Featuring in ‘The tourism pioneers of Lloret de Mar’.
It was during the 1950s and 60s that Lloret de Mar, then a small fishing town, was turned into a popular holiday destination thanks to its pioneering women. The tourists mainly come for the beaches and coves and rarely venture beyond the walkway along the seafront.
A pity, because the town has so much more to offer. Of the many sites worthwhile seeing we highlight three monuments associated with Indianos and modernist architecture: the parish church, the Casa Museu Indiana Can Font and the cemetery.
Who were the Indianos?
Before beach loving tourists came pouring in, the city already nurtured a close bond with the sea. Firstly, as a fishing village and, secondly, through overseas trade. In the middle of the 18th century, many sailors from Lloret travelled to the Americas in search of fortune. These were the ‘Indianos’, or ‘Americanos’, as they were called in Lloret de Mar.
In the year 1778, King Charles III of Spain had enacted the Decree of Free Trade with the American colonies, giving many the push they needed to embark on this adventure. During this period, large ships began to be built on the beaches of Lloret, destined for the Americas.
Between 1800 and 1840 many people from Lloret set sail, mostly from the town’s poorest families, hoping to make their fortune in the New World. The most popular destinations were Havana and Matanzas, Cuban cities where they did the most diverse jobs; many of them indeed managed to amass a fortune. From these adopted territories, they maintained contact with their hometown, one of the places in Catalonia most influenced by the route to the Indies.
When they returned to their birthplace, the rich Indianos became philanthropists and benefactors and contributed to the urban transformation of Lloret. They built large mansions creating a seafront promenade of great beauty and architectural quality, financed various charitable works, such as the hospital and schools, and played an active role in the modernist reconstruction of the parish church.
This church ‘Església de Sant Romà’, called after the patron saint of Lloret de Mar, reflects two very different periods of construction and architecture. The front of the church was built in the Gothic style (between 1509 and 1522), with its beautiful and austere entrance. In contrast, you will be struck by the explosion of colour on the two domes on each side and the mosaic of the 12 apostles, inspired by the Catalan modernism movement towards the end of the 19th century.
Several Indiano families had initiated the construction of a new church, which was begun in 1912 and finished in 1930, after a design by the architect Bonaventura Conill. On the Gothic basis he applied the new modernist decorative current achieving a spectacular set of Byzantine, Muslim and Renaissance reminiscences. Sadly, the inner part was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, although the surrounding structure remained intact.
After the war, thanks to donations from some Indianos like banker and businessman Narcís Gelats i Durall (see above photo), the decision was made to build a larger and more modern church. This resulted in the building we see today, with two beautiful side chapels: the Santíssim and the Baptismal. Free entrance.
Casa Museu Indiana Can Font
The house with a distinctive Catalan modernist character was erected in 1877 by master builder and Lloret native Fèlix Torras i Mataró at the initiative of Indiano Nicolau Font i Maig (see above photo). At that time it was the tallest house in Lloret.
It consists of a basement, ground floor, two upper floors and an attic. The distribution of space in the building revolves around the staircase, located at the centre, serving as a connecting link between the different areas on each floor. The facade is neoclassical in style, the prevailing trend at the time.
The painstaking interior decor stands out thanks to its richly crafted pieces: sgraffito, frescos and plasterwork on the walls and ceilings, paving stone and ceramic mosaics, artistic wrought iron railings and gratings, woodwork, stained glass and more. All under a single modernist style. Together with its setting and original furnishings from the period, it is a landmark of the town’s Indiano past.
After having had several owners, the Lloret Town Council purchased the property in 1981 in order to conserve one of the town’s stately homes linked the inhabitants of Lloret who had reaped wealth in the Americas. Now a museum at Carrer Sant Carles, 16, free entrance.
Cementiri dels Indians
The collection of monuments in Lloret’s graveyard, also known as the “Cemetery of the Indianos”, is one of the primary examples of 19th century funerary art in Catalonia that holds a considerable ‘Indiano’ legacy.
Its location was highly disputed, as the Church was opposed to the construction of a cemetery in the outskirts of the town. Nowadays, the cemetery is very much integrated within the town; back then.
Despite the resistance the construction went ahead, supported by some Indiano investors who purchased large plots in the cemetery aiming to build their own mausoleums and display their wealth through the construction of large stately tombs designed and built by esteemed modernist architects and sculptors, such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Antoni M. Gallissà Soqué, Vicenç Artigas Albertí, Bonaventura Conill Montobbio, Ismael Smith and Eusebi Arnau.
The cemetery’s first building block was laid out in 1896. The inauguration of the site, inspired by the idea of a village of the dead with its streets and house-like mausoleums, took place in 1901.
Walk slowly around the cemetery and enjoy these authentic gems of Catalan modernist art adorned with an endless number of details associated with funerary symbology. Each time you look, you will notice something new.