The Fancy Doors of the Costa Brava

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Every doorway, every intersection has a story.

Katherine Dunn

My shoes clatter on the stone streets adding to the cacophony of the other shoes and chattering voices out for an evening stroll. The doorways to the buildings lining the streets stand as straight and silent as any butler guarding his entry. In aged wood and studded with nails, the entrances hold close the secrets of their occupants.  They have impassively watched the passing of the years and the people come and go.

Being a fan of design and architecture, I find buildings and their decorative aspects fascinating.  In Marrakech, the colourful doors echoed the vibrancy of its culture.  What kind of doors would I find on the sun-soaked streets of Catalonian towns?  Throughout their history, Catalonian villages have been at the mercy of invasions by pirates, the French and the Spanish.  The villagers would have been at the front line of their own defence.

The Doors 

I have noticed that the older houses in the little town of Tossa del Mar on the Costa Brava in Spain have two sets of front doors. There is a giant security door onto the street and then a prettier internal front door to the house.  

In some cases, there was a smaller door set into the wooden door on the street.

For visiting little people?

Not quite. In historic times, home owners would put their animals or coaches on the ground floor and live in the upstairs rooms. The smaller set of doors would be opened to allow only the people inside.

This old house in the village of Monells has left its ground floor as an open room.

I saw an old fashioned cat door as well! Cats were considered good luck.  They also helpfully kept the mice and rat population down.

I wonder what stories these doors could tell – tales of pirates savaging the town, tired fisherman returning from a day at sea, and the passing of generations marked by births, weddings and funerals.  Now of course, they no doubt have a good laugh at the antics of passing tourists.

Door Knockers

The old door knockers were also a real visual treat, too. The door knockers are the only personality on many of these stern-faced doors. Weathered from the strong Catalan sun, the knockers bear the slight imperfections of hand-crafted bronze made in a time before cheap Chinese factory imports flooded the market.

Much to my children’s dismay, I insist on trying out some of the door knockers. They feel heavy and solid in my hand and give a confident rat-a-tat to my ears. No tinkly or plasticky sound here, the sound is as solid and assured as the wooden door.

I started looking at door knockers in both Tossa and another little town further up the coast, Begur. Let me show you some of the cooler door knobs I saw:

Here’s a hissing dragon which is not very welcoming in my opinion!

A slightly less menacing dragon with its head facing inwards.

The dragon is a popular symbol found in the area.  St. George who slayed a dragon is the patron saint of Catalonia.  They were popular symbols of the modernists such as Gaudi who loved their oriental exoticism.

Here you can see an elegant lady’s hand with decorative cuff and wearing a ring. This type of doorknob was popular in the late 19th century.

In the village of Monells I found quite a few phallic door knobs – symbols associated with strength. It seems the villagers of Monells wants to show off their cojones.  If I were a raiding pirate, I would have had a good laugh.  No doubt, I would have made a terrible pirate!

 Other popular choices seem to be people, animals and abstract patterns.

      So, are you now convinced that a simple entrance can be so much more than a utilitarian means of access into a building? History and culture are intertwined into architecture even in a simple villager’s home on the Costa Brava.

Costa Brava on the Spanish Coast

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