Astorga presented with us an unexpected delight: Gaudí‘s Palacio Episcopal. as I mentioned in my previous Gaudí-related post, I only realized we’d seen his work in León after I saw pictures of the building while researching. in Astorga, however, there was no missing it — even if we hadn’t gotten a map from the front desk of the hotel with all the sights highlighted. we came up a side street, past the Museo del Chocolate and into the plaza — with Astorga’s cathedral at the other end with the Palacio Episcopal beside it.
along with the Casa de los Botines, the Palacio is one of three buildings Gaudí designed that stand outside of Catalonia (his works in and around Barcelona make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and was constructed between 1899 and 1913. after a fire destroyed the previous building, the bishop of the time (name Grau) and a friend of Gaudí asked the renowned architect to take on the project of designing a new structure. Gaudí agreed though his work on the Palau Güell prevented him from leaving Barcelona to visit Astorga to get a sense of the city and terrain; instead he relied on photos and other pertinent information sent by Grau to complete his building design.
the supervisory council approved Gaudí’s design in February 1889 and work began in June (on the feast day of St. John) of the same year. following Grau’s death in 1893, however, Gaudí and the council began to disagree — perhaps over Gaudí’s decision to use Catalan workers with whom he’d contracted previously and upon whom he could rely to follow his vision during his absences or perhaps because the modernist building didn’t fit the council’s vision of appropriate religious architecture or perhaps because the project was getting expensive — and Gaudí ultimately resigned. he took his workers with him when he left construction halted for several years. several of the architects subsequently hired to direct the project came and left without making much of an impact on progress; the last one resigned before the completion of the fourth (and final) floor. the project finally wrapped up between 1913 and 1915. during the Spanish Civil War it served as headquarters for the Falange but in 1956 restoration work (really aimed at finishing up the planned final details) began, aimed at converting it (back) to its intended use as a bishop’s residence. today it serves as a religious museum dedicated to the Camino — the Museo de los Caminos.