If you’re heading to Barcelona your eyeballs will be awed by the work of Antoni Gaudí. His colorful mosaics and surreal architecture draw thousands of visitors to the city each year, but the man himself remains as mysterious as his work. Here are 8 things you probably didn’t know about Antoni Gaudí.

Gaudí and Dali had a bromance

Antoni Gaudí

Surrealists clearly see eye to melting eye

One of Gaudí’s biggest fans was fellow eccentric Catalan artist, Salvador Dalí. The two men delighted in disobeying realism’s traditional rules, and Dalí said of Gaudí: “Those who have not tasted his superbly creative bad taste are traitors”. A compliment, if ever there was one. He often admired the Sagrada Família’s “terrifying and edible beauty,” and even said it should be kept under a glass dome, in order to preserve it. Weirdos attract weirdos, clearly.

It all began with some lampposts

Antoni Gaudí

There are few streets and squares in Barcelona that haven’t been touched by Gaudí’s genius

Plaça Reial, the bustling square off La Rambla also features some beautiful lampposts, which were all designed by… you guessed it… young Gaudí. These were actually his first work assignment, given after he graduated from the Barcelona Architectural School. Moving on he continued to decorate pretty much every street in the city with his work! Don’t be afraid to start small, folks.

He never got the girl

Gaudí was a genius, but a serious workaholic. He dedicated so much of his time to his work that the poor guy never managed to maintain much of a love life. He did rather fancy a lady called Josefa Moreu, but sadly it was one-sided and by the time he admitted his feelings for this kindergarten teacher/ French professor, she had already accepted someone else’s proposal. At least he had an outlet for his frustration.

Picasso and Gaudí were rivals

Antoni Gaudí

“Send Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia to Hell”. Well geez Picasso: tell us how you really feel!

It seems Surrealists and Cubists view reality a little differently. While Gaudí and Dali were buddies, often bigging up each other’s work, Picasso and Gaudí never saw eye to eye. In spite of making art their life’s work, Picasso spent a lot of time dissing the Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s magnum opus.

He was a vegetarian

Gaudí was a sickly chap who converted to a vegetarian diet to improve his health. It didn’t help. Of course, vegetarian or not, his diet was… peculiar. He would tuck into breakfasts of burned toast, and at lunchtime he’d dip his lettuce leaves in milk and sprinkle them with nuts and oil. Whether it helped his rheumatism or not, no one knows, but it doesn’t sound very healthy. Gaudí also turned frequently to a German priest called Dr. Kneipp, who prescribed him natural medicines and hydrotherapy. They seemed to have a similar lack of effect on the overworked genius.

He wore weird shoes and underwear

Gaudí met his maker at the age of 72, after he was run over by a tram. Unfortunately, due to hardships in his life (and his own lack of interest in fashion), he was shabbily dressed when it happened. In fact, nobody on the scene recognized the renowned architect, mistaking him for a beggar. When he was later undressed it was discovered that his underpants were held together by safety pins. It’s also said that at times he wore shoes made from courgette roots, and his suits were known for being speckled with green mold.  

He still might become a saint

Antoni Gaudí

Gaudí put a lot more work into his RE homework than I ever did…

Gaudí’s dedication to religion earned him the name ‘God’s Architect,’ amongst his fans. You can see his faith in Catholicism clearly in works like the Nativity scene at the East façade of the Sagrada Familia, and the whole of the Sagrada Família itself! In 1992, the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudí suggested he become a saint. It’s up to the Vatican whether it happens or not, but there’s a whole lot of plaques that will have to be changed if it does.

He was a political activist

While it’s agreed that most Catalan men are proud and fearless, Gaudí was such a strong believer in an independent Catalan state (which has been around since the 8th century AD) that some tried to get him into politics as a career. Thankfully he still preferred architecture, although he was often involved in protests and riots. He even spent some time in jail, twice! Rebel.

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Becky Wicks

Becky Wicks

Itchy-footed writer Becky has lived and worked in London, New York, Dubai, Sydney and Bali. She started freelancing in 2010 and has collaborated with top brands such as Microsoft, GQ, TripAdvisor, Hello!, Tiqets, HTC, PayPal, eBay, MTV... the list goes on and on! Traveling is a way of life, and Becky has it down to a fine art!
Becky Wicks