Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia – 120 years of on going unfinished project

We were travelling from Forum (conference centre) back to hotel in Yellow Black metered Barcelona taxi. When taxi stopped at one of the traffic signals, my boss who was sitting with me at the back seat, asked me to look out from a window. I could see part of dark brown coloured minaret jutting out in between two apartments. I dismissed it as one of the possible mosques that may have been existed during Arab occupation of Spain. Between two Japanese, I could make out some conversation with the name Gaudi but didn’t pay much attention.

After reaching our hotel, my colleague and I decided to use few hours seeing places in Barcelona. He was keen on Joan Miro and Antonio Gaudi – both names I was unaware. Joan Miro – gallery and park- was closed being Sunday, we decided to visit Church of Gaudi. I was little perplexed with the comment of hotel receptionist that that it could take several hours to see this church. I couldn’t imagine how a church could consume so much time. Would it be bigger and grandeur than Notre dam in Paris or Crystal cathedral in Anaheim?

When our taxi stopped next to this church, I could glance part of the façade of this monumental structure, and my expressive awe was parallel to the one when I witnessed Grand Canyon. But as my eye sight shifted from grandeur sculptures of biblical figures, I was intrigued by Disney style minaret with bunch of colourful globes that looked like strawberries hanging in the sky.

Slowly, mystery of this funny half made cathedral fell into place as I entered the place and started reading about this grand design. Not many monuments make efforts in explaining the visitors about the creator. This cathedral is as much a tribute to Architect Antonio Gaudi as towards glorification of ‘holy family’. A museum that is housed in the premises explains the concept behind such a design and also has a section about Japanese Architect who devoted his life on Gaudi and even formed a fan club in Japan.

Gaudi – like most creators wanted his creation spectacular and different. Perhaps that’s why he chose towers in shape of spindle. In order to symbolize essence of Christianity, he chose to represent all symbols of Christianity in this monument. He built 18 tall towers in ascending order of height and this represented the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. The Evangelists' towers are surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (St Luke), an angel (St Matthew), an eagle (St John), and a lion (St Mark). The central tower of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; Lower towers are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.

He decided to have different façade for different direction symbolising the Nativity façade to the East, the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed) and the Passion façade to the West. Work on Glory is yet to begin. The Nativity facade was built before 1935 and done by Gaudi himself. I wondered why the towers on the Nativity were crowned with geometrically shaped tops but later learnt that were probably influenced by Cubism. The Passion façade is of modern design and represent 2000 era. Amazing is the sharp contours of structures. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna", "Excelsis", and "Sanctus"; the great doors of the Passion façade reproduce words from the Bible in various languages including Catalan; and the Glory façade is to be decorated with the words from the Apostles' Creed.

There is still lot of work to done. It says, part of sanctuary will represent various saints, virtues and sins, with decoration to match. The works are expected to be completed around 2026, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. The construction work uses many pieces of stone to be machined to unique shapes, each distinctly different from the rest, the site illustrates these stones with sample piece, its characteristics and utility.

In my initial days, I used to get intrigued by funny and weird style buildings where structural walls were not uniform but in the shape of contours. It would be like dried molten wax from candle- unusual in shape. Like anything different from traditional set rules, we catch the attention but we resent it as this is against our established beliefs and habits. In initial days, I stopped when I saw this structure more out of curiosity and wondered why people would stay in such weird buildings. But slowly, I started admiring the very same grotesque design as the days progressed. .Later I learnt that these were Gaudi’s unique work and people flock to see and admire them.

Here is a brief of Antonio Gaudi –
Antonio Gaudi was born in Spain in 1852. He studied Architecture in Barcelona and set a precedent for his future work. He developed a sensuous, curving, almost surreal design style which established him as the innovative person. With utter disregard to formal approach of architecture, he juxtaposed unrelated systems and altered established visual order. Gaudi's characteristically warped form of Gothic architecture drew admiration for creating an entirely original style. As his weird creative designs, He died in bizarre fashion by coming under the Tram in 1926

And a brief of Gaudi’s architecture:
Gaudi is someone who actually put into practice fundamental tenet of good architecture, ‘architecture's need to be true to nature’. But Gaudi broke from convention - he "banished right angles and straight lines” from his work. This resulted in a style of whimsical, flowing architecture that he felt would blend with nature smoothly and naturally. He used bizarre mix of colours and materials -- smooth grey stone, bright tiles, circular designs, unfinished brick and wrought iron. Though Gaudi’s work is extremely unique, untraditional, and, in a sense, modern, I am squirmed to see the structure yet get drawn to his creation.

I am glad that I spent few hours at Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, stood in queue to take elevator to go on top of the structure, visited museum and read about the structure and Gaudi. A visit to Barcelona without being at Cathedral is like visiting Agra and not seeing Taj Mahal.

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Anonymous Lin said...

I guess u loved yr trip to barcelona. U were close to me the.
And I watched yr pictures. My favourite is the sagrada familia in barcelona.And the people!

1:02 PM  
Anonymous page said...

fantastic photos ~ thanks for sharing!

8:18 PM  

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