Casa Convalescència

Stop 2: The vestibule

The Casa de Convalescència of Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau had the same administration and the same functions as the old Barcelona Casa de Convalescència that had been built in the Raval district as from 1629. Its costs were not met from the money bequeathed by Pau Gil in his will, as in the case of much of the hospital, but rather from the proceeds of selling the old Casa de Convalescència (1,750,000 pesetas) in 1925, and from private sources (masses and duties levied).

The building could house around 100 inmates, who could thus be kept away from the severely ill and the focuses of infection in the hospital itself. It was administered by the Sisters Hospitaller religious order, who also tended to the sick in the hospital, and it had its own chapel, chemist's, kitchen and refectories. The vestibule is in the centre of the building and leads into the public and service areas of the ground floor (refectories, office and boardroom), as well as giving access to the first floor via the stairway. Its ceiling is covered by a sail, or handkerchief, vault and it has limestone columns with composite capitals.

The walls of the vestibule were decorated with historiated mosaics. On these, in 1923, Domènech i Montaner declared his intention to depict four scenes from the history of the Casa de Convalescència between the 17th and the 18th centuries, but the iconography was later to vary: the first panel was devoted to Elena Soler, a member of the Barcelona nobility, who had favoured the Casa de Convalescència in her will in 1656; the second depicted benefactor Lucrècia Gualba in 1629; and a third one featured the administrators of the Hospital de la Santa Creu on 24 January, 1680, when the old Casa de Convalescència received its blessing. In the 90s restoration, it was decided not to intervene in the mosaic fragments that had recently been vandalised, and which we know from photographs.

The ceramics, together with the glazed brickwork, not only had ornamental value but were easier to clean, provided better thermal insulation and stood up better to wear in high-traffic areas. For these reasons, they were used in the vestibule, the stairs, the offices, the refectory, the board room, the bedrooms, the secondary staircases – which have simple monochromatic ceramics – and in the garden porticoes, which feature Cartabón, or sail, ceramics, consisting of square tiles divided diagonally, and painted green and white, which were very popular in Catalonia, Valencia and Majorca in the 16th Century.