Antonio Gaudí was born on June 25, 1852, 168 years ago. There is still a controversy over the place of his birth. It was probably in Reus, his mother’s town, although it is also claimed that he was born in the nearby village of Riudoms, where his paternal family lived.
The only existing document is the baptismal certificate since at that time did not exist the Civil Registry. In it does not appear the locality, something that apparently was frequent when the child was a native of the place, the origin being cited only in the case that he had been born in another town. This supports the theory that Reus was his hometown. Various documents contain the affirmation that Reus is his birthplace, such as the records of his time at the Piarist school, the instances that he had to process at the School of Architecture, his academic record, title deeds and Gaudí’s will. If this had been the case, it was surely at the home of his maternal family, located on Carrer de Sant Vicenç number 4, where a plaque placed a few years ago commemorates the fact, although, as we said, there is no conclusive proof. The house also has a facade to the Carrer de l’Amargura.
To complicate matters further, the 1927 calendar of El Propagador de la Devoción de San José states that the birth took place in Reus in a house on Carrer de Sant Joan.
Opposite this there is the version of Riudoms as the cradle of the great architect. This is based on Gaudí’s sayings collected by collaborators who are among the closest such as Joan Rubió, Francesc Quintana, Joan Bergós and Josep F. Ràfols, although the latter in the first edition of his biography in 1928 pointed to Reus.
The truth is that his ancestors by paternal line lived in Riudoms for many generations dedicated to agricultural work and later his grandfather and his father to the copper boiler for distillates, the same occupation as Gaudí’s maternal grandfather. They had a house located in Carrer del Raval de Sant Francesc, number 14, today recovered and turned into a museum. The small house on the outskirts called “Mas de la Calderera” was also owned by the Gaudí family. It still exists although it has been extensively renovated. It is also marked as Gaudí’s birthplace by supporters of the Riudoms version.
Referred to this controversy, Joan Bassegoda suggests that the fact that Gaudí could not carry out the construction of his façade project for the Sanctuary of Mercy for reasons not entirely clarified, apparently due to the refusal of some residents due to a matter of easements, It produced a certain resentment towards Reus and for this reason in his later years he claimed he was son of Riudoms. (1)
Another subject that generates some confusion is what Gaudí was called: Antoni, in Catalan, or Antonio, in Spanish. There exist equally his signatures with both versions. The baptism certificate says that he was called Antón Plàcit Guillem. And it is Antón, or more precisely Don Antón, as his collaborators called him.
A clear example is the recorded account of a conversation with the builder Josep Bayó, who worked in the Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, where he always refers in this way when mentioning the architect. (2)
Controversies aside, today we celebrate a new anniversary of the birth of a great architect who left for humanity some of the most sublime works of art of all time, which we are fortunate to preserve and admire.
(1) Bassegoda Nonell, Joan. Prologue of Bergós, Joan: Gaudí El Hombre y la Obra. Universidad Politécnica de Barcelona. 1974. Pp. 11-12
(2) Bassegoda Nonell, Joan. La Pedrera de Gaudí. Editores Técnicos Asociados. Barcelona. 1980
(3) Gaudí’s family tree. In: Bergós, Joan: Gaudí El Hombre y la Obra. Universidad Politécnica de Barcelona. 1974.Pp. 19