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Enric Sagnier
The church of the Sacred Heart atop the Tibidabo

Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia (Barcelona, 1858–1931) was a Spanish Catalan architect.

Although now not as well known as his contemporaries Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, he was responsible for a number of landmark buildings, was very prolific, and could turn his hand to many styles, including neo-Gothic, neo-Baroque and Modernista. He qualified as an architect in 1882, and one of his earliest works, together with Josep Domènech i Estapà, was the Palau de Justícia in Barcelona.

The Caixa de Pensions building in the Via Laietana, Barcelona, built in 1917.

Other well-known buildings by him in Barcelona are the Caixa de Pensions building in the Via Laietana, the New Customs House (Duana) and the church on the Tibidabo.

The Palau de Justícia (law courts), one of Sagnier's early works.


Life and character

Enric Sagnier was born in Barcelona on 21 March 1858, the son of Lluís Sagnier i Nadal, president of the Caixa d’Estalvis i Mont de Pietat de Barcelona, and Clementina Villavecchia Busquets. His father was an outstanding Classics scholar, who translated Xenophon and Anacreon, and the young Enric was a talented painter and violinist. He studied at the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture, from which he graduated in 1882.

He began his professional career as an assistant to Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano: under his instructions he carried out his first work, the refurbishment of the chapel of Sant Josep in the church of Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey (1884). His first important work was the church of Santa Engràcia de Montcada (1886), in neo-Gothic style; it was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. His first apartment building, the Casa Cuyàs, was built the same year.

He enjoyed considerable professional success from the beginning, receiving many commissions from the Church and the Catalan aristocracy. In 1886, while still in his twenties, he was commissioned, together with Josep Domènech i Estapà, to design Barcelona’s new Law Courts. Construction of this enormous project began the following year, and that same year Sagnier married Dolors Vidal-Ribas i Torrents. The couple had six children, of whom two died young and one, Josep Maria, also became an architect.

Enric Sagnier was a calm, devout man, who devoted his whole life to his career, and received many honours, such as the Barcelona City Council’s Gold Medal for having won a prize in the Council’s architecture competition three years running (1917). He was a member of the Acadèmia de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi and the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc, a society of Catholic artists, for which he designed the emblem. He also became a member of the Museums Board and a member of the board of the Caixa d’Estalvis de Barcelona. He was occasionally involved in politics, serving as Provincial Deputy on two occasions, representing a Catholic group allied to the Lliga Regionalista, the Centre de Defensa Social. He maintained close links with the Church, particularly the Salesians; he was appointed Diocesan architect of Barcelona, and in 1923 the Pope created him a Marquis. In his later years he worked with his son Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal. He died in Barcelona in 1931.

Modernista period

Triumphal arch in honour of Alfonso XIII.

At the turn of the 20th century, Sagnier drew closer to the Modernista forms that were then becoming the fashion, particularly in the use of the applied arts, the proliferation of sculpture and ironwork; however, the use of decorative stained glass, wall tiles and scratchwork, so characteristic of Modernisme, are much less evident in Sagnier’s work of this period.

One of the first of his works that could be described as Modernista was the Garriga house, in Diputació 250 (1899-1901), with its elegant use of sculpture, landscapes in stained glass by A. Rigalt and the brackets that support the main balcony by Eusebi Arnau. The Juncadella house, at Rambla Catalunya 26 (1900-1901), includes many innovations by Sagnier such as trefoil openings, Baroque finials and the concentration of decoration in horizontal bands. The Carulla house, in Mallorca 214 (1900), was notable for its facade crowned by an allegory of painting, in Rococo style. In this period Sagnier also worked in the field of funerary architecture for the Catalan aristocracy, such as the hypogeum of the Olivella family (1909) or the Juncadella family tomb (1910), with its twin volumes flanking an obelisk.

In 1903 Sagnier became architect to the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat, taking over from Villar y Lozano. He was responsible for a number of works there, all of which have now disappeared: the chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament; a sumptuous marble altar with gilded metalwork; the Second Mystery of the Rosary, with a sculptural group by Agapit Vallmitjana i Abarca; and the sculptural group of the Stations of the Cross (1904-16), on the hillside of Montserrat, with sculptures by Eusebi Arnau, made up of fourteen Stations in a vaguely Gaudiesque style: roughly-hewn surfaces, naturalistic pinnacles, etc. It was perhaps because of this link with the Benedictine order that he received a commission to design a school in Perth (Australia), where there was a mission, New Nursia, under the aegis of a Catalan abbot, Fulgenci Torres Mayans; there he was responsible for the church and Saint Gertrude school (1904-1906), in neo-Gothic style.

Undoubtedly his most important religious work was the Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón, on the Tibidabo in Barcelona, work on which began in 1902 and went on until 1961, continued after Enric Sagnier’s death by his son Josep Maria. This work was fruit of the patronage of Dorotea de Chopitea, who along with other promoters donated land to Saint John Bosco during his visit to Barcelona in 1886, for the construction of a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, after the one built in Rome by Bosco himself (Sacro Cuore di Gesù), as well as the famous Sacré-Cœur in Paris.

El Pinar, the house built for the banker Manuel Arnús

Another of Sagnier’s works on the Tibidabo from this period is the mansion for the banker Manuel Arnús (1902), which occupies a highly prominent site on a spur of the hillside and is visible from many parts of the city. Sagnier used Montjuïc stone as well as scratchwork and tiles; the carved stone decoration is naturalist in style, similar to that used in the nearby church of the Sagrat Cor. The towers and trefoil openings give it a mediaeval air, while the gallery is reminiscent of the traditional Catalan farmhouse, the masia.

Other works from this period are the Mulleras house, at Gran Via 654 (1903-1905), in neo-Rococo style, and “La Pompeia”, a church and monastery for the Capuchin order (1907-1915) at Diagonal, 450, so called because it is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. It draws inspiration from Catalan Gothic architecture in features such as the roof of the church, made up of beams supported on diaphragm arches, similar to those of the Santa Ágata chapel in the mediaeval royal palace in the Gothic Quarter, and the style of the tower in the west end, reminiscent of those of Santa Maria del Mar.

References and bibliography

Adapted from Spanish Wikipedia

  • Various authors: Modernisme i Modernistes, Lunwerg, Barcelona, 2001. ISBN 84-7782-776-1
  • Barjau, Santi: Enric Sagnier, Labor, Barcelona, 1992. ISBN 84-335-4802-6
  • Barral i Altet, Xavier: Art de Catalunya. Arquitectura religiosa moderna i contemporània, L’isard, Barcelona, 1999. ISBN 84-899-3114-3
  • Fontbona, Francesc y Miralles, Francesc: Història de l’Art Català. Del modernisme al noucentisme (1888-1917), Ed. 62, Barcelona, 1985. ISBN 84-297-2282-3
  • Lacuesta, Raquel: Modernisme a l’entorn de Barcelona, Diputació de Barcelona, Barcelona, 2006. ISBN 84-9803-158-3
  • Navascués Palacio, Pedro: Summa Artis. Arquitectura española (1808-1914), Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 2000. ISBN 84-239-5477-3
  • Permanyer, Lluís: Barcelona modernista, Ed. Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1993. ISBN 84-343-0723-5

External links



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