Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gaudi's master work

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.



  1. I wish we'd gone to Barcelona when we went to Spain. Thanks for sharing your pictures

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures... I think it would take a lifetime to adequately view such a massive, beautiful, complex work of art! Pure joy indeed!

  3. 2026, Barcelona, going on the bucket list now. I'm so glad you're there. Thanks for bringing us along!

  4. I've never been a interested much in cathedrals or churches unless they have some unique architecture. But this is amazing. I feel like I went to the Disneyland of Cathedrals where Angels play. I really love the tree of life, all the intricate busts and "gargoyles" and how the pillars inside represent a canopy of trees. An artists or designers work of this magnitude and duration feels like a lost art... Did you feel like you were back 500 years walking through (despite the cranes and scaffolding)?

  5. Amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Terri - you might enjoy the sketches and commentary of another artist in Barcelona.... I am fascinated by her style.

  7. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in Europe. You are so lucky to be able to see the inside of the cathedral. The last time I saw it, the interior was covered with plastic tarps and we could only walk around the edges of the walls. So nice to see progress being made.

  8. I've said many times that if you've seen one cathedral you've seen them all. I was wrong.