Gaudi was fifty years old when he started work on the project with his patron Eusebi Guell. Now with an established style as an architect, we can be fairly confident that everything he built inside had a specific meaning, reflecting his political, social and religious views and those of his friend Eusebi.
As a visitor we can marvel at the bright ceramics and curvaceous stonework, but within the design there is so much mystery and symbolism packed into these few acres on Mount Pelat, Dan Brown would have a field day. Of course there is no written record of the Catalan master’s actual intentions which just adds to its mystique.
If you approach the park from Carrer d’Olot, the iconised wall leads you towards the two pavilions that ‘guard’ the entrance. These brightly coloured buildings have often been described as looking like gingerbread houses and that might just be spot on.
Englebert Humperdinck’s ‘Hansel and Gretel‘ the opera was playing at the Liceu at the same time work on the park commenced. Could the evil-looking mushroom on the roof of the right-hand house suggest a wicked witch might live here? Might the blue and white theme on the left-hand house be a nod to the flag of Bavaria and Ludwig II, the money behind Richard Wagner, the German composer that hinted in his opera Parsifal that the Holy Grail was hidden in Catalonia? Gaudi knew Humperdinck and Englebert worked with Wagner on Parsifal. Are we supposed to pass between good and evil as we enter the park?
If you have watched a news report about the Catalan independence debate, you should have no problem with recognising the Senyera in the shape of a shield as you climb the steps. Next you encounter the ‘dragon’. Of course, a nod to Sant Jordi, you might think, but doesn’t it look more like a lizard than a dragon? Eusebi Guell spent time living in Nimes, the one time northern most city of Old Catalonia and twinned with Barcelona. Guess what is on the crest of Nimes? A crocodile and a palm tree. Food for thought. Is Gaudi inviting us to tour the history of Catalonia?
The park is a fabulous place to visit, but is always busy. To get access to the famous mosaic bench (that inspired Miró), the 86 doric columns that inhabit the covered marketplace and the stairway, you will need to buy a ticket. It is not expensive, but there are set times, so plan ahead and get your ticket online beforehand. The ‘free’ bit is also worth a stroll. There is the house Gaudi lived in during construction and musicians playing in shaded grottos.
Finally make the climb to the highest point of the park. Gaudi planned a small church here, but only three crosses were erected. The view is spectacular and here we find the final piece of Gaudi magic. Look towards the East and the ‘Holy Land’ and see what happens to the crosses.
VISITING PARK GUELL
Always buy tickets in advance. It is not the easiest place to get to in Barcelona, so make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the Park. There is an official bus that leaves from Alfons X (Metro L4) or grab a local micro-bus, number 116, that leaves from the stop on Carrer de l’Escorial 20, right beside Plaça Joanic (Metro L4).