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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gaudí's Church

It is a ridiculous understatement to say to someone going to Barcelona, "Don't miss La Sagrada Familia". I knew we would spend some time there but after all the hype around it, with literally anyone who had ever been there giving absolutely gushing reviews, and now having lived in Europe for 16.5 years and having seen a few grand churches, I wondered how awe-inspiring this one would be. Well, let me tell you, it was AWE-SOME AND AWE-INSPIRING. Our trip to Gaudí's life's work was unforgettable in every way and far exceeded expectations.
One sees the church as soon as you pop up out of the subway. Here is our first glimpse of the masterpiece.
Prior to entering the cathedral, we decided we needed some food. Fortunately we found a place that served tortilla española, which we told to eat by a friend who had lived in Spain. It was basically an onion and potato omelet that was delicioso!
The outer facades of the church are a marvel to look at and it would take years to dial into all of the detail. One side displays the nativity narrative of Christ's life, the other his passion. The nativity side shows the entirety of Christ's life, from birth through ministry. I found this statue of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss particularly moving. The number blocks to the left is an interesting detail. No matter what direction you add the four numbers in a row, they all add up to 33, the age of Christ when he was crucified. From a tower window, this glimpse of a Christ statue was especially prominent.
The facade is a marvel but nothing compares to those first breath-taking moments when you step foot inside. There are no words to explain the sensory experience that the curves, the light, the windows, the whole space create for you. The church is well-marked with placards pointing out various details along the way. I was positively dazzled by the stained glass windows. The depth of their colors and the manner in which they threw shards of light around the cathedral was simply memorizing. I could've sat and stared at those windows all day. Gaudi´'s vision is remarkable and as a man of deep faith, he was very interested in displaying the Glory of God throughout. There are very few straight lines in the church and this effect adds to the sensory experience that being inside the cathedral creates. The altar piece is quite dramatic with the Christ figure fully suspended on the cross overhead.
We took time to go up into one of the towers. Fortunately an elevator lifts you to the top but I must say walking down is the way to go. While dizzying and narrow, the glimpses of the outer facade on the way down are simply spectacular. 
I was moved to see this simple display of the apostles' creed in one of the porticos, a reminder that while this church is art, it is also a house of God and its main purpose is to draw people into the presence of God and encourage them to worship him. I would love to attend a service here one day.
Construction of the Cathedral began in 1882 with Gaudí taking over in 1883. He worked at it until his death in 1926. Still a work in progress, the expected completion date is 2026, one hundred years after Gaudí's passing. Getting to Barcelona was on my original bucket list. Returning to La Sagrada Familia when it is fully finished has become the newest addition to said list!