Antoni Gaudí’s Torre Bellesguard
EVERYTHING ABOUT BELLESGUARD TOWER, AKA CASA FIGUERES
Torre Bellesguard is one of them. A private mansion intimately tied to Catalan medieval history where Gaudi felt free to make political statements but also be playful. And religious, too. A shocking mix? Not for Mr. Gaudi!
History of Casa Bellesguard
The Medieval Bellesguard Tower
The comission of the Figueras widow
Gaudi was really interested in getting a project where he could display his Catalan feelings, and got very involved in the project. Up to the point that he signed the contracts on behalf of Ms. Figueras, because she was analphabet.
De Guilera family
In 1945 Ms. Figueres needed money and sold the property to the prestigious oncologist Lluis Guilera, and since then it’s belonged to the same family. His son turned it into a gynecology clinic but his family continued to occupy some of the floors.
It’s been in recent years that their children understood the need to open Torre Bellesguard to the public, in hopes of funding the restoration and maintenance works that a centenary building needs.
The architecture of Antoni Gaudi in Torre Bellesguard
Gothic and Medieval inspiration
Antoni Gaudi believed that Gothic, the architecture of the late medieval times, was the most elevated architectural style and no remarkable structural innovations had been added since then. This is why his goal was taking Gothic to the next level.
He restored the remains of the castle of King Martin and its wall, repurposing it as a sort of antechamber of the house gardens. And he designed a 3-storey building (5-storey, counting the basement and the rooftop) inspired in a medieval watch tower and incorporating the verticality of Gothic churches.
Actually, during Franco’s Dictatorship (1936-1976) and until the 1980’s it was painted black to avoid the anti-Catalan repression of the stablishment.
There’s other more discreet tributes to Catalonia, such as the fish mosaics adorning the benches around the outside wall of the house. They are a reference to the splendor of our medieval times when “No fish dared to swim in the Mediterranean without the aproval of the Crown of Aragon”.
Also, all the inscriptions decorating the house, in mosaics and wrought iron pieces, are written in Catalan – no Spanish nor Latin. Did you know once Gaudi was arrested for refusing to speak Spanish to a policeman?
The use of dragons in decoration and structure are another reference to Catalonia. Saint George is our Patron Saint and he’s said to have slayed a dragon to save a princes. Gaudi used dragons in many of his other projects.
Many of his masterpieces feature towers crowned with a cross, of course in reference to Jesus Christ. And the tower we discussed before featuring the Catalan flag is another of them. Gaudi’s crosses have 2 extra arms, because he wanted everyone to see it as a cross no matter from what angle people were looking at it.
The wrough iron gate has some intricate wording that reads as “Ave Maria, sense pecat fou concebuda” (Hail Mary, conceived without sin”). It was a common greeting in those times, and it’s still used by nuns in convents.
The window over such door looks like a star. One of its possible interpretations is that it represents the Star of Christmas. The Virgin Mary is often referred as “Stella Maris”, Star of the Sea. However, other theories connect the window meaning with King Martin the Human.
Planning your visit of Bellesguard Gaudi
The visit of the Bellesguard Tower (Barcelona, Spain), starts as you enter the property. The path from the street turns towards the left where you enter a small courtyard surrounded by what looks like some medieval walls: that’s what’s left from the original medieval castle.
If you look around over the gates you’ll find what looks like coats of arms: a raising sun and a woman’s face covering her eyes to protect them from the excess of light (remember that “esguard” means “view or sight” in Catalan). There’s also Roman numbers: 1409 and 1919, the year King martin arrived to Bellesguard and the year Antoni Gaudi completed the works.
Other elements of the garden include a seating area with ceramic benches and a fountain, and the spaces where the stables and a small chapel used to be.
Exterior of Bellesguard Tower
This is because of his inspiration in medieval architecture: Gothic wants to reach the heavens and approach God.
Pay also attention to the stones that cover the entire house: it’s local limestone chosen by Gaudi to integrate with what used to be the surrounding countryside (now you’ll have to imagine it, because the neighboring area is all built up). He plays with the shades of the stones to break the monochrome effect.
Another trick to break the monotony is the use of the drainage pipes down the side wall, also covered in different shades of limestone. Approach the house to see the white ceramic benches with the fish mosaics, and the intricate wrought iron work of the gate.
Inside of Casa Bellesguard
As you go upstairs, you get a closer view of the impressive stained glass lamp hanging in the middle of the stairwell. A small balcony allowed you to see who was outside knocking at the door without been seen, and now it gives you a good view of the star window.
The second floor allows you to see a couple of empty rooms to get an idea of the distribution of the interior spaces. The ceiling beams covered in plaster look like veins of a giant leave.
The next floor is called the “Music Room” because it was supposed to be a place to organize concerts. It was obviously left unfinished due to Ms. Figueres money issues: the bricks of the structure weren’t plastered, and in some pillars you can still find pencil marks left by Gaudi as indications to his workers.
The Rooftop: Bellesguard & Barcelona at your feet
As you continue upstairs, the staircase becomes narrower, either because only the service was meant to go up, or because Gaudi wants to mimic the defensive architecture of a medieval castle.
The rooftop is divided in a series of terraces and balconies, and from the top one you get to see a breathtaking 360º view of Barcelona. But the most fun part is the lower level: from the furthest corner and with some imagination, the windows become the eyes and nostrils of a giant dragon, and the tower becomes its tail.
Bellesguard Gaudi information
HOW TO GET THERE: Buses 196 and 123 (connect with them via L7 of the FGC, and buses V15 and V17). The Tourist Bus routes leave you some 10 minutes walk from it, uphill.
AVERAGE VISIT TIME: 1 hour
BONUS: Things to do in the vicinity of Torre Bellesguard
- Check out the viaduct (column bridge) that Gaudi built under the road to protect the castle ruins. It’s very similar to one in Park Guell! Entrance through a ramp on Veleta d’Arquer street.
- Visit the Cosmocaixa Science Museum.
- Take the Cuca de llum funicular to the Tibidabo Mountain.
- Take a break in the Tamarita Gardens.
- Eat gourmet churros in Coma Churros or one of the best croissants in the city in Pastisseria Canal.
Will you visit Torre Bellesguard (Casa Figueres) when in Barcelona?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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Last update on 2022-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API