Episcopal Palace of Astorga, by Gaudi

The Episcopal Palace of Astorga is a modernist building designed by Antonio Gaudi in the neo-Gothic style. Both a fairytale palace and a castle, it was built in the late 1800’s, after the previous palace burned down. Gaudi chose granite from El Bierzo, which provides a beautiful contrast with the Roman walls and the red sandstone of the Cathedral.

B&W image of the Episcopal Palace of Astorga

B&W image of the Episcopal Palace of Astorga

The genius of Gaudi embraces the visitor from the entrance, with three twin arches that become buttresses (or viceversa?). Without the four cylindrical towers, the building could well be a castle, or so the ditch suggests (the truth is the ditch was the way Gaudi found to bring natural light into the basement). We will never know what Gaudi had in mind, for he didn’t complete the works and burned the plans, but the angels in the gardens were designed to stand well over the roofs of the city. It was Ricardo García Guereta who completed the palace by 1915 (the third floor, the only one left when Gaudi resigned).

No bishop has ever lived in the building, which hosts the Museum of the Ways, devoted to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. However, the fine sculptures and paintings cannot overshadow Gaudi’s work, present in the stained glass windows, in the glazed ceramics found in every corner, or in the light. Yes, the light! This small palace in Astorga that Gaudi never completed shows how he mastered the art of making the light part of the building, each room offering a different shape and view at different times of the day.

A combined ticket to visit both the Episcopal Palace of Astorga, the Cathedral and their museums costs 6 euro (discounts available for groups, students, etc). The single ticket costs 3,50 euro. The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday (also on Mondays in August), from 10 am during the summer months and from 11 am for the rest of the year. It is closed from 14:00 to 16:00 (I have no idea why).

(Prices and opening hours as of August 2016. Try Google for up-to-date info).

 

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