“I think it’s ugly,” I announced as we hurried out of the Barcelonan metro to reach the church in time.
I wasn’t to blame. Stiff orange skyscrapers towered over the sandy structure like menacing claws, and the construction-zone like atmosphere was not appealing. But as we rounded the corner to face the front of the Sagrada Familia, I gasped at the sight which was further augmented by Papa’s quick history lesson.
This church had been under construction for ninety years. Why so long? Because it was funded by the people, and by the people alone, whether by donations or by tourism. In that time period, the architect himself, Antoni Gaudi, passed away, but his designs did not. Carefully following his instructions, modern architects and engineers are able to continue building up this unique church slowly but steadily.
One only has to take a look at the front to see that Gaudi was no ordinary architect. At first, the tangled mess seems rather shocking, but I peered in closer and was stunned at the hidden messages behind each carving, each image.
There were bible scenes shown in detailed stonework, and tiny animals carved into the walls. There were trumpeting angels, musical maidens, the Nativity scene, Jesus in the manger, and at the very top, the Tree of Life as told in the Genesis story. See if you can find them!
Now, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting to be at all impressed by the inside. Construction still going on? Plain concrete floors? Understandable, but was it really worth seeing?
So when I stepped inside, my breath was snatched away and flung into the Mediterranean, because this cathedral, out of the dozens I have visited, was like none other I had ever seen.
Words cannot describe the grandeur and rainbow beams that flooded my soul, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, though they don’t nearly come close to expressing the feeling of standing amidst all the splendor.
If this doesn’t convince you that Antoni Gaudi was an architect like no other, I don’t know what will.
I was entranced with the tall beech and ash trees and the rooftop canopy, like I was in a forest with rainbow streams of light flickering through the leaves. Everything was majestic and awe-inspiring, and I walked around gazing at everything in utter speechlessness.
As I later learned in an exhibit following the exit, Gaudi was inspired with the complexity and diversity of nature and geometric shapes. Everything he designed was based on things in nature like the honeycombs of beehives, the veins of leaves, the roots of trees, and the spirals of seashells, not to mention three-dimensional shapes combining shapes like cubes, octahedrons, and squares.
Antoni Gaudi’s contribution to mankind, an evidence of his faith and relationship with the master Architect, was an experience I will never forget.
I strongly encourage you, if you have only one day in Barcelona, to spend an hour or two in this cathedral above all cathedrals, and simply absorb the perfect blend between light and natural architecture.