With only a point and shoot (smile).
Barcelona is a beautiful city and we spent a few days touring around. On a personal note, I could definitely see coming back for a ‘couples’ weekend. The streets are filled with cafes and plenty to see. It is still a wonderful feeling to sit on a patio in the middle of February, a feeling that my Canadian heritage still has trouble adjusting to.
Most notable within the city are the various architectural works of Gaudi. The story of Antoni Gaudi is a fascinating one:
Gaudi was an ardent Catholic, to the point that in his later years, he abandoned secular work and devoted his life to Catholicism and his Sagrada Família. He designed it to have 18 towers, 12 for the 12 apostles, 4 for the 4 evangelists, one for Mary and one for Jesus. Soon after, his closest family and friends began to die. His works slowed to a halt, and his attitude changed. One of his closest family members – his niece Rosa Egea – died in 1912, only to be followed by a "faithful collaborator, Francesc Berenguer Mestres" two years later. After these tragedies, Barcelona fell on hard times, economically. The construction of La Sagrada Família slowed; the construction of La Colonia Güell ceased altogether. Four years later, Eusebi Güell, his patron, died.
Perhaps it was because of this unfortunate sequence of events that Gaudí changed. He became reluctant to talk with reporters or have his picture taken and solely concentrated on his masterpiece, La Sagrada Família.
On June 7, 1926, Gaudí was run over by a tram. Because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, many cab drivers refused to pick him up for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare. He was eventually taken to a pauper’s hospital in Barcelona. Nobody recognized the injured artist until his friends found him the next day. When they tried to move him into a nicer hospital, Gaudí refused, reportedly saying "I belong here among the poor." He died three days later on June 10, 1926, half of Barcelona mourning his death. He was buried in the midst of La Sagrada Família. although Gaudi was constantly changing his mind and recreating his blue prints. The only existing copy of his last recorded blue prints were destroyed by the anarchists in 1938 at the height of Franco’s invasion of Barcelona. This has made it very difficult for his workers to complete the cathedral in the same fashion as Gaudí most likely would have wished. It is for this that Gaudí is known to many as "God’s Architect". La Sagrada Família is now being completed but differences between his work and the new additions can be seen.
The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is one of those must see spots. The tourist books set my expectations high and they were not disappointed. Witnessing a temple of this magnitude still under construction after more than a century is breathtaking and the architecture is like nothing I have ever witnessed before.
The entrance is adorned with The Passion Facade tracing the death of Christ. This work was overseen by Josep Subirachs and appears to be quite controversial as it is very stylistically different than the Gaudi work – very blocky, minimalist. What is fascinating about the work is that you can literally track the death of Jesus from the last supper to the ascension across the face of the temple.
The first indication of the difference in style is apparent when you look up to the 18 towers that represent the 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Mary and the tallest – Jesus. The cranes make for an interesting backdrop and foretell the experience inside the temple. We did not climb the towers (there is a multi-hour wait to take the elevator) because we did not realize there are stairs (there are) – or we would have for sure! We saw people peeking out the windows and over the edge of the bridge.
Entering the temple is to walk into this massive construction site that is magnificent in scale. Workmen everywhere. Scaffolding erected. Amazing – one big jigsaw puzzle. You can actually read the work reports on the temples progress here.
The final part of our journey is where you exit the back to see Gaudi’s original facades. The nativity scene detail was awe inspiring.
These two pictures will hopefully give you a sense of the scale of the facade:
In the entire facade, there was one scene that kept me staring – A Roman soldier following Herod’s orders to murder all male children under a year in an attempt to kill Jesus. Vivid is the only word.
I will admit. Another scene made me smile. Not sure why the fruit was there? But it is in a newer section, so must be a different architect.
The thought that crossed my mind as we exited was when it is complete, I wonder what it will be like to worship there? I wonder whether the people who are on this construction journey are still doing it for the glory of God or for other reasons? If you read the Gaudi biographies, it appears clear that he was focused on that goal. I wonder if the others were – are?
Fascinating. No wonder 2.5M people visit every year. We never got to the other Gaudi works like the park (which is supposedly amazing) – but you can view his works here. A small virtual tour.