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Colonia GŁell crypt from inside

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Barcelona has stablished itself as one of the world's art-noveau capitals, and a showcase for the home-grown style known as modernisme, made famous by Gaudí. La Pedrera, the Sagrada Família and Park Güell are just some of the major examples of his legacy. Another outstanding landmark, steeped in mystery, is the spectacular Colònia Güell crypt in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, just a short distance away from Barcelona

Like many of Gaudi's buildings, the crypt was commissioned by his patron, Count Eusebi Güell, for whom he had previously designed the Palau Güell and Park Güell. In this case, Gaudí's brief was quite different.

He was asked to design a religious complex in the industrial village owned by the count, where the workers from his textile mill lived. However, the final project consisted of a church, which became known as the church of the crooked columns. Indeed, the first thing that attracts your attention is the sloping angle of the columns. Gaudí used a revolutionary system of weights in order to build a series of pillars that look as if they could collapse at any time, but make it possible to see the altar from anywhere in the crypt. To avoid any miscalculations, Gaudí made a preliminary model of the church consisting of ropes and little bags of birdshot moulded from organic forms

The crypt is full of little details. The rustic style of the façade comes as a surprise, but it was Gaudí's intention for it to integrate perfectly with the landscape. Inside the crypt, most of the windows are protected by fine mesh which was woven at the textile mill. And there are other elements that remind us of the origins of the crypt, such as the wrought-ironwork tucked away in corners which recreates folds or fabric. Gaudí even designed the benches in the crypt, to make sure the workers sat properly and wouldn't make themselves too comfortable

The Güell crypt isn't just an example of the communion between architecture and nature, or mathematical balance. For Gaudí it was a trial run before he began work on what many consider to be his most important building: the still unfinished Sagrada Família

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