Winter and spring are good season to bring yourself to go on cultural routes in Catalunya. We have plenty of cultural heritage, and most of us know little of it. In general, we are quite familiar with our Romanesque and Middle-Ages legacy, but we also have a very important industrial heritage, particularly in the textile sector. So, today we propose you go on the Llobregat textile colonies route –as soon as we are allowed to– to discover this key part of Catalunya’s history.
The Llobregat river houses almost half of all textile colonies in Catalunya. Its waters fed no less than 34 textile colonies, most of them in the Berguedà and the Bages regions. As a matter of fact, the stretch of the Llobregat in Baix Berguedà, from Berga to the limit with Bages, shows the greatest concentration of textiles colonies in Europe (15 colonies in barely 20 km) –yeah, we certainly are a bit prone to exaggeration, we Bergadans. Out of these 34 colonies, some have disappeared (as the Colònia Carme de Cercs, currently beneath the Baells reservoir) or are extremely deteriorated due to abandonment; others have been swallowed by the urban growth of nearby towns or they remain as isolated neighbourhoods; some have become modern industrial areas –actually, some of the factories are still working–, and others have been turned into museums. To visit them all requires a time investment that not all of us can do. Thus, while descending down the Llobregat, I’ll tell you about the indispensable ones.
Cal Rosal, south of Berga, was the first factory built as textile colony in Catalunya. Today, it’s an active neighbourhood. From the old colony, the convent stands out. Nowadays, it has become a centre for cultural mediation and artistic creation and spreading called Konvent. Currently, it’s a contemporary art reference point in the country, with a rich and complete cultural schedule, offering residences for artists, exhibitions, concerts, and different shows.
In Gironella, among others, we can find the Viladomiu Nou colony which stands out because of its Torre de l’Amo, the stately mansion that served as second –or third, or fourth– residence for the Viladomiu family, who owned the colony. Unlike the masters’ towers of most textile colonies, this one is outstandingly well preserved and has become a museum. The ground floor houses some services and administrative agencies, but the first and second floors, fully restored, show a recreation of the old house of the owner. The visit to the Torre de l’Amo de Viladomiu Nou gives us an idea of how the owners of textile colonies used to live.
On the Llobregat textile colonies route, stopping at Puig-reig to visit two of its colonies is a must. Cal Pons is probably the most important colony in Catalunya, from the architectural and urban point of view. It’s a protected architectural ensemble, as it’s been declared Cultural Heritage of National Interest. Today it’s an active neighbourhood, but it’s worth visiting. I must highlight the two owners’ towers, splendid and surrounded by lovely gardens and forests, and the magnificent Neogothic church of Sant Josep. The church is open to visitors and three of its spaces have been turned into a museum where you can go deeply into the role of the church in consolidating the industrial colony system. Furthermore, I must mention the director’s chalet, less impressing than the towers yet worth seeing, and the convent. You really have to take a walk here!
However, if you need a better reason to go to Puig-reig, the Colònia Vidal is certainly worth the trip. It was the last one to open in Berguedà, and the last one closing as well, and it’s important because, unlike many others, it has remained uninhabited and all of it has become a museum. A highly recommendable guided tour takes us for a walk through the old colony, which keeps all its heritage, visiting the most significant places as well as the services of the working-class housing scheme. You can even visit the inside of a worker’s home and, if you have visited the Torre de l’Amo de Viladomiu Nou before that, you will experience the difference first-hand. The Colònia Vidal Museum offers a very entertaining way of discovering life and work in a 20th century textile colony, as well as learning about the cotton processing using the energy of water. Everybody is delighted with this visit!
Already at the lower reaches of the river, in Esparraguera, we can find the Colònia Sedó. Nowadays, it’s quite an important industrial estate, but the old factory houses the Colònia Sedó Museum. Its main attraction is the ancient turbine, the largest one in Spain, but it shows as well, among many other things, a scale model of the colony and a 3D audio-visual presentation telling its story. The visit at the museum shows us the structure and function of the colony, as well as the complex energy system that fed the factory. Moreover, you can take a self-guided tour around the whole place to see its main buildings, specially the owner’s house and its garden, and the chimneys. The aqueduct and the Broquetes fall are also worth seeing. A very good place to spend your morning diving into history.
If we keep following the Llobregat down, it’s necessary to stop at Santa Coloma de Cervelló to visit the Colònia Güell, one of the largest ones on this river, and one of the most important modernist ensembles in Catalunya. In a nutshell, Gaudí oversaw the ensemble’s planimetry, and his influence is obvious in many of the colony’s buildings. Gaudí himself designed the church although only the crypt –called Gaudí’s Crypt– was built, since the architectural project was dropped when Eusebi Güell –yeah, yeah, the very same Eusebi Güell who commissioned Parc Güell– died. The design for the Colònia Güell church is probably a first sketch of Sagrada Família, which some elements that are readily identified in the crypt. The crypt itself is a wonderful piece of art, internationally renowned, which fully deserves having been declared World Heritage. Ca l’Espinal and Ca l’Ordal are spectacular, too, and the Casa del Mestre is magnificent. If you’re interested in architecture, this one is an indispensable visit.
The Llobregat textile colonies route The Llobregat textile colonies route is not a one-day outing neither a weekend trip, maybe. But you can do it in parts, or taking some days off –on Lent, for instance– to calmly skirt the Llobregat river. It’s a good way to do some cultural sightseeing in Catalunya and it’s fit for all the family. Moreover, it shows us a part of our recent history we tend to overlook, despite its crucial importance in the shaping of the modern Catalunya. It’s a walk through our grandfathers and great-grandfathers social context, and it may help us understand many things close to us. We invite you to dive into the Catalan industrial past while enjoying a touristic, artistic, and cultural experience. Come on, join us!