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An exhibition shows how the neo-gothic façade of the Barcelona cathedral was built

Façade of the Barcelona cathedral. © Catedral de Barcelona.

Façade of the Barcelona cathedral. © Catedral de Barcelona.

Details of the sketch by Carlí, from 1408. © Ramon Maroto, Center for the Restoration of Movable Goods of Catalonia.

Details of the sketch by Carlí, from 1408. © Ramon Maroto, Center for the Restoration of Movable Goods of Catalonia.

Exhibition.

Exhibition.

13/02/2020

Cultura

The main façade of the Barcelona cathedral was made in late 19th century and early 20th century following an architectural project selected after a polemic contest –which counted on the participation of Antoni Gaudí-, inspired by a design from 1408 by Charles Galters de Rouen on how the entrance should be. These are some historical facts shown in the exhibition about the façade of the cathedral, which will be open on February 18 at 7 p.m., and available until April 12 in Casa de la Pia Almoina, organized by the Barcelona cathedral and the Diocesan Museum. The exhibition takes place as part of the Vallmitjana Year, co-organized by the UB and the Seminari Conciliar de Barcelona. It also explains how the sculptor Agapit Vallmitjana i Barbany (1832-1905) created the figures of Christ and the apostles, the central elements of the current façade.

The exhibition shows with photographs, documents from that time and sketches from architectural projects –how the façade of the Barcelona cathedral was built. It tells that in 1882, a contest was published to design its façade and among the submitted projects was one by Joan Martorell i Montells (1833-1906), opting for an elevated cathedral with emphasis on ornamental elements, and one by Manuel Girona i Agradel (1817-1905), with a more horizontal and sober design. The project by Martorell, drafted by Antoni Gaudí, had popular and press support, but Girona was the winner. Last, during the development of the winning project, other elements from Martorell were added, which received many critiques because it was seen as an appropriation of ideas from the rival.

The exhibition also shows how Vallmitjana brothers were two of the most known and prolific sculptors of the time and how that favoured them to be asked to make the sculptures of the facade of the Cathedral. Apart from Christ and the apostles, made by Agapit Vallmitjana, the façade of the temple has other pieces on religion, such as archangels, prophets and saints with clear relation to the city of Barcelona, all of them carried out by distinguished artists of the time. The exhibition documents the selection processes of the artists and their work, including some proposals that were ruled out.

A noble design from 1408

Commissioned by Cristina Rodríguez Samaniego, lecturer of History of Art at the UB, and Natàlia Esquinas Giménez, expert from the Research Group on History of Art and Contemporary Design (GRACMON) of the UB, the exhibition includes a reproduction of the 1408 sketch, whose original –which is three meters high, is under restoration. The lack of budget in medieval Barcelona prevented this project by Carles Galtés from being materialized. In fact, the façade remained simple, with no ornaments, until the final works in late 19th century and early 20th century, which are explained in the exhibition and which ended in 1913, within the context of a growing Barcelona.

There are a series of tour-conference sessions in the exhibition, in which several experts will talk about the sources of inspiration for the current façade (carried out by UB lecturer Rosa Terés), the echo of the medieval trace in the 19th century architecture and the building of the façade of the Barcelona cathedral (by Ramon Graus, UPC), and Vallmitjana and the sculptors of the cathedral’s façade (Natàlia Esquinas Giménez, commissioner of the exhibition).

The Vallmitjana Year wants to value the works by sculptor Venanci Vallmitjana, whose centenary death anniversary was in 2019, and his brother Agapit, regarded as the restorers of the Catalan sculpture and teachers of several generations of sculptors between romanticism and modernism. Apart from the sculptures of the façade of the Cathedral, there are other works by the Vallmitjana brothers in other emblematic places of Barcelona, such as the Ciutadella Park, the Historical Building of the University of Barcelona, the Palace of Justice and the Basilica at Montserrat.

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