Saint Paul Hospital or how to heal in paradise
One of the most impressive and least visited monuments in Barcelona is the Hospital de Saint Paul, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
On January 15, 1902, work began on the new Hospital de la Santa Creu. The old building at the ancient city had become small and obsolete due to the growing population and the tropical diseases brought by the fighters returning from the colonies. The name of the Holy Cross that carried the medieval hospital was added to that of Saint Paul, remembering the great benefactor of the hospital, Pau Gil.
Pau (Paul in catalan) Gil, owner of the Bank Gil in Paris, died childless in 1896. In his inheritance, he commissioned two parts of the money obtained from the settlement of the bank. One part should be given among all his nephews, and the other, about four million pesetas, should be used to build a new hospital in Barcelona.
The most modern hospital possible to build
The hospital had to be divided into pavilions, following the model of those being built in Europe at the time. In 1903, 12 of the 48 pavilions that the prestigious architec Lluís Domènech i Muntaner had designed, were already under construction. They ended up doing 27.
But Pau Gil was not the only benefactor. His money ran out in 1910, and although there were a few more donors, the project couldn’t be completed.
This situation, however, finally began to change in the summer of 1920. The MIA, the body in charge of managing the Hospital, launched a real public appeal. The painter Joan Llimona was asked for help, who gave a color drawing with an image that spoke by itself: from the door of the Hospital, one of the nuns who cared for the sick, looked sad as an old man supported in his daughter walking home after seeing a sign hanging on the door: “There are no beds.”
Questing more money
A good number of copies of this drawing were made and placed in the parishes of all the districts of the city. Many notaries hung the lithograph in his office, so that when people went to make a will, they could not forget the needs of the hospital.
The impetus given, although not enough to finish the works, was enough to finish some of the pavilions. This allowed the transfer of the old Raval hospital to the new Saint Paul Hospital.
In addition, this move made it possible to sell the old hospital to the City Council. With that sale, they did get enough money to finish the hospital.
In 1928 King Alfonso XIII attended its inauguration. The king’s phrase is famous when he saw the whole enclosure: “The people of Barcelona are very curious, you make a palace for the sick and you put your king in the stables”.
Looks like he wasn’t the only one impressed with the hospital. Not long ago, the bourgeoisie of Barcelona, led by the Güells, had given him a palace on the estate that the family had in Pedralbes and the king did not like this new royal palace in the city.
But we’ll talk about that another day.
Do not hesitate to visit the Saint Paul Hospital on your next visit to Barcelona. You can dedicate an exclusive time or combine it with the visit of the nearby Sagrada Familia. It will surely take time to forget it.