Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is probably the most beautiful hospital I’ve ever visited.
The original name of the hospital was Hospital de la Santa Creu (Hospital of the Holy Cross) when it was founded in 1401. The name “Sant Pau” was later added after Mr. Pau Gil, a millionaire banker who was born in Barcelona, donated money to build the new buildings and complex between 1901 and 1930. So the full name of the former hospital is Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, known in English as Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul. The history of the hospital was recorded by the mosaic design in one of the existing seminar rooms.
For his generosity, Mr. Pau Gil was honoured by having his name on the ceiling of the Administration block.
I mentioned the word “former hospital” because it was operational until 2009. The charity hospital moved to the new building in the plot of land next to the existing structure.
Hospital de Sant Pau was constructed in the modernista style by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner with his trademark of using mosaics. We could not believe a hospital can be so pretty!
We took a 1 hour guided tour which cost €16 per pax. It turned out to be money well spent in my opinion. We were told stories and facts which probably not many people know about. For example:
1) There is an underground tunnel system connecting the 6 buildings including the administration block, operating rooms block, male and female wards and the nuns’ quarters.
2) If you walk around the hospital, you will see a lot of tiled walls. And if you take a closer look, the corners of those tiled walls are curved. We were told that this allowed the nuns back then to easily clean the wall tiles. How clever!
3) The St Raphael pavilion is the most intact pavilion with original decorations dated back to 1901-1930. The other pavilions have had modifications / refurbishments carried out so it is not possible to trace back the history in them any longer.
4) Our guide explained that before antibiotics was invented, the nuns had to clean, disinfect and sterilise the floor and walls inside the pavilion to prevent patients from getting infections. The wall tiles had to be constructed with curves at the corners so that they can be easily cleaned (see the link here and point 2 above?).
5) In the pavilion, we saw a lot of green mosaics and tiles being used. We were told that since the hospital was a Catholic hospital and green colour in the wards symbolises ‘green for hope’ in Catholic, it was used to bring hope to the patients.
6) In the same pavilion, one will see blue tiles and mosaics in the existing toilet. However, before it was converted into a toilet it was a bath-room. The bath-room in the wards were used by the nuns to bathe the patients. Therefore the colour blue was to symbolise water. It was literally a BATHROOM.
7) Once we were outside, we stood next to the former operating theatre building. Back in the days when there was limited and unstable supply of electricity, the operating theatre used frosted glass to allow maximum natural light into the room. Frosted glass also prevent people from peeping into the operating theatre. Brilliant!
8) The hospital now houses an art school and the Biblioteca de Catalunya (National Library of Catalonia). Some of its rooms are rented out for companies to hold seminars and even for people who want to hold their weddings. Eeerrr…. it may be really beautiful but would you want to hold your wedding in a former hospital??
With the extensive use of marble and mosaic, Hospital de Sant Pau is truly an amazing piece of architecture and art wherever you go within the complex.
Hospital de Sant Pau is currently being restored for use as a museum and cultural center. It still gives tours several times a day in different languages during this period. It is my sincere recommendation that a visitor to Barcelona take some time to tour around the hospital. I cannot emphasize how beautiful it is (for a former hospital) and you do get a break from all the quirky Gaudi architecture all around Barcelona.
If you do wish to visit, remember to make an advance booking for the guided tour online here since I believe the guided tour group is quite small. Here are some more photos for you to enjoy.
Have you visited this former hospital in Barcelona? Also read my tips on visiting the Sagrada Familia here.