Còlonia Güell Church (The Crypt) by Antoni Gaudí


Antonio Gaudí. 1852 – 1926

He worked for the Colonia Güell from 1888 to 1917 (29 years old)

Dedication to the New Church 1898 – 1917 (19 years). This period has four stages:

1. 1898 – 1903. Preliminary studies and first model in the basement of Can Soler de la Torre.

2. 1903 – 1908. He continues the calculations and construction of the polyfunicular model in the new studio built next to the land on which the church will be built.

3. 1908 – 1914. Construction of the Crypt and floor plan of the Church. In October 1914 he signed the last weekly invoice, and he controlled the works of adaptation of the Crypt as a church through his managers.

4. 1914 – 1917. Adaptation works of the interior of the Crypt. Construction of two terraces on the pavement of the upper church for its protection, and in February 1917, on the occasion of the Holy Mission, the terraces were covered with a Uralite roof in order to prevent water leaks.

Historical Context:

  • Second and Third Carlist Wars.
  • First Republic.
  • Loss of overseas territories. Philippines and Cuba.
  • Social movements. Ter strikes in 1888 and Llobregat in 1890.
  • Industrial Revolution. Great scientific and technological development.
  • Renaixença. Federalism. Modernism.
  • Beginning and end of the political Renaixença.

The dissolution of the Republican Cortes in 1874 led to the emergence of Catalanist groups, while the conservative classes evolved towards regionalism (Prat de la Riba founded the Catalan National Centre)

In 1885 Alfonso XII received the famous “Memorial of Grievances” where the Catalan situation was denounced. In 1889, the representatives of the League of Catalonia carried out a campaign against the disappearance of Catalan Civil Law.

From 1901 a new party – the Regionalist League – with Francesc Cambó, centralised political activity in Catalonia. The monarchy felt threatened by “regionalist” ideas and took advantage of the demagogy of Alexandre Lerroux and the pressure of the military.

The reaction of the political forces in Catalonia resulted in the creation of Catalan Solidarity (1906), a coalition of the Partakers led by the League.

In 1909 the tragic events known as the “Tragic Week” took place and a year later the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) was founded, bringing together trade unionists and anarchists. These events put a brake on the dynamics of Catalonia.

Enric Prat de la Riba, president of the Barcelona Provincial Council, tried to remedy this and in 1913 managed to get Madrid to approve the Commonwealth of Catalonia.

In 1923, Captain Miguel Primo de Rivera took power and imposed the dictatorship. He eliminates the Commonwealth and the League loses its power.

Emergence of Industrial Colonies:

The characteristics of the moment and its circumstances that allow them to appear are:

– Tax exemptions for industrial complexes that achieve the status of Cologne due to their characteristics.

-Need for cheap energy (hydro and coal). They are built near rivers and mines.

– Moving away from the hotbeds of labour conflict in the big cities.

-Appearance of the industrial entrepreneur (El Amo), industrialists of the high bourgeoisie of the time, with manufacturing, labor and commercial experience.

-Workers. Those from the region are sought.

The technicians and specialists (labor aristocracy) are brought from Barcelona.

Eusebi Güell (Count Güell)

It is said that he was the paradigm of the Catalan textile industry.

He had an excellent technical, economic and cultural background, with experience abroad (Germany, England and France). In addition to a large family fortune both he and his wife. (Hereu and Pubilla).

He was an international merchant, an industrialist advanced in new technologies, a politician and founder of the Regionalist League with Prat de la Riba, of which Gaudí was a member.

Patron. (Verdaguer and Gaudí among others). In 1878 they met Antoni Gaudí, after being amazed by a display case for the Comella glove shop that he exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.

He was a forerunner of teaching Catalan in his schools in Colonia Güell.

Promoter of the Olympic movement and sport (Swedish gymnastics, football and rugby) creating in the Colony the gymnasium, football and rugby field (Origin of the Sanboyana)

Your currency. “Discipline. Work. Family.”

Social policy. He attempts to apply Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” of 1891.

