It’s a small detail in this photo, but you can see the Pride flags waving proudly above the Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. It was the weekend of the Pride festival when we visited, and the country had recently approved gay marriage via referendum. In addition, while we were there we heard the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had also guaranteed the right of same-sex couples to marry with their landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. It felt like a significant moment, like a look into a brighter future.
A visit to the Sagrada Família in Barcelona also requires a look into the future. The masterwork of architect Antoni Gaudí, the church was begun in 1882 and is scheduled to be finished in 2026. It was amazing even under construction, so I look forward to returning to see the completed building in the future.
Sagrada Família Basilica in Barcelona, Spain is a wonder of Modernisme architecture. Although I think of Gaudí’s style as being very rounded and natural, he also uses angles incredibly well. In the Passion façade, he uses stark angles to show the harsh bleakness of Christ’s passion and death.
In the interior, he uses organic angles on the tree-like pillars to give a sense of opening above. And outside, he includes many peaks that point heavenward.
Gaudí’s designs for the Sagrada Família church in Barcelona, Spain incorporate themes of nature in many ways. The columns look like trees, so that it feels like you are standing in a forest while in the church’s nave. (They also remind me of celery stalks a bit.) It gives you the same feeling of peace as if you were really surrounded by trees, with the light filtering down to the forest floor.
My cameras and phones have never been really good enough to get good macro shots, so here are some close-ups of architecture: Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain; the capital of a Corinthian-style column in Venice; a bench wall by the sea in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
And just for fun, I was playing with my phone today, so here is a close-up of my cat Juhani.
I’ve been wanting to write a little about some of things I saw in Europe last month, so I’ll start with my favorite site of the whole trip: La Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain. I have seen a lot of European churches, but I had never seen anything like this. I was totally blown away.
This was the most beautiful, inspiring church I have ever seen. (Even more so than St. Peter’s in Rome, which I also saw on this trip.) And it’s not even done yet! The church has been under construction for over a century and will not be complete for at least another 15 years or so.
The church has a true Gothic basis, building off the great Gothic churches of Spain, but it is buried under the layers of Modernisme style details. I was not expecting to love this church; I had thought it looked weird. Strange shapes, too many things going on, etc.
What changed my mind? In a word: feeling. Almost as soon as I entered the site, an incredible feeling came over me. It was in parts awe, peace, joy…really, these words are insufficient. The shadows on Jesus’s face as he knows he is about to die. The ethereal light filtering down through a forest canopy, like the primordial garden of Eden. The intricate glory of Mary’s assumption. I did not see the scriptures in Gaudí’s work–I felt them. Here was a man who took his talents and worldview and dedicated their beauty to God. If that’s not inspiring and fitting for a church, I don’t know what is.
View of the church from the Passion facade side. I edited out some of the construction cranes.
The Passion facade shows various scenes from Jesus’s death in very modern, austere style. Here, Pontius Pilate washes his hands as his wife walks away.
The church’s entrance from the Passion facade features this image of Jesus during his Passion. The doors have the relevant Biblical text in beautiful raised lettering.
The natural interior lighting is beautiful. It feels like you are walking in a giant forest with sunlight filtering down through the leaves.
The columns look like trees, or celery stalks.
This facade shows important scenes featuring the titular Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) in ornate detail with many images of nature