My travel companion
This summer I was in Barcelona for a few days to see the sights and especially some of Spanish (Catalan) architect Antoni Gaudi’s buildings. Besides architecture, Gaudi was also skilled in carpentry, glass making, and a locksmith and was the son of a copper smith. He built a number of private homes for the bourgeoisie, such as Casa Calvet, Casa Batllo, and Casa Milo, as well as the cathedral Sagrada Familia.
The Passion Entrance (West)
Gaudi is a representative of the modernist style of architecture that followed the more classical styles of building starting after World War 1 and before 1970. It also generally includes Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Courbusier, Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus school. European modernists combined morality and social consciousness (e.g. using local materials and local man power, function was important), and were generally associated with left wing politics.
Gaudi combined the Byzantine and Gothic styles and came to his own forms that appear so out of step with anything that had been done before that he has become his own category and is still considered at the top of the profession. He expressed the Christian iconography and his own strong belief in the religion in this temple. He also invented advanced construction in logical designs and built daring structures with new techniques that he had experimented with elsewhere in his buildings.
The Nativity entrance (East)
Before our arrival in Barcelona, we had bought entry tickets on line, as I had heard that the line-ups are tremendous, so we wanted to avoid wasting our precious time standing in line for hours. Sure, the places are inundated, and rather annoyingly so, with tourists, but since I am one too, who am I to object? There is a goo reason why people flock…
I was accompanied by a like-minded friend from my student days at the Amsterdam Rietveld Academy, so we both are interested in art and beautiful things. We have been friends for ages, so we knew we are compatible in a lot of ways, such as both liking good food and drinks as well!
Detail of the Nativity Entrance
The Christmas tree as symbol of nature on top of the Nativity entrance
Detail of the Passion entrance. The Star Wars-like figures are Roman soldiers, the man to the left of them has the face of Gaudi.
Our first goal was the Sagrada Familia, translated: the Family Church. It is a Roman Catholic temple, a church, although this is an understatement: the building is unique, one of kind and truly awe inspiring.Interestingly, Gaudi never had a family himself en lived with his aging mother and a cousin. He was said to have a (male) friend as well.
We both are not religious. Although I was raised in a strict protestant religion, my friend was not raised in any religion and was rather unaware of the symbols and stories of the bible and Christianity. In spite of it, we appreciate any expression of spiritual ecstasy in art and creativity. Gaudi sure knew how to do that! I have not seen such display of ecstasy and virtuosity in construction. He was a genius. The Christian symbolism and details were very well explained by our English speaking guide. The tour lasted 1 ½ hour and was very enlightening; our understanding would have been much less without it. If you think admiring only the outside is enough, you would be wrong. The best parts in my view are inside and seen during day time, so the light that comes in through the fantastic windows can delight the visitor.
The Sagrada Familia is a work in progress that began in 1866, its design taken over by Gaudi in 1883 and it was only in its beginning stages of construction, after Gaudi was run over by a tram and died on his way to the hospital in 1926. The entrance depicting the Nativity of Jesus was finished by another architect, as well as most of the present building, with the help of many other architects, volunteers and builders. Five generations of Barcelonans have witnessed the construction. It is expected to be completed in 11 years, by 2026. I plan on visiting then again, even if it will be in a wheel chair.
The slow pace of construction is the result of the condition that the church should be built exclusively from donations, as in the olden days of the start of cathedral building. A useful book to read about that subject is Ken Follett’s work The Pillars of the Earth. The entry fees are allocated towards that construction as well, so the more people attend, the quicker its completion. Unfortunately, parts are already deteriorating, so renovating is also an issue. The parts that are replaced, are kept clearly distinct, so we can see it is not original. This is a condition from the Unesco cultural branch that designated the Sagrada Familia a world heritage site. More detail can be explored on its website http://www.sagradafamilia.org
All light is natural light coming in through coloured glass and stained glass windows, as well as ingeniously designed windows with built-in skylights.
The west windows where the afternoon/evening light comes in.
The idea was to bring nature into the lives of believers and it sure looks like a forest in which the pillars carry a canopy of exotic medallions as flowers, all of which carry names of saints and disciples.
As the social aspects are important to builders of the Modernists era, a school annex daycare was also attached and can be seen to the far right of the church.
Back of the day care building.
Waving walls of the children’s day care…looks like a fairy tale house.
The fourth aisle with the last facade and main entrance being constructed towards the South.
An interesting detail is that already an apartment building has been constructed on the spot designated for a large set of stairs and a square in front of that main entrance. The builder knew that this was designated, but apparently had little faith that the church would eventually be completed as per Gaudi’s design.
One of the towers beside the Passion entrance
View from the West tower…
Fruits on top of the south buildings
The fruit is made of mosaics; symbols of the bounty of nature and creation. If you ask me it looks like something else…
Jesus up close from behind…..
Detail from one of the towers….
Can you believe it! Selfie sticks for sale, so you as visitor can put yourself in the photo with the Sagrada… the mind boggles.