Episcopal palace of Astorga (1889-1893)

In January 1887, Gaudí was called to Astorga by Bishop Joan Baptista Grau i Vallespinós, who had just seen to blaze the episcopal palace. Gaudi was grateful to his countryman. He wrote on Feb. 8, 1887 to express their gratitude and warning him that he was very busy with the Sagrada Família and the Güell house, and that he could not travel to Astorga to finish the home of his wealthy admirer. He sent therefore a questionnaire to find a letter containing information essential to the development of the project. Gaudí took a few months in the project of the new episcopal palace of Astorga. In July 1887 sent by mail and Dr. Grau was quick to send a telegram: "It likes a lot. Congratulations. I wait letter." The identification between the two Reus men was total in undertaking the adventure. The budget amounted to 150,000 pesetas. Under the concordat, it was paying to the Government of S. M., and therefore was mandatory approval of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, which was a long pending. The Academy appointed as reporter to the Marquis de Cubas, the architect of La Almudena cathedral in Madrid, who, given their limited technical and artistic taste reprehensible, was clearly not very qualified to understand the technical revolution and the artistic genius of the young architect Gaudí. Thus, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando brought great difficulties to the project and demanded to Gaudí a number of changes, that unlike much to the architect. However, for friendship with Dr. Grau, Gaudí went ahead and June 24, 1889 was solemnly the first stone. The building is to be a symbiosis of bishop temple and seigniorial castle. Its interior and exterior forms, drawn by Berenguer in the distant release of the Sagrada Família, are incredibly Spanish at all and, in turn, beyond any of the typical fickle when Spanish architecture lapses or degenerates; the result is a precise and exquisite intimate knowledge of the soul of Spain who had the Catalan Gaudí. During the summer and autumn of 1889, it was made the basement. It is a single stay, a gigantic cave of impressive beauty, heightened by the darkness that invades. The following year, 1890, it was built the ground floor. Its most characteristic element is the triple arc of the entry, which was personally assembled by Gaudí. Between 1891 and 1893, Gaudí took the main floor. This plant so wonderful is that Gaudí properly understood as a "palace or the residence of the bishop" for his friend Dr. Grau. The decor is very nice and the key and essential piece is the chapel. This has exquisite proportions and a delicate execution, which invites the sensitive soul to pray. In the outer towers, Gaudí recorded the coats of Mons. Grau i Vallespinós. The architect was traveling frequently to Astorga, where he was badly received by the forces of the small town, but very well received by Dr. Grau. They criticized Gaudi for having two managers and the architect was defended: -I do like the opera manager who had two tenors in the company and asked him why he did: to the other sings. On September 18, 1893, Dr. Grau died and this led to the interruption of the works. Gaudí resigned on November 4, 1893, and to leave expelled by the Chapter and by public opinion, the Catalan architect said the following sentence prophetic, which was settled by the case: "They will be unable to finish it and capable of leaving interrupted." Indeed, the Chapter sought new professionals, who could not overcome the enormous difficulty of making the architectural elements half build with the encouragement coming out of the hands of Gaudí, and also failed to understand what he had done technically and filled to continue. Thus, when removing a wall, the vaults collapsed, which was used to disclose to the four winds that Gaudí was an incompetent. The works were suspended indefinitely. Many years later, it was ended up with a decent deck, but not very Gaudí. The building houses since 1962 the Museum of Roads.

Josep Maria Tarragona, December 9, 2008

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Last update: 06/05/2016