Inside the unfinished temple

On 11 July 2010, the Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and elevated to the status of a basilica. It is not, as some assume, a cathedral as it is without a bishop’s headquarters. But the huge dimensions of the interior is worthy of that status.

Stepping inside the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is like stepping into an enchanted forest. Tall trees towering above us; their branches creating a canopy. The streams of coloured light; the verticality and the enormous, seemingly empty space takes your breath away. At first I didn’t know what to look at, where to begin the tour, what to focus my camera on. Double-storey height windows flood the space with a light never before seen within a church.

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The nave is a sight to behold. A work of mathematical genius with natural light flooding in through clear glass leaded panels to allow as much light in as possible.

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The columns are modelled after a forest and form a light canopy of palm leaves.

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I’m not going to go into all the symbolism of the basilica, you can find that out for yourself, instead I shall just let you have a look at some of the bits that caught my eye and where I could actually get a shot without dozens of people in the way.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe apse contains the altar, but this section was being worked on so we couldn’t get too close. Your eyes are drawn to the dramatic suspended crucifixion with a large ‘parachute’ dome from which artificial grape bunches and wheat stalks hang as symbols of the Eucharist, in which wine and bread are consecrated as religious symbols.

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The main access bronze door that Josep M. Subirachs created for the Glory façade is a masterpiece of using typography as art.

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The centre of the Prayer Door is inscribed with the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan with relief letters, and highlights the fragment ‘Give us, o Lord, our daily bread‘  (Translation from original Catalan: ‘el nostre pa de cada dia doneu-nos-el avui‘) and 49 other languages

The greens, blues, yellows and reds of the light coming through Joan Vila Grau’s stained-glass windows form shifting patterns of light and colour across the stone.  Gaudí left several documents explaining how the stained glass windows should be arranged in order to achieve a symphony of evocative light and colour.

Gaudí said that colour was the expression of life.

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The stained-glass features modern geometric shapes are sometimes overlaid with the names of saints. The windows on the lower part of the side aisles are brightly coloured, whereas those on the upper half are in lighter, almost translucent colours.

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The windows on the Facade of the Passion, which are dedicated to water, light and the Resurrection are mostly blues, yellows and greens.

The windows on the Nativity facade allude to the birth of Christ, poverty and life and are mostly reds and yellow.

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A pretty clam-shell font containing holy water rests on curved wrought-iron supports. Everything here is considered,

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even the curve of a spiral staircase leading to the upper floors.

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The basilica is a continuing work of art; the culmination of many years by many talented architects, sculptors and master craftsmen following Gaudí’s instructions. You could spend countless hours, days, even years studying the details of the Familia Sagrada and still not discover everything about it.

One has to wonder what Gaudí himself would think about it today? And what does it now represent?

An unfinished temple

I’m taking a short break from the UK trip and English cathedrals and going back to October and my first visit to Barcelona where I continue in the cultural vein. First the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família which probably needs no introduction to most of you. Famous as Antoni Gaudi’s last and greatest masterpiece, it is hoped that it will finally be finished in 2026 to mark the centenary of his death. Maybe, with a bit of luck, I will be able to visit it again then.

“My client is not in a hurry…”

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View from Avenue de Gaudi

The Sagrada Familia is an international centre for spirituality which, in an exceptional setting, invites people of all backgrounds and faiths to share in a sense of life based on love, harmony, good, generosity and peace.

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Passion façade

Before going in to the building we took a wander around the outside. Although there is a lot of construction going on and cranes, scaffolding etc. in the way, it is possible to see a lot of the recent work.

The sculptures on the Passion façade (Western side) are very different to those on the Nativity side. It is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton. Although I’m not keen on the sculptures, they do convey the feeling of despair and deep suffering. The building itself is supposed to represent ribs and muscles.

Please consult Wikipedia for more information about the façades

In contrast the Nativity façade is much more decorative and characteristic of Gaudi’s naturalistic style. It faces the rising sun to the north-east to represent the birth of Christ and divided into three porticos – Faith, Hope and Charity – and a tree of life.

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The tree of life

“It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art”
~ art critic Rainer Zerbst

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The scene of the birth of Jesus with musicians and singers

“The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”
~ Paul Goldberger

You could spend an awfully long time looking at the stories and all the little details on the façades and one of my favourite parts was actually the doors – about which I will create a separate post.

If you are going to visit the Sagrada Familia then I would recommend that you buy your timed tickets online before you go to avoid the long queues, and also choose the audio tour. This gives you so much information about what it is you are seeing and you can do the tour in your own time and route. I would imagine trying to hear a tour guide in among all the crowds must be pretty difficult.

Next will be the interior which is like no other interior of a church ever seen.

ambience and atmosphere

The street market in Barcelona, close to the cathedral, was buzzing with mid-afternoon crowds. Fairy lights and coloured balloons created a party atmosphere and the throb of the Barcelona street drummers, the whistles and cheers of the crowd, all added to the ambience. You could hear and smell this place before you arrived.

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But let’s get down to the food:

naughty chocolates and pretty macarons (though I have to confess to never having tasted one)

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Calamari anyone?

tempting offerings from the sea, wrapped in newsprint

and busy, busy stall-holders serving out their goods

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We came across the food market accidentally, but so glad we did! There is nothing better than a good surprise.

Black and White Sunday: Passage

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Passage as in Passageway.

A literal interpretation. Mint Wall Passage on the Bailgate, Lincoln, England. Doors are often found alongside cottages in medieval towns leading to a passageway from which entrances to hidden houses or gardens are found.

In Shropshire such passageways or alleys are known as ‘shuts’, in Scotland and possibly north-east England they call them ‘wynds’, in Yorkshire I used to know them as ‘ginnels’ but ‘snicket’ and ‘gennel’ is also used. What unusual name is used in your region for a passageway or alley?

Please visit Paula to see other representations of this week’s challenge.

Norwich Cathedral Part V: Windows

Finally, the windows. I am only going to show you a few glimpses of some of the windows, to be honest it is was quite dark inside this cathedral on this day (it was raining) and not easy to photograph the stained-glass. There are some lovely pieces so if you are able to visit then make sure you examine the windows or visit the Norfolk Stained Glass site which provided much of the information about the windows in Norwich Cathedral.

bauchon-windowThe Bauchon Window was designed by Maria Forsyth and made by Dennis King of G King & Son in 1964. The window given in honour of Julian of Norwich is in memory of Harriet Mabel Campbell (1874 – 53). The main lights depict Julian of Norwich, unusually dressed as a Benedictine nun, together with another eleven Benedictine Saints and other personages.

The tracery lights contain angels (some playing musical instruments) flanking a cross proclaiming “Pax.”

Continue reading Norwich Cathedral Part V: Windows