Perhaps in books the dragon is a secondary character in the medieval legend about the heroic gesture of Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan and Catalonia’s patron saint since 1456). However, in the streets of Barcelona, the dragon is the protagonist of one of the most fascinating architectural routes: a circuit that reveals over 400 of these fantastical beasts perched on façades, hidden in lanterns, climbing up cornices and even carved into doorknockers. Most are lurking in the Eixample district, the heart of Modernism, an artistic movement fascinated by this creature’s mythological and medieval past. But the route leads to many other realms of the city’s oral and written tradition: from the Barrio Gótico to the high areas of Barcelona and even to La Roca Village, the refuge and abode of the latest examples of this legendary species.
Casa Lleó Morera, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, 1905
Situated in the so-called Manzana de la Discordia (the Block of Discord), along with Casa Batlló and Casa Amatller, this building is one of the great jewels of Modernism. The beauty of the façade rivals the ornamental profusion within, one of the best-conserved interiors of its time. Here, the legend of Saint George and the dragon come to life on the main floor in the form of a relief sculpture by Eusebi Arnau.
35 Passeig de Gràcia.
Casa Amatller, designed by Josep Puig i Cadafach, 1900
Commissioned by the chocolatier Antoni Amatller, the house is a combination of Gothic and Flemish inspiration. As well as the dragons to be found perched on the lanterns in the stately vestibule, among the many references to local traditions the façade features a carving of the legend of Saint George (also the work of the maestro Eusebi Arnau).
41 Passeig de Gràcia.
Casa Batlló, construction by Antoni Gaudí, 1906
“Scales of bright colours that gleam incessantly in the sunlight; the back of the legendary dragon crowning the building, and a great lance with its hilt in the shape of a cross. […] This is the lance of our Sant Jordi.” These were the words uttered by Antoni Gaudí himself on the day he presented the restoration project to Josep Batlló.
43 Passeig de Gràcia.
Palacio del Baró de Quadras, remodelled by Puig i Cadafalch, 1906
A ‘rare bird’ of eclectic architecture. Inside, the Roman-inspired mosaic floors exist alongside Arabian-style patios, lamps forged with winged dragons or capitals decorated with flowers. On the main façade, the Plateresque style is blended with elements from the Flamboyant movement and Gothic references. And on the bay window, the eye is drawn to a figure of Saint George fighting the dragon.
373 Avinguda Diagonal.
Casa de Les Punxes, project by Puig i Cadafalch, 1905
After being closed to the public for more than a century, this building opened its doors as a museum in 2016. It features an exhibition on the main level dedicated to Sant Jordi, which gives a 3D virtual reality narration of the legend. The dragon flies over almost all the spaces. The inscription on the façade’s ceramic tile panel, which depicts the knight plunging his lance into the monster, reads “Saint Patron of Catalonia restore our liberty”.
Casa Bruno Cuadros, work of Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas, 1883
The dragon has fuelled multiple myths and legends throughout history. In Eastern culture, for instance, it is a symbol of wealth, wisdom, power and nobility. Casa Bruno Cuadros is the last vestige of Japonism and Egyptian Revivalism remaining in Barcelona. The jewel of this building is precisely the wrought iron dragon that presides over the façade, accompanied by umbrellas and fans.
82 La Rambla.
Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, reformed by the maestro Marc Safont, 1619
The seat of Catalonia’s government, this palace is the emblem (and the heart) of the city’s Gothic quarter. Both the dragon and Saint George are omnipresent, whether in the central key of the dome in the chapel dedicated to the knight or in the tapestry that adorns this same space. The beast is also in the niche of the balcony overlooking Plaça Sant Jaume, in the Gothic medallion on Carrer del Bisbe and on the knockers of the doors leading to the Pati dels Tarongers.
4 Plaça Santa Jaume.
Pabellones Güell, series designed by Gaudí, 1887
This is the first work of significant scope that Gaudí did for the Güell family, and one of the most iconic. The entrance gate is protected by an impressive wrought iron dragon with its jaws open. This is Ladon, the dragon of a hundred heads, a fantastical creature from Classical mythology that guarded the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides and was killed by Heracles in his eleventh labour.
7 Avenida de Pedralbes.
Park Güell, work of Antoni Gaudí, 1903
A symbol of Barcelona and one of the most Instagrammed sculptures in the city, the creature welcoming visitors to the park was made using trencadís, a mosaic of broken tiles. It is as mesmerising at it is difficult to classify: for some it represents a dragon while for others it is the Modernist version of Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi and guardian of the temple. But there is a third reading, which argues that Gaudí imagined an alchemical salamander.
7 Calle de Olot.
La Roca Village
Since June, a new avenue of eight magnificent dragons designed by Lolita & Co., has been guiding shoppers into the entrance to the Village. Unlike the malevolent monsters of popular culture, the dragons inhabiting La Roca Village are friendly. “They are chubby, harmless, smiley beings that live happily under the sun.” The colour palette is relaxing as well: “They are the colours of the Mediterranean,” explains the designer.