Masterpieces of Light and Space: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

I’m just going to jump in today on one of the most intimidating churches to write about that I can imagine, and maybe what might be, in my opinion, the most beautiful church on the planet. I’ve been avoiding writing about it because I want to make sure and do it justice, but today is the day. I’m finally going to write about La Sagrada Familia, the still under construction masterpiece of Gaudi’s in Barcelona.

Barcelona, SpainI’m not sure how anyone ever gets a picture of this magnificent church without cranes, but whatever.

One of the things I found absolutely fascinating about La Sagrada Familia was the “rough” texture of the outside of the building. As you approach it looks like the building is furry or something, but once you’re close you see that it’s all relief carvings of bible stories and stuff. Every single surface was covered with some sort of artistic display or symbolism. I believe one facade of the church is the Nativity, and the other side is the Passion.

Barcelona, SpainThe entrance we used to the church was under the Passion Facade

Barcelona, SpainMore of the Passion Facade

Barcelona, SpainEven the floor you walk upon in the entry is used to tell the story

The exterior of the church is fantastic, but the real size of the place really smacks you right in the face when you walk through the doors and feel the upward vertical pull of the ceilings, and the brilliantly colored light from the massive stained glass windows wash over you. I wasn’t exactly religious at the time that we visited La Sagrada Familia, but I was definitely moved when we went inside. I did have to ask myself Where did Gaudí get such inspiration? because it plainly seemed supernatural.

Barcelona, SpainThe heights inside La Sagrada Familia are truly dizzying, and it feels so organic with the tree-like columns

Barcelona, SpainThe amount and variation of color in the light in this place is otherworldly

Barcelona, Spain
La Sagrada Familia is perhaps the brightest church I’ve ever set foot in

Barcelona, SpainThe very bright choir of La Sagrada Familia

Aside from the absolutely beautiful, bright, and airy design aesthetic, the building houses some amazingly beautiful art. Of course, Catalonia produced some of the best artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Maybe you haven’t heard of them before. Guys like Picasso and Dalí. Oh yeah, those guys. Spain as a whole, and particularly Catalonia have such a rich art tradition that of course the art work in the most artful church on the planet would be amazing, right?

Barcelona, SpainEven Christ himself is beautifully artistically rendered in La Sagrada Familia

So in La Sagrada familia we have dizzying heights, beautiful light, and great art. Gaudí was clearly a masterful architect. He was also clearly a man with great faith that allowed him to still devote a huge portion of his life to the construction of a church, even though his own lifestyle was not accepted by the church. What kind of inspiration leads someone to so perfectly design every detail of such a huge space? I guess one of the things I love about church and cathedral hopping is that it always leaves me with more questions than answers.

Barcelona, SpainI mean seriously, that is a beautiful Chancel.

Certainly La Sagrada Familia is one of the most beautiful buildings of any type that I have ever entered, church or not, and it’s one that I would love to revisit – after construction is complete (if that happens in my lifetime). It’s also an example of architecture that for me, much like the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York, raises the question “is this divinely inspired?”

Masterpieces of Light and Space: Church of Sts. Just and Pastor – Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

When mommyPrimate and I were in Barcelona, we absolutely fell in love with the place. So in love with Barcelona that we got all up inside of Barcelona. We saw as much as we possibly could, and spent so much time on our feet that we were absolutely exhausted by the time we boarded our bus to Firenze. One day was particularly remarkable though, at least in my memory.

We started the day out by seeing Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and after lunch decided we should check out El Barrí Gotic. We walked for hours through the narrow streets of ancient Barcelona, exploring plaças and streets that have been there for a millennium. Towards the end of our walk through the gothic district, we stumbled into Plaça Just, where the church of Saints Just and Pastor sits in a quiet little square.

We went inside, as one does when there is a 14th century church nearby. We sat down. There are holy relics of Sts. Just and Pastor in this church, but we just weren’t there at the right time to seek them out. We didn’t explore much or take many pictures as it didn’t feel like the right thing to do, with their small choir practicing. If I remember right, the choir wasn’t more than four or six pieces, however their voices (in the most perfect four-part harmony I’ve ever heard) filled up the ancient space in a very powerful way. We sat and listened, listened and sat, until our stomachs started “singing” in a very ugly way.

At any rate, rather than write the millionth blog post about La Sagrada Familia or St. Peter’s Basilica today (these posts will get written) I wanted to focus in on the memory of sitting down, feeling my feet get a little rest, and my ears being tickled by the beautiful sound of a choir singing in a language I don’t understand. That was bliss.