The Episcopal Palace is a neo-medieval building located in Astorga, Spain. It was built under the Catalan Modernisme style. It is notable in the sense that it was a building built by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. It is also one of the only three buildings that the noted architect designed and built outside of Catalan.
Episcopal Palace History
The Episcopal Palace stands on an area where an original structure was destroyed by fire sometime in the 19th century. The bishop of the city, Bishop Juan Bautista Grau planned to build an Episcopal seat beside the cathedral. The city at that time did not have a diocesan architect to do the job. So Bishop Grau contacted a friend, Antoni Gaudi to design the Episcopal Palace.
The relationship between Bishop Grau and Gaudi started when the former was the General Vicar of the Archidiocese of Tarragona, and who inaugurated the chapel with an altar that was designed by Gaudi. When the Episcopal Palace was commissioned to Gaudi, he was still finishing up on the Palau Guell in Barcelona. This prevented the architect to travel and survey the place. Instead, Gaudi asked the bishop to send photographs of the area where the project will be built. Gaudi then sent his design, which was eventually approved in February 1889. Construction started in June of the following year. After Bishop Grau’s death in 1893, Gaudi resigned from the project due to disagreements with the council, which halted the project for several years. Eventually, the construction was resumed under Ricardo Garcia Guereta and was completed sometime between 1905 and 1915.
Episcopal Palace Features
The building was built using gray granite from El Bierzo to match with the existing cathedral and be in harmony with its location. It was built in a neo-medieval style that features the elements of designs typical of later Gaudi, most notably the arches of the entrance and the buttresses, with the chimneys integrated with the side facades. The facade also features four cylindrical towers with the structure surrounded by a ditch.
During the Civil War, the Episcopal Palace served as the local headquarters for the Falange. In 1956, restoration work was done on the building to adapt it as a bishop’s residence. It was eventually made into a museum of religious art called the Museo de los Caminos.