The Jewel of Barcelona (Hint: name starts with G)

“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.”

– Antoni Gaudí 

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I’ve always appreciated architecture, but not so much that I remember the name of the architect–and I’ve certainly never beat the streets looking for more “works by the artist.”

But that all changed in Barcelona. 

Long before it was fashionable to create sustainable designs, Antoni Gaudí  (1852-1926– pronounced: gow-DEE), a very Catholic and very Catalan architect, was observing the natural world and incorporating its functional elegance in his work.

Inspired by nature, or God’s “building,” Gaudí rarely used straight lines, giving his creations a whimsical and surreal appearance, as if life itself were make-believe 

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Originally conceived to be a residential community, Parc Guell was the OG Magic Castle, long before Disneyland existed. But Barcelonians weren’t ready for Gaudi-land. The project was abandoned and later repurposed as a park.

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I sure do love showing this girl the world.

But, if you take a closer look, you realize Gaudí ‘s aesthetic choices were very much grounded in reality–and each one serves a purpose.

 To better understand and import this “purpose” to his own work, he studied the shapes of rocks, the structuring of trees, plants and flowers, the detailed forms of birds, the frames of insects and animals and the weird and wonderful textures of sea creatures.

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These all became integral elements of his architecture so that…

Walking through one of Gaudí ‘s architectural worlds, it feels like it has living energy, as if it were more an organism than a building.

Everything is beautiful and make sense in Gaudí ‘s world, lending the non-believer (me!) a kind of faith.  (And I’m not the only one…more on this down the page).

The chimneys on the top of the Casa Batllo (pronounced Bot-yo)

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Chimneys on the top of La Pedrida 

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A butterfly bedframe in La Pedrida (Gaudi also designed furniture)IMG_0801

Gaudí was a master at integrating light, color and form in his living spaces.

The inner chamber of Casa Batllo reaches from the ground to the roof and allows both light and air to filter through every floor of the house. Notice how the color of the tiles graduate from light to dark from the ground up so that the darker blue absorbs the brighter light while the lighter blue reflects the dimmer light, evenly dispersing a soft light throughout the house. 

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But Gaudí ‘s masterpiece by any measure is La Sagrada Familia. 

Construction of La Sagrada Família began in 1882, with Gaudí becoming involved year later in 1883, and then dedicating the remaining 43 years of his life to building it. Taking over the project, Gaudí transformed it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. At the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. It is scheduled for completion in 2026–one hundred years after his death. 

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Pictures and words can’t do it justice, but I’ll do my best to explain what about it was so special to me. 

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I. The Exterior

Of course, there’s the story of Jesus told from conception to crucifixion on the exterior facades…

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The apostle to the far left was done in the likeness of Gaudi–a nod to the late architect by a modern designer.

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(Coming Soon! The Resurrection hasn’t been built yet. Of the 18 towers Gaudí planned for the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia there are presently eight completed; four on the Nativity facade and four on the Passion facade, which leaves 10 more to be built in less than 10 years!)

……but what I found most intriguing were all the different artistic styles in which the story is sculpted. 

Gaudí  knew he wouldn’t live to see the completion of La Sagrada Familia, so although he had a complete architectural vision for his project, he gave license to the sculptors to express their own vision as they contributed their art.

 In this way, each designer has personally connected to the piece. Not only can you see this in the various styles–gothic, art nouveau, art deco, modern–but you can feel it. La Sagrada is still very much a living creation, literally growing with the passion brought by artists from all over the world.

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“Give us this day our daily bread” in various languages. Can you spot the English?

And, in turn, La Sagrada is sharing her passion with the artists as well. The below door is found on the Nativity facade and was designed by Etsuro Sotoo, a sculptor from Japan.  After years of working on La Sagrada, his study of and admiration for Gaudí led him, at age 37, to convert to Catholicism.

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II. The Interior 

The basilica’s awesome interior was inspired by the idea of a forest, God’s place to  invite prayer.

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Tree-like columns branch out near the roof for support, and in-between skylights contain green and gold glass to reflect a canopy of light. 

The walls are covered in stained-glass…

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…letting in dappled sunlight–green and yellow and orange–giving you the feeling of standing on a forest floor. 

