THE ROAD TO PUBOL (ALONE WITH DALI AND DUNCAN, PART 4)
This is the fourth posting in the series recounting the trip my son Duncan and I made around Dalí country in Catalonia, Spain about seven years ago.
After our incredible and never-to-be-forgotten visit to Casa Dalí at Port Lligat and an exploration of Cap de Creuz and the surrounding mountains, I was ready for another adventure. Duncan needed some time off. One can only keep up with the Artpro-On-The-Go for so long. First we made the pilgrimage up exhilierating mountain roads to the other “roads”: San Per de Rhodes Monestary. This is the institution that created and exported all over Europe the Romanesque culture and style.
A gorgeous ruin now, it hangs on the side of a crag, on top of which is a ruined castle named San Salvador. Just down the ridge is a ruined abbey named Santa Helena. To Dalí, this was a tremendously significant place because it had the foundation of scholarship and culture and a castle named “Salvador” and an abbey named “Helena” in close proximity on top of a bare and wind-swept ridge. “Helena” was Gala Dalí’s actual name.
I was ready to be off on the search for the tiny village of Pubol and its castle which had been discovered by Salvador Dalí in 1968 (the year he finished the Teatro-Museo Gala-Salvador Dalí in Figures.) He had been promising Gala that he would buy her a castle as her personal retreat for thirty years. The first time he made the promise they were living in Northern Italy during the Spanish Civil War, which was closely followed by the Second World War, most of which they spent in the United States.
Can you imagine living with Salvador Dalí? Gala—an exceedingly strong and domineering woman—wanted a place of her own where Dalí could visit her by written invitation only. Whoa!
With Duncan chillin’, I set out through the labyrinth of farm roads that spider web the Plane of Ampurdam between Figures and Cadaques (and Port Lligat). I eventually was at the base of the slope on top of which was the silhouette of the village, castle and church of Pubol. They formed an almost solid stone mass because most of the buildings were connected to each other like a Southwestern Indian pueblo. (Yes, I know. “pueblo” is the word the Spanish use for tiny villages like Pubol)
Fields, vineyards and orchards flowed down the sloped below this towering, dark edifice. As I approached, I was fascinated to see the mass evolve into individual houses, stables, taverns and small plaza (but all connected). I think this place was built with consideration for defense.
Just above the village (a street’s width away) stood the conjoined church and Castle Gala Dalí. How nice, it was rather modest in its proportions, being basically a tower house, built without extensions for easier defense. No longer very fortress-like, it had served as a home to the Marquises of Blondel and the family now lived in Madrid. As a result, the castle was more of a “fixer-upper” than a great find.
Dalí bought it in 1970 and the restoration began. When it was completed, Dalí spent four months decorating the vestibule and various nooks of the castle. Everyone’s favorite story about that time was that Dalí was offended by the old iron radiators so he had them ripped out—and then painted radiators on the wall where they had stood! What a goof-ball. I think we would have liked each other (although there are many things about his character that I do not appreciate.)
The yard in front of the south-facing arched castle entrance is taken up with a maze of paths among high evergreen hedges arranged so that a visitor frequently turns a corner and is confronted by some very weird Dalí sculpture or construction. The fish pond is pretty wretched, but architecturally attractive.
Oh, incidentally, the exterior north wall of Gala’s castle faces the little plaza in front of the church and is joined at the corner to the church. Imbedded in it are three skulls.
Time to go in. The entrance is a low arch through what is called “The Persian Room” which includes a peep hole through which one can see into the basement—the former dungeon. And what to the wondering eye should appear but a 1976 Cadillac and a carriage that had been used by the previous proprietor. At one time it also housed Gala’s orange Datsun. (Didn’t know about that one, did you?)
The Cadillac de Ville was purchased in the United States in 1976 for $10,000. (Years later I would buy two 1976 Cadillac Sevilles. Beautiful small cars. One I got from my dear friend Marty Gordon, the legendary print dealer and publisher.)
The small court yard between the front wall and gate and the house proper has the feeling of being in a large stone well. The front of the house exhibits various decorative elements, but is dominated by the decorative stone staircase leading up to the front door which is surmounted by a carved coat of arms.
As an aside, I am reminded that later King Juan Carlos granted Salvador Dalí the title of Marquis of Pubol. Sort of like children playing kingdom in the living and dining rooms and one of them being designated Duke of the Red Chair.
The wonders that I found inside Gala’s Castle will be the subject of my next posting. Since I’m behind, I’ll try to get to it in a few days. I may be here to write, but I’m also on vacation.