The Romans fortified this hilltop around 100 BC and it was later taken over by the Visigoths in the fifth century who founded the city and added to the fortifications. The Counts of Carcasonne then held out for generations against the French until the early 1200s when, with the help of the Pope's armies, Carcasonne was overrun. The fortified city now consists essentially of a concentric design with two outer walls with 53 towers and barbicans to prevent attack by siege engines. The castle inside possesses its own drawbridge and ditch leading to a central keep. By Napoleon's time the castle was no longer of military importance, had fallen into disrepair and was to be demolished. Local uproar resulted in renovation with a few additions ie turrets and crenellations.
Palau Guell, another Gaudi work. This is 5 story palace in central Barcelona designed by the young Gaudi (1886-1890) for the wealthy Guell family (10 children). It is austere on the outside but sumptuous on the inside. There is a large vertical room culminating in a parabolic cupola and each floor opens out from this, getting light and ventilation as well as music. The central area at the bottom was used as a chapel or main room and had multiple pipe organs. The basement with large brick pillars was the stables and the horses and carriage could be brought up to the vestibule when needed. The ground floor vestibule is made mostly of marble and has 2 sculpted wrought iron gates filling the 2 catenary arches at the front, the left for horses and right for people. The middle floors were family use and the attics were servants quarters and the kitchen and as usual the roof is fantastic. The 20 chimneys, 4 skylights and the cupola were all works of art, decorated with swirling patterns made from recycled fragments of glazed tile, glass and vitrified limestone. And all this fitted on a block of land of 500m2
and then there's the roof . . .
Eusebi Guell and Antoni Gaudi planned this urban park on 15 hectares on top of a hill on the outskirts of Barcelona between 1900 and 1914. It was based on English ideas of estate houses. It was originally planned as a private estate of 60 dwellings finished with ornamental paths, recreational areas, decorative monuments and even viaducts. But only 2 houses were ever built besides the two porters lodges at the entrance gate. It was donated to the city as a public park in 1922.
THE PORTER'S GATEHOUSES
The large undercover columned area was intended to be the market square
ATOP THE MARKET - an area open air theatre etc
The temple was begun in 1882 by public subscription. Gaudi, aged 31, took over the next year and the plans grew and became more revolutionary. It is (and will be) large, a whole city block of 4,500 m2 with 18 tall towers and a wrap around cloister. Gaudi devoted 43 years of his life to this project and was living there when he suddenly died in 1926. As usual he used catenary arches, huge leaning and branching columns in different coloured stone and hyperbolic arches. These support the loads thereby making the inside of the church more open and light. When he died, only 4 of the towers, the Nativity facade, crypt, apse and cloister were completed and the rest has been slowly added since. His plans were destroyed during the Civil war but his ideas are able to be continued from old photos of his plaster models. The church was finally roofed and dedicated in 2010 by Pope Benedict, but there is still much to do. The largest 2 towers including the Jesus tower at 172m and Mary's tower at 130m, 4 more bell towers and another 4 evangelist towers. And then there is only finishing two other facades and the encircling cloisters and . . . well now we know why the old Cathedrals took centuries.
Contrast the "older" style of the Nativity with that of the Passion facade.
Detail on towers - recall nature
This was Gaudi's last private commission and he designed a massive 6 storey building plus attic and walkable roof terrace for a newly married wealthy couple. It was constructed between 1905 to 1911. The ground floor was entrances and coal bunkers but later shops, as well as a basement for car parking. The main floor was their 1323 m2 flat which had its own sweeping marble stairway from the foyer and the 4 remaining floors with either 3 or 4 rented flats on each. There were shared staircases and lifts for these. The front facades are weirdly curved stone that are self supporting with wrought iron sculptured balconies and combined with an internal framework work of columns and beams, no walls are load bearing and so could be moved around when desired. The attic is filled with brick catenary arches which support a lot of the strain. See photo of upside down chain. The roof is a delight. He thought that the structures on roofs should be beautiful as well as functional so his chimneys and air vents are works of art. There are 2 patio wells in the centre of the building working like internal courtyards for everyone, supplying light and air.
The palatial Late Antique Roman villa at La Olmeda was discovered under a field and professionally excavated from 1968. It was built in several stages from mid 4th century to the end of the the 5th. It has twenty-seven rooms, twelve with mosaic floors, wrapped around a central patio crossed with mosaic paths in geometric patterns and linked round its perimeter by a wide peristyle. The main bedroom and the baths have heated flooring. Only the floors and bases of walls remain and these are now housed under a dramatic steel hangar standing in open countryside. The most notable feature is the more than 1000 sq metres of well preserved mosaics, although the colours are a bit faded. The museum is an excellent presentation.
Intended to stay overnight at Riano then go up to Cain the next day. When we found the camping area was still closed for winter repairs we continued on to do the walk . . .
This is one of the most popular walking trails of the Picos de Europa located between the Provinces of Leon and Asturias. The 11 km path passes through the Cares River gorge from Cain of Valdeon to Puente Poncebos and was originally the only path of communication between the two villages in winter. Having been modified to support a canal (between 1916-1921 and again after 1945), the walk now more easily passes through caves, paths carved into the rock and modern bridges.
Peaks in this valley are over 2500 M, Cain village about 640 M and Poncebos about 210 M. Our drive to get there was another matter.
Ended up at Leon only because it was on the way east and it had a carpark for a free overnight stay. It deserves a better reason for visiting . . . but you can't see everything. The cathedral is apparently a masterpiece of 13th century Gothic building. It was closed of course by the time we got there, but the if the doorways are anything to go by . . .
Don't bother reading the Bible - just read the doorways.
Along with Santiago de Compostela and Burgos, Leon is part of the trifecta of pilgrimage sites.