You Must See Sant Pau

For those who think they have already seen Modernista Barcelona

About Hospital de Sant Pau

The Hospital de la Sant Creu i Sant Pau has always been decisive in the development of medicine, teaching, pharmacy and the internal organisation of caring for the sick as individuals. It was one of the first hospitals welfare and quality of life to the concept of hygiene and it subsequently created a new hospital model with its Lluís Domènech i Montaner building.

The origins

The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Foundation dates back to 1401, when the Consell de Cent (the old City Council) and the Capítol Catedralici (Cathedral Chapter) commissioned the building of the Hospital de la Santa Creu to care for people without resources living off charity. Thanks to a bequest from the banker Pau Gil at the beginning of the 20th century and contributions from Barcelona City Council, building work on the new hospital was able to start in 1902. It had been designed to meet the health needs of a city with a rapidly growing population. The architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner with the new project and the hospital was officially opened in 1930 as the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

By the end of the 19th century, the Hospital de la Santa Creu could no longer cope with Barcelona's population growth or accommodate the advances taking place in medicine. This new reality meant a new hospital had to be built to meet the city's healthcare needs. It was just at this time that Barcelona was undergoing a major urban redevelopment project: the demolition of the city walls and the creation of the new Eixample district designed by Ildefons Cerdà.

It was also around this time, in 1896, that Pau Gil i Serra died. A wealthy banker from a Catalan bourgeois family who had emigrated to Paris, he bequeathed some of his fortune for the construction of a new hospital in Barcelona, the Hospital de Sant Pau. His will stipulated, among other things, that the building had to be the best hospital from technological, medical and architectural points of view, and that it had to bear his name.

As a result, the Hospital de la Santa Creu Board and the executors of Pau Gil's will joined forces and agreed to build the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a project that solved the healthcare crisis in the city and its environs. The architect commissioned for the job was Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850-1923), a major figure in the Catalan Art Nouveau movement known as Modernisme.

Building work on the hospital's current site began in 1902.

Domènech i Montaner took his inspiration from the trends set by the best hospitals in Europe (a centralised hospital with one building or a hospital divided up into several pavilions). The architect was a visionary in that respect and, with the latest trends in hygiene and public health applied to urban development, he created a hospital divided up into pavilions connected by underground corridors, making it unique in the world.

Domènech had the hospital complex built following a section of his own urban development plan. This design allowed him to create a separate, independent, closed space, with a life of its own, in Barcelona. He designed a kind of "garden-city" to house a brand new hospital model: human, modern and functional but also aesthetically beautiful. That was an innovation at the time seeing as no one had thought it necessary, until then, to have open spaces for the use and wellbeing of patients.

The twelve pavilions by Domènech i Montaner were conceived in isolation, with different medical specialities assigned to each one, but linked together by underground passageways. Time has shown that this was not only the right solution, but that it was vital for the functioning of the hospital site as a whole. The general criteria followed in building the twelve pavilions was to have a transverse structure with light, ventilation and decoration in the wards.

As a Modernista architect, Domènech i Montaner designed a project that integrated every part of the building, which even took industrial applied arts into account. From his architectural standpoint he tried to solve functional problems relating to hospital hygiene and to ensure good medical practice.

The hospital was officially opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1930

Pau Gil i Serra, the patron

Pau Gil i Serra, the patron.

Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the architect.

Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the architect.

Official opening of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau by King Alfonso XIII, on 16 January 1930

Official opening of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau by King Alfonso XIII, on 16 January 1930.

Every great work hails from a great creator. Hospital de Sant Pau was created under unique circumstances: a very large financial donation, the birth of Modernisme and the talent of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, whose character and works sum up the creative and cultural impulse of the period. The Hospital de Sant Pau, will be his supreme achievement, alongside the Palau de la Música.

Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1849-1923) was born in Barcelona just when the city was seeing the effects of its first industrial revolution and a restlessness for renewal. The demolition of the city walls in 1854, the appearance of theories on hygiene after 1850 and the impulse of the new design schools were just a few of the factors that shaped the panorama of a city developing at the same pace as Europe's other major cities, such as Paris, Prague, Munich and Vienna. It was in this context that the Catalan political Renaissance arose, with its "Regenerationist" ideas, a movement Domènech i Montaner was directly involved in.

When he received the commission for the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau project, he was already a well-known figure with a notable public and political career behind him.

He grew up in a well-do-do, cultured and liberal middle-class family. His father was a bookbinder for limited-edition books, and it was in his workshop that Domènech acquired the taste for meticulous work. He studied exact, physical and natural sciences in Barcelona and then engineering in Madrid. Finally he studied architecture, graduating in 1873. From when it was set up in 1875 he taught at the Barcelona School of Architecture (teaching Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch, Raspall, Oms, Falguera and Jujol) and from 1900 to 1920 he was the school's director. With the publication in La Renaixença in 1879of the article "En busca de una arquitectura nacional" [In Search of a National Architecture] he acquired a certain fame as an art theoretician and populariser of the latest ideas in architecture.

He was a man of many talents who combined his passion for drawing with literature, history, publishing limited editions, botany, teaching, politics and architecture.

He understood architecture as something akin to conducting an orchestra. He held the baton while all the instruments (the glaziers, sculptors, carpenters, mosaic and flooring manufacturers, etc.) had to sound perfect. He himself took charge of designing all the elements, be they decorations on the tiles or sculptures for crowning the pavilions. He worked with an ardent, passionate language, that left nothing to chance, where each element transmitted a thought, an idea, a suggestion, and each part was designed to fit perfectly into the whole in terms of its function and structural representation.

The architect's three best-known masterpieces are: theInstitut Pere Mata, the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

Per més informació:
"In Search of a National Architecture".
Published in the magazine La Renaixença (1978).

Lluís Domènech i Montaner, at the Hospital de Sant Pau Administration Pavilion.

Lluís Domènech i Montaner, at the Hospital de Sant Pau Administration Pavilion.
© Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. Francesc Serra

Palau de la Música Catalana.

Palau de la Música Catalana.
Foto: Josep Renalias

Institut Pere Mata

Institut Pere Mata.

"Only societies without strong and ideas, without fixed ideas, that live fluctuating between thinking today and yesterday, without faith in tomorrow, only those societies do not write in enduring monuments of its history"

Lluís Domènech i Montaner,
"In Search of a National Architecture".
Published by the journal La Renaixença (1978).

Now that all the healthcare activity has been transferred to the new hospital, Sant Pau is entering a new period: the restoration and renovation of the Art Nouveau pavilions and the launch of a knowledge and innovation centre that can give a new strategic impulse to the city of Barcelona and Catalan society.

The Board of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Private Foundation is driving the creation of a knowledge and innovation centre with an international, national and local scope. Different organisations working in the fields of education, sustainability and health will be present in this project. Thus, Sant Pau is offering a new and unique space to the city, a place where the interaction between economic, academic and social agents will be possible.

The attraction of talent, knowledge dissemination and innovation are the main elements of this initiative, which will turn the Art Nouveau Site into an international hub bringing together organisations such as the International Institute of the United Nations University (UNU), the European Forest Institute (EFI), the Global Water Operators' Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), the UN-HABITAT City Resilience Profiling Programme and BIOCAT.

Further information:

Renovating the Administration Pavilion

Renovating the Administration Pavilion.
Foto: Fundació Privada Hospital de Sant Pau
P. Virgili - R. Ramos

The Sant Jordi Pavilion interior.

The Sant Jordi Pavilion interior.
Foto: Fundació Privada Hospital de Sant Pau
P. Virgili - R. Ramos

© 2012 Barcelona City Council | Credits and acknowledgments

  • Ruta del Modernisme
  • Fundació Privada de l'Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau - Recinte Històric
  • Patrimoni Mundial UNESCO