For as long as I can remember I have wanted to see the Sagrada Familia, the huge church designed by Antoni Gaudi, begun in 1882 and still under construction. Yesterday I was there.
I have seen a lot of cathedrals and this one both resembles many of them and yet is entirely different. The style and form are classic Gothic cathedral, but a very eccentric and crusty kind of Gothic. The exterior is particularly eccentric, with many whimsical, but meaningful details.
Above is the "Tree of Life" over the front entrance.
The front facade. This is what I meant when I said "crusty". There is a feeling of cave structures about it, yet a richness of texture that is mysterious and appealing.
Inside the huge pillars that support the massive structure are meant to represent a forest that rises into a canopy of leaves.
For me what is most striking is the quality of light flowing into the space. Unlike the medieval cathedrals with the dark jewel-like light filtered through stained glass windows, much of the light here is a pearly white light, that feels otherworldly. And where there are colored windows, the colored light turns everything into glowing prisms of color.
This could all change as the clear glass is gradually replaced by colored glass, but I hope not. The light is my favorite thing.
At one end is this bronze model done in Braille.
Below the cathedral are exhibits of Gaudi's drawing and models, which were fascinating.
It is all under construction, as it has been for 132 years. Cranes, scaffolding and workmen pushing wheelbarrows, hammering, drilling, are all part of the scene. It's pretty noisy inside!
It is due to be finished in 2026, which will be the centennial of Gaudi's death. It will be the largest place of worship in the world, with the tallest church tower. And it will all be paid for with donations and, I presume, mine and all the many thousands of entry fees.
My thoughts about God and religion are complicated and unorthodox and not something I will ever discuss here, but cathedrals are a passion for me and a source of awe and humble wonder at what the mind and creative spirit of man can bring to life. This visit was a memory I will carry with me for all of my days, alongside my memory of visiting Chartres cathedral many years ago. Pure joy.