His search for Social Peace led him to build a type of colony to which he provided the services that would facilitate improvements in the dignified life of his workers, and for this he built:

– Individual houses differentiated for each family. (decent space to live in).

– Schools (education supervised by the church, but with highly qualified secular teachers) In 1915 there were no illiterates in Colonia Güell.


– Downtown St. Louis.

– Ateneo La Unión.

– Fontova Theatre.

– Football field… etc.

– Nursery, run by nuns.


– Medical dispensary



His sons did everything they could to mitigate the unrest that existed among the workers who did not adapt to the new rules of the “master”, and in this industrial colony, this magnificent Church (Crypt 1908-1914) was erected by the architect Antoni Gaudí.

In fact, for 10 years he did not do any construction, but dedicated himself to building a meticulous wooden model that he hung from the ceiling of his studio located in a shed next to the future building. It measured 6 meters by 8 meters long, built with fabrics and ropes that in turn support a weight to calculate on a scale of 1:100 the weight that the columns would have to support. The law of gravity is respected by designing catenary arches and hooking pebbles as weight on the strings, creating hyperbolic paraboloids.

Synthesis of the model.

An architectural model is the three-dimensional representation of a building, made with various materials, at a predetermined scale, which allows us to have a knowledge of its structure and the appearance of the building once built. In the case of Gaudí’s works, they can be disassembled, which facilitates precise knowledge of each of their parts and elements that make them up.

In the case of Gaudí’s polyfunicular model (i.e., made by wires, strings or chains), its purpose is to study the stability of the church, seeking that the model gives us and reflects the structural system of the building.

The construction of the model of the church of Colonia Güell, according to the data and documentation we have, is carried out in four well-defined stages.

During the Civil War (1936) the textile factory was collectivized for the war, with the Güell family recovering it in 1945 and selling it to another family of industrialists, closing it definitively with the crisis of the sector in 1973.

Francesc Berenguer i Mestre and Joan Rubió, influenced by the modernist movement, carried out the architectural project that Antoni Gaudí rejected because he did not have enough time and freedom to carry it out. However, he was in charge of the Church and the Crypt: which consists in addition to the organ, 20 modernist wooden benches, majestic stained glass windows in the shape of butterflies, a great symbology in the decoration, even of unknown structures and tunnels.

The school in this colony was only for boys and 10 years later the school for girls was rebuilt. Illiteracy was three times higher in the latter. They only learned to add and subtract and the nuns of the convent were in charge of teaching.

They taught embroidery so that they could earn a living, a very respectable craft that many of our grandmothers did. The Crypt of Colonia Güell was not begun until 1908, with an ambitious project that envisaged a church with two naves, but it would turn out to be unfinished. When he was relegated from the project in 1915, Antoni Gaudí never set foot in the church again and refused the invitation made by Mr. Gaudí. Eusebi Güell on the day of its inauguration.

Despite the fact that he was the architect’s main patron. Thanks to this, his surname was known internationally, with works such as the Güell Palace, the Güell Cellars, the Güell Pavilions or the Güell Park.

The law of gravity is respected by designing catenary arches.

The Alpha and Omega symbology are observed as the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet, which represents that God is one whole. And the symbology of fish, which in ancient Greek is “Ichthys” or “Ichthus. Represented by two curved lines, it was used as a secret code by the Christians who were brutally persecuted by the Romans who believed in several gods and repudiated Christian monotheism, ending the lives of all those who dared to be so, and therefore identified themselves by drawing this “fish” on the ground, as a secret code.

The irons of the windows are part of the threads that Antoni Gaudí kept to join them later.

The material of the wall is recycled brick (which was thrown away by the factories) and kept for himself, and iron cast carrion, as well as basalt and limestone stones, ceramics, glass and wrought iron combine their textures and colours to achieve an integration of the building with its surroundings. Inspired by nature, pineapples, butterflies, mountains, the church is gradually built in honor of the workers who ran it.
Thank you for the contribution of documentation and some texts by Don Manuel Menarde Sagrera.