Barcelona, the mother city for Dragons
Numerous versions of this mythological animal that share Sant George´s legend come together in the city of Barcelona
Legend has it that the knight, Sant George, patron saint of Catalonia, killed a fierce dragon that was about to devour the Cleodolinda maid. Either by linking the city with the legend or not, the fact is that Barcelona is full of dragons of multiple types. With wings or without, to look more or less threatening, in frames, lamps, door handles, door thresholds or whatever space was suitable for the sculptors and architects geniuses to put their work into shape.
Who has not visited the Ramblas and was left surprised by the Chinese Dragon Casa Bruno Cuadros? It was in 1883 when Josep Vilaseca who is responsible for the renovation of the building and who incorporated moderism details of which at that time was then beginning, including the wrought iron Chinese dragon that stands so majestically on the corner over the old umbrella shop. Without leaving the Ciutat Vella, in Saint Jaume´s square, there stands the Palace, now the City Hall building and since 1872 there is a sculpture by Andreu Aleu representing the Allegory of Saint George slaying the dragon on the front door.
However, it is Eixample district where most dragons are depicted, especially given the large number of modernist era buildings hosted there. According to historian Joan Bassegoda, the interest from modernist architects in this figure, reflects the attraction to that there is related to the mythological aspect and neo fusion with exotic elements. The great modernist architects of the city represented the Dragon in at least one of their buildings. Puig i Cadafalch included this magestic figure in several of his most famous pieces of work, such as Casa Terrades, better known as Casa de les Punxes. Specifically in one of the large panels of tiles that crowns this castle-like building, located on the Diagonal Avenue. A ceiling which presents Saint George slaying the dragon with the inscription “Sant Patró de Catalunya, llibertat torneu-us” (“Patron Saint of Catalonia, give us back our freedom”). Cadafalch also decided to include several dragons in Amatller house´s decorations, mainly among the sculpture which is located between the two arches of its door, the work of which was done by Eusebi Arnau.
Meanwhile, Domènech i Montaner, Café-restaurant built in 1888 for the Universal Exhibition of 1888, better known as Castell dels Tres Dragons (Castle of the Three Dragons), a name adopted from the popular comedian Frederic Soler from 1865, Castell dels Tres Dragons (Castle of the Three Dragons) signed by the author under the pseudonym Serafí Pitarra and became a hit at the time by parodying the romantic dramas of medieval times.
It was Antoni Gaudí who most innovated in the iconography of the dragon though. Notably represented at Güell Manor in Park Güell and of course, Casa Batllo. In the first two, commissioned by Count Güell, it clearly refers to the Renaissance and ideas which involved the movement: Catalan, mythology and religion. Thus, the wrought iron dragon that dominates the entrance to the Güell Manor was to be a Ladon, the fierce guardian, according to the poem L’Atlantida, dedicated to the Marquis of Comillas, the Count Güell´s father in law, from Jacinto Verdaguer, was located at the entrance of the Garden of the Hesperides and was slain by Hercules. Instead, the colorful dragon at Güell Park was to be a Python, a Snake Temple of the Delphic oracle, who was killed by Apollo, who buried him in the basement of the temple, and ended up becoming protector of the groundwater. This link with Greek mythology is particularly important to keep in mind. On the one hand this dragon is on the water tanks which Gaudí looked for to be in this park, and secondly for the use of Doric columns both in the work of Gaudí and Delphi´s Temple.
However, at Casa Batllo where Antoni Gaudí was beyond the mythological allusion to this animal, converting the building into the living representation of the legend of Saint George and shaped in the building´s face, one of the most popular stories of the Catalan people. Antoni Gaudí designed the roof with the shape of the back of the large animal, it is covered with ceramic scales ceramic in different shades symbolizing the blood shed of the victims. He also ordered a cross to crown the facade as if it were a sword alluding to when the noble knight saved the princess from the fearsome dragon.
Saint George, besides being the patron saint of Catalonia, is today a symbol of love, culture and victory; a vivid impression on the memory of an entire village. It is for this reason that every April 23, Catalonia is a sea of feelings, a special day, when the whole city comes to life.
Live Sant George at Casa Batlló!