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As I walked around the “forest floor,” I couldn’t help but think of another nature worshipping visionary. 

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – (236)
 
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – 
I keep it, staying at Home – 
With a Bobolink for a Chorister – 
And an Orchard, for a Dome – 
 
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice – 
I, just wear my Wings – 
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, 
Our little Sexton – sings. 
 
God preaches, a noted Clergyman – 
And the sermon is never long, 
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last – 
I’m going, all along.

–Emily Dickinson

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Christ, gazing skyward, hangs on the cross under an illuminated umbrella, suggestive of a jellyfish. 

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The fonts for holy water are made from real seashells. 

To pay for the construction of La Sagrada Familia, church officials went door to door asking for donations as a nifty way for the emerging bourgeoise to expiate their sins.  This was all fine and dandy until these decadent “backers” saw Jesus suspended in mid-air, hanging from a jellyfish. What the hell are you doing, Gaudí! For goddsakes, we’re trying to get into heaven here! Needless to say, the Vatican was none to amused either. But Gaudi stayed true to his vision.

The Vatican finally consecrated La Sagrada Familia in 2010, and today, it’s the jewel of Catalunya. 

My 4 takeaways from visiting 4 works of Gaudí : 

  1. Be inspired/driven by something greater than you
  2. Stay true to your vision
  3. Allow others to express their own vision
    ….and my favorite
  4. God is infinitely playful, so why shouldn’t we be too 🙂 

Oh, I forgot to mention that in between seeing all these Gaudi creations, we celebrated Christmas with our beautiful family. 

Tapas and vino on Paseig de Gracia

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Soleil got a bike from Santa, and her cousins, Nica and Theo, helped her learn how to ride it. Theo went out with her everyday and chimed in with great words of advice: 

  1. Eyes forward. You don’t want to be a pancake! 
  2. Little movements go a long way. 
  3. Pedal!

Bebe Rosada digs her new wheels. 

IMG_0845Thank you Noni for treating us all to the amazing guided tour through La Sagrada Familia. It was the highlight of my time in Barcelona! 

And thank each and every one of you in our own Sagrada Familia for celebrating Christmas all the way over in Barcelona with us. We love you and appreciate you so much. xoxo. 

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Comments

  1. Oh I love you and your voracious appetite for Truth.

  2. a great read. loved it, S.

  3. love Barcelona

  4. love Barcelona

  5. I learned so much from this one! And I loved the “forest floor.” And yay- Soleil for getting to learn to ride a bike in such a beautiful place. ❤

  6. Gaudi and Rodia 2 of my favs in the whole wide world

  7. I love Gaudi too

  8. There is a vid somewhere on YouTube that is a time-lapse of what Sagrada Familia will look like when fully finished to Gaudi’s vision. Seeing it in person is on my bucket list, along with some of the great Gothic cathedrals like Cologne and Rheims.

  9. Good stuff thanks Stevie..

  10. Love the photo of you Boxer Corrin Crone Phillips!

  11. A must see in Barcelona.

  12. Yes! Great take away I am grateful I got to see some of his works so amazing

  13. I never skim your stuff!!! I am a fully engaged reader, I swear. ✌

  14. Love the inside, brought tears to my eyes. So moving!!!!

  15. Yes. Gaudi was brilliant. . . I loved sharing it with you Stevie. You are like him . . . You see beauty and possibility everywhere.

  16. The story goes that the famous parabolic shape in many of Gaudi’s works came from the arc a cord makes when suspended from two points of support (and then flipped over) using the natural shape produced by gravity to overcome gravity and support the structures he built. This is just one part of the geometric engineering methods used (hey, no numbers involved) by Gaudi. But, that’s all I can specifically refer to just now.

  17. Jacob Lyles..Yes!!! I almost included this in my post, but it was already so lengthy (by blog standards). Here’s a model displayed in the lower floor of LSF. Kind of a bad shot, but it illustrates what you’re talking about. So impressive considering advanced mathematics didn’t exist then. Also, it’s crazy that his original models were literally upside down. Then, based on these “natural”l calculations, he’d make a plaster one right side up for his workers.

  18. Love that church!!

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