I first saw from afar, the shadow of Antonio Gaudi’s contemporary and wild cathedral. We were gazing over the city rooftops of Barcelona, Spain from the palatial hilltop at the National Museum for Catalonian Art. The church looked ghostly grey and foggy, with a tangle of towering construction cranes.
Cathedral Masterpiece to Be Done After 143 Years
Up close, this modern cathedral, Sagrada Familia will knock off your socks. Sagrada Familia is Spanish exhaltation for “Family of Nazareth”. This massive, wild-looking edifice has been under construction since 1883. The architect, Antonio Gaudi spent 43 years of his life on his church masterpiece before he died. His body is buried within a corner of the church.
This cathedral is scheduled to be finished sometime in 2026. At least, it’s not like the Freiburg Cathedral in Germany * where construction dragged on for 900 years!
Churches: Architecture, Art Through Lens of Time, Culture
I’ve dropped by a number of European cathedrals and smaller churches over the past 3 decades. What captures my curiosity is the architecture, art and how different Christian stories are interpreted locally in statuary, paintings and stained glass art. I only know major biblical stories and have sketchy understanding of Jesus’ life.
But honest, it’s some knowledge to appreciate the depth and infiltration of Christianity in shaping Western beliefs, art, literature and early European wars which led to death or martyrdom. It gives enough context when appreciating church architecture and liturgical art world-wide.
Near Completion Reveals Light, Flowering Columns
It was worthwhile for Jack to see how far Gaudi’s vision was progressing when we wandered there for a few hours. In recent years, he tends to visit cathedrals more often with me or cools his heels outside. On solo trips, he might make the rare stop off his bike. He was inside Sagrada Familia back in 2008 – when it was dark, dingy and cluttered with scaffolding.
Fast forward 8 years later: construction had transformed the cathedral inside as a white and creamy clean sanctuary of soaring flowering columns bathed in streaming sunlight that struck many different modern stained glass windows.
Gaudi’s vision for Sagrada Famila was the celebration of God through Nature’s shapes, lines and colours that’s infused in the cathedral’s structure and art –organic flowing lines, flower motifs and fruit mosaic art topping cathedral steeples. It is a simultaneously unearthy, yet totally rooted in Earth
in vision. Outside what pulls the viewer forward, are white carvings of biblical scenes on the church’s façade. From a distance, it looks chaotic: a jumble of stories and characters which is precisely what Life on Earth is.
Gaudi: Riot of Colours Means Life
Clearly Gaudi spent some time studying sunlight and its shifting position throughout the day. When we were there, a fantastic bank of sunlight streamed through, arcing over like a waterfall through the stained glass windows.
Much of his stained glass art windows, were grouped together by similar colour hues – red and orange glass windows here whereas elsewhere, the blues were in a separate window panel group.
He orchestrated the position of colours with light reflection so at different times of the day, there was sometimes a rainbow stream of colour glowing through the church.
Unlike other dim old cathedrals, multi-coloured washes of sunlight, lifted this cathedral as a warm, light and peaceful place to be.
We climbed tight, near claustrophobic tower steps to peek out to half-completed turrets with bright fruity blobs, sculptural peace doves, protective netting and more construction equipment.
Thankfully, we spiralled down the stairs, to the main floor to bask in cascading early evening light like a watercolour wash of benediction, over cathedral walls, visitors and supplicants before drifting slowly outside.