditions was important to put the land in value. And of course, Antoni Gaudi was one to join the Dragon trend!
As you explore the Gaudi sites, there's many dragons watching you. And I don't want you to miss any of such magic encounters! Saint George Day is in three weeks (April 23). Is there a better time to go on a dragon hunt around Barcelona? Come with us (there'll be a cool video and some surprises)
These are our favorite Gaudi Dragons in Barcelona:
Gaudi dragon in Park Guell
Probably the most famous dragon in Barcelona… except that not everyone agrees it’s a dragon. The staircase at the entrance of Park Guell features three fountains, and the one at the top has a reptilian form. Some state it’s a salamander, because it’s a mystical animal and a symbol free masons like Park Guell, the owner of the place would have loved.
Others like me prefer to think it’s a the dragon of Saint George, because Gaudi loved that story and he’d used dragons in previous works (keep reading). Dragons are his way to state his patriot feelings and those of Count Guell. You might think it’s not scary enough to be a dragon, but that’s because the water has eroded its originally sharp teeth. It looks much more fierce in the old pictures from the early 1900’s!
Casa Batllo: a Gaudi dragon house
Gaudi never explained what the outside of Casa Batllo represented. Some say the Carnival of Venice, some say water lilies… But you’ve guessed it right: it could be also the Legend of Saint George! The balconies would be the skulls of the people eaten by the dragon. The top balcony that looks like a flower would be the rose Saint George gave to the princess as a symbol of love.
The tower with a cross on top would be the handle of the spear of Saint George killing the dragon.
And so where is the dragon? It’s the rooftop of Casa Batllo: its greenish tiles represent the scales of a dragon skin! By the way, if you visit Casa Batllo, when you reach the rooftop you can enter the belly of the dragon, where there used to be a water tank. And the attic underneath has rooms that feel like the ribcage of the dragon.
I leave you here this video of a mapping show where the story of Saint George comes to live over the façade of the building, along with other interpretations of the symbolism of the house. You can skip to minute 12:45 for the dragon appearance (but the entire video is so worth watching). I hope you love it as much as I do!
Gaudi Dragon Gate in Finca Guell
Antoni Gaudi's father was a boilermaker, a smith that made cauldrons and pots for the kitchen. As a kid, Gaudi marveled at his father's skills, taming metals to create concave and convex shapes. His sense of volume was developing, and so was his knowledge about how wrought iron works.
It’s not strange that wrought iron plays a key role in the decoration of many Gaudi sites. But the most outstanding in my opinion is the Dragon Gate between the entrance pavilions of Finca Guell.
This one is not inspired in the legend of Saint George, though. The Count Guell was a good friend of the poet and priest Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer, who had written his own version of Atlantis, the story of Heracles. At one point, the hero has to fight against a dragon that guards the golden apples at the Hesperides Garden. And this is what this Gaudi dragon is about. You can spend hours figuring out all the references to the book that adorn the entrance gate to this property Count Guell owned in what used to be the suburbs of Barcelona. Truly fascinating.
The other dragon fountain
Did you know the one in Park Guell isn't the only Gaudi fountain there is? When he was young, the current Royal Palace gardens were part of the same property of Count Guell accessed by the Dragon Gate nearby.
AND FINALLY! A Gaudi dragon you wouldn't find without help...
The hidden Gaudi dragon in Torre Bellesguard
Torre Bellesguard is another early Gaudi work he built in what used to be the city outskirts. A rich widow wanted a new home in a historical property that included the remains of a fortress used by King Martin the Human in the 1400's, last king of the Catalan dynasty.
Gaudi filled his project with references to the history of the Crown of Catalonia and Aragon, as well as tributes to the Catalan traditions. And of course, there had to be a dragon somewhere. To see it, you’ll need some imagination and finding the exact point for the optical effect to happen. There’s a spot in the rooftopterrace where looking at the building all of a sudden you are faced with the eyes and nostrils of a huge dragon. Can you see it? The Tower in the background could even be its tail!
BTW, there’s another small Gaudi dragon made of wrought iron in the entrance hall of Torre Bellesguard, protecting an image of Saint George. Such a bonus!
What about you? What’s your favorite Gaudi dragon?
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