Santa Clotilde Gardens were created through the determination of an eminent personality in the first half of the twentieth century: the Marquis of Roviralta.
Raül Roviralta i Astoul
Raül Roviralta i Astoul, the most active promoter of welfare and social work in Catalonia at that time, was also able to devote time and effort to such a laborious project as the design and creation of these gardens. His love of Lloret de Mar came through his first wife, Clotilde Rocamora, whom he met when she was studying in the school of French nuns of the Immaculate Conception, which was opened in the town in 1903. He developed the idea at an early age; in 1917 when he was only 25 years old, he moved to Lloret de Mar to look for land where he might build an isolated property, in contact with nature and open to the sea.
The fact that these gardens were for him the true labour of his life was shown forever in 1952, when he was made a member of the nobility and the new marquis chose the name of Roviralta de Santa Clotilde. The purchase of the land, which was used for vineyards in the area known as La Boadella, took place in October 1918. Roviralta’s next step was to find the right person to design the project.
Nicolau María Rubió i Tudurí
Time has shown that his choice was the right one: the person who in a few years became fundamental in Catalan architecture and landscaping, Nicolau María Rubió i Tudurí. However, at that time he was only a promising architect who had qualified two years earlier. Nicolau was the brother of Ferran Rubió i Tudurí, Roviralta’s partner in his pharmaceutical company. The future marquis explained the situation in his handwritten notes:
“Santa Clotilde (…) is the result of joining together seven vineyards that belonged to the Messrs. Macia (Macià), Blanch, Cruz, Zaragoza, Calapuig, Bonanit and Carles. It was my intention from the very start to build a country house there – and for that purpose I commissioned a plan of the garden from Don Nicolás Rubió, brother of Fernando and son of Don Mariano Rubió Bellver, General of Engineers, an educated man of great prestige, soul of Barcelona Universal Exposition in 1929 and engineer manager of the Tibidabo Company Limited (…) The years went by and I continued carrying out the plan that Rubió drew until it was completely finished in 1926.” (Transcription of Raül de Roviralta’s handwritten notes, 20 August 1927. Santa Clotilde Archive).
However, Roviralta did not only carry out a series of concepts proposed by the young architect; he included his own ideas in the design. In this way, there was symbiosis between the promoter’s contributions and those of the landscaper, a fructiferous exchange of notions and styles that was very interesting for the final result. Raül de Roviralta was aware of the works of the Neapolitan artist, architect and garden designer, Pirro Ligorio, particularly his magnificent furniture, advised by two new collaborators: the artist Domènec Carles and his wife, the sculptor Maria Llimona.
The garage house
The first house in the gardens, which was called the garage house (sic), was built in 1927. Clotilde Rocamora’s death and Roviralta’s second marriage to Odila Arenys in 1928, meant that the garage house because the provisional residence of the new couple. However, he very soon began the construction of the main house in the gardens, in 1929. In its design, Roviralta had no further help than his own knowledge and the advice of Domènec Carles: “A few days ago I began building the house at Santa Clotilde. I’m building it without an architect. I think it will be all right. (Carles is assisting me, a magnificent help).” (Raül de Roviralta’s handwritten notes, late 1930).
It was in August 1934 when the couple were finally able to move into the new house. When they were building the big house, they also worked on decorating the gardens. Again with the help of Domènec Carles, Roviralta bought different sculptures and asked the painter’s wife, Maria Llimona, to make a group of mermaids in bronze.
A truly idyllic project
Owing to their particular character and sophistication, Santa Clotilde Gardens immediately aroused the admiration and interest of Catalan society at the time. For example, the magazine D’Ací i d’Allà, the first Catalan magazine in the European style, which presented bourgeois modernity through articles on art, literature, culture and society, published in 1934 “Una casa vora el mar. Santa Clotilde”, in which the new house and its gardens were described as a truly idyllic project.
This admiration for a project that was finally completed must have been a great satisfaction for Raül de Roviralta. However, the marquis did not stop working on maintaining and improving the garden. In 1958, he decided to redesign it and had new species planted to replace the original predator eucalyptus. At some times, fourteen gardeners were working full time planting the new species, in addition to the marquis’s complete involvement.
The years since then have witnessed the recognition of the qualities and uniqueness of Santa Clotilde by different administrations. Thus, in 1972, the gardens were designated a Picturesque Landscape by the Spanish government, and in 1994, the Catalan government (Generalitat) listed them as a Cultural Property of National Interest (BCIN) in the category of Historical Garden, within the reclassification of picturesque landscapes that then formed the Cultural Heritage of Catalonia.
The Roviralta family donated the gardens to Lloret de Mar Corporation as a consequence of the application of town planning legislation, in a long process that took from 1990 to June 1997, but maintained ownership of the two buildings and the gardens next to the houses. The gardens are a Public Green Zone and form part of a fundamental strategy to position Lloret de Mar as a resort that offers the possibility of alternative tourism to the traditional sun and beach holidays of the Costa Brava.