During a week long trip to Barcelona recently I visited so many places across the Catalan city, however the one which is still captivating is Antonio Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece – Sagrada Família – the Cathedral of the Holy Family. Building commenced on the Cathedral in 1882 (I note: the same year James Joyce was born!), and today is still 20 years from completion.
Images above (l-r): The interior pillars designed to look like Rosewood trees; the depiction of the betrayal of Christ on the Passion Facade; and Sagrada Família from afar.
The Cathedral was designed by Gaudí to be read like the Bible, therefore and in particular the exterior facades depict the story of Christ. