September 25, 2018
“When the foundation stone of the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família was laid in 1882, it’s unlikely that anyone involved anticipated that the construction of this church would take well over a century to complete. But when Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, now famous for his unique take on the Modernista movement, took charge of the project a year later, he scrapped the original neo-Gothic design plans and exchanged them for a grander vision, unlike any the world had ever seen.” (From website: atlasobscura.com)
And the masses are still coming to be Awed, Astounded and Amazed – we among them! Though still incomplete, the church sees over three million visitors each year. On my inaugural visit I didn’t know to reserve a visitation online and even arriving at 8:15 a.m. and being fifth in line, I could only purchase a ticket for entry nine hours later. I was still dazzled by walking around the outside and looking Up, Up and Up – and Everywhere!! And It was still a marvelous experience to breath in the spirit and genius of this iconic Gaudí masterpiece!
When Bill and I went together in May of this year, we planned ahead with entrance tickets and were flat out blown away by the “Magic” inside! So of course, we couldn’t wait to share this WOW Factor with Lindsey today, and she was surely charmed, enchanted and impressed! The embellishments and grandiosity (of both the physical and of the spirit and concepts), the countless subtle and grand incorporations of nature, the spiritual uplifting light being emitted by our sun through the thousands of stained glass windows, and the Glory to God abounding are really all too much to take on!! One give’s one’s Best Effort though!! Antonio Gaudí was outspoken about his love for God and his legendary reverence is palpable here in this temple he crafted.
Gaudí worked steadily on his masterpiece until his death in 1926, at which point an estimated 25 percent of the total design was complete. “Since then a series of architects have attempted to continue his legacy. Not surprisingly, progress on Sagrada Família’s construction has faced a few setbacks over the past 130+ years. Vandalism in 1936 following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War resulted in the destruction of many of Gaudí’s models. The sacristy was destroyed in a fire in 2011.” (From website: atlasobscura.com) The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. However, the construction of the Sagrada Familia was not resumed until the 1950’s. Because most of Gaudí’s original design documents were lost in the fire and the few saved had to be reconstructed the advancement of the construction was again extremely slow.
There are striking differences in the Ornate Nativity façade (much of it accomplished by Gaudí himself) and the austere Passion façade (meant to inspire fear) which have already been completed. Construction on the Glory façade, expected to be the largest and most impressive of the three, began in 2002 and is ongoing.
As symbolism goes, there is plenty in and out of the Family Church. Religious symbolism may seem obvious for this kind of construction, however, the beautiful symbolism throughout Sagrada Familia that comes from nature may be surprising. Antoni Gaudí’s love and admiration for nature is obvious and well represented in his design.
“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.” (Antonio Gaudí)
In the interior, there are pillars that resemble trees and their branches stretching toward the ceiling. If you look up at them and move around, their shape seems to change. A tortoise and a turtle hold up the pillars, representing both the planet Earth and the sea. Perhaps the most special impressions, symbolism, and meanings come from the eye of the beholder…?
Gaudí’s plans also called for 18 spires as well as numerous towers, chapels, portals, and other interior features. When built, the tallest spire, which symbolizes Jesus Christ, will secure Sagrada Família’s place as the world’s largest church building. Early on in the construction of the temple, Spain’s King Alfonso XIII walked with Gaudí on a tour of the cathedral. After a discussion about the church’s dimensions, the king asked, “Why such height?” Gaudí replied, “Because on erecting it, with its cross at the very top, we would like to kiss heaven.”
Some projections have Sagrada Família’s completion date as 2026, the centennial anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
It was difficult to pull ourselves away yet ultimately we did. As we walked the couple of miles back towards the Gothic Quarter where we are staying, we popped into Mercado Santa Catarina, now open, to gawk at the abundance of all things “market” and secured a spot at Restaurant “La Torna” for lunch. Bill and I had what we both had and loved in May, a mixed green salad with goat cheese and grilled vegetables. That sounds “run of the mill”, but I assure you, it’s not! Lindsey had a salmon salad and we shared tostada tomate and gambas (toast rubbed with garlic and dressed with grated tomato and olive oil, and shrimp). My Oh My! Sitting at the counter not only allowed us to watch the fabulous chefs at work – grilling and having fun together, but also the support staff and our waitress churning it out, getting it done (with smiles on their faces) producing happy diners- with smiles on their faces! Hard to beat Sagrada Família, but as far as urban experiences go – this was Super (pronounced soo pair) Bueno!!
After a brief respite at our hotel it was on to a wedding dress fitting for Bride-To-Be, Lindsey and Tag-Along-Mom. What a fun and special experience, in the very cool Modernista neighborhood of l’ Eixemple!!
More food, More Supreme Enjoyment and More Culture was had by all when we joined the other diners wise enough to reserve in advance (Thank You, Billfish, Trip Advisor Extraordinaire!) at Cera 23. Another Colossal WOW!!! We had excellent cocktails (their specialty is a blackberry mojito) and regional dishes “to die for” – Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus), sea bass ceraviche, Burratina (burrata cheese covered with an avocado sauce), Atun Marinade (sliced tuna), Volcán De Arroz Negro (black pudding/blood sausage) and Coulant Chocolate (“death by chocolate”) dessert. Lordy!!!
And we still had it in us to play another round of three-way cribbage! Most tourists would probably find some other late night way to enjoy their last night in Barcelona, yet we are all quite tired. Lindsey had her wedding shoot in France, always an exhausting affair with no second shooter – plus her navigating the airports, train stations and rental car driving. I had the month of long distance walking and all things Camino – quite wearing, and Bill had his navigational requirements plus reservations and tons of research. AND he and I have put on 80+ miles doing what we do!!?!? I am thinking that we will all need to come back for another shot at the “late night” Barcelona… Salud to Adventure!!