At the end of the 19th century, in 1887, a young architect who had never left Barcelona crossed the peninsula to build a textile warehouse in León. His name was Antonio Gaudí, and the building was to become the Casa Botines. In fact, Gaudí received two commissions in León, the construction of a new Episcopal Palace in Astorga (commissioned by his fellow countryman Joan Baptista Grau) and the Casa Botines, in León. The latter is now a museum with a collection of Goya’s Caprichos and paintings by artists such as Sorolla and Ramón Casas, among others. It is possible to visit Gaudí’s rooftop terrace and tower, with a beautiful view of León. It also has a library “Professor César García Álvarez” which consists of about 2000 volumes and specializes in Art History and Museology, as well as having a special collection dedicated to Gaudí.
It currently consists of two exhibitions about Gaudí:
- Gaudí, the architect of dreams. An exhibition space about the life and work of the genius of modernism.
In this link you can learn more about the exhibition: https://www.casabotines.es/visita/
The curious thing is that, in one of the plans of the building elevation, scale 1:100, which is dated in Barcelona, December 1891, where you can clearly appreciate the idea of the master about the figure that he had planned to place in the future construction, was that the figure of St Jordi. And today it is known that the modeling of the Sant Jordi was done in Barcelona in 1892, by the faithful collaborator of the Catalan architect for many years, Lorenzo Matamala Piñol 1856-1927, modeled by the sculptor himself, while the dragon was taken from one of those that were placed in the buttresses of the Sagrada Familia.
In 1893, 42 years later, it was agreed to repair the stone figure of Sant Jordi, over the main door”, this was not enough in 1952, “the state of decomposition of the stone, with very deep cracks in the parts with the most pronounced relief, the head of the saint and the dragon, arms and legs”. no longer contemplated “the possibility of repair”, it was agreed, without further delay, “to proceed to dismantle the figure of Sant Jordi.
And it was when the sculptural group was dismantled, in December 1952, when it took place the happy discovery of a lead tube containing the only two existing plans of “Casa Botines” plan and elevation signed by the master; several copies of the newspaper “El Campeón” of January and February 1892, with news about the site where Gaudí finally worked; and the famous “acta” of the building, in which the promoters of the work, Mr. Fernández and Mr. Andrés, left detailed record of the schedule of the construction, as well as those responsible for it, in all its facets.
The time had come for the figure of the Catalan patron saint to be placed again on the façade of “Casa Botines”, and as we know from precise testimonies that have come down to us today, collected mostly in the press of the time, the replacement of the Sant Jordi took place between June 2 and 8, 1956, two days before the 30th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
Gaudí already showed, in the plan signed in December 1891, his intention to place the sculptural group of “Sant Jordi and the dragon” on the south or main façade of “Casa Botines”.
Who left that lead pipe inside the statue of St. Jordi? And why, is a mystery that remains unraveled.