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21 May 2012

Architecture in Comillas, Cantabria

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Some days ago I was writing on this gorgeous English-style house in Comillas, and I mentioned it contrasted with the rest of the villas, mainly Modernist, that were built when spending the summer in Comillas became fashionable, after King Alfonso XII spend his summer holidays there, invited by the Marquis of Comillas. This first Marquis of Comillas, Antonio López y López was a key person for the history of the town. Born in Comillas to a very humble family in 1817, he migrated like so many others with the dream of prospering to the Americas, and fortuned smiled at him in Cuba. He returned wealthy to BarcelonSpain, where he continued his different enterprises, among them the foundation of the Compañía Trasatlántica Española. Married to Luisa Bru Lassús, who belonged to a well-off Catalan family that he met in Cuba and whose father was one of his business partners, his support to King Alfonso XII in the Cuban revolts earned him the title of the Marquis of Comillas, created for him and his descendants. He invested large sums in his home town, thanks to his influence and to that decisive invitation to the King to spend the summer holidays in Comillas, it was actually the first Spanish town which had street lightning, in 1881.

The king’s visit attracted many nobility members and the gentry, who started spending their summers in Comillas, looking for its temperate and mild climate and the benefits of the famous sea bathing properties. This way, impressive houses and public buildings started to be built in this typical and small Cantabrian town –in 2011 it has nearly 2500 inhabitants-, many of them the design of young Catalan architects following the beginnings of the Modernist style, among them, Antoni Gaudí.

At the same time, the second Marquis of Comillas continued with the creation of the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, its building being one of the most spectacular.

Here I leave some pictures for you, I am sorry that the midday light was not the best one to appreciate them.

The Palacio de Sobrellano, with many neo-Gothic elements, built for the first Marquis of Comillas, who actually never saw it finished as he died before the end of the Works, in 1888. Its architect was Joan Martorell.

The Capricho de Gaudí, nowadays a prestigious restaurant, designed by Antonio or Antoni Gaudí for Máximo Díaz de Quijano, a relative of the Marquis of Comillas

The Puerta de los Pájaros, by Gaudí, from 1900.

The Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, designed by  Joan Martorell and Lluís Domènech i Montaner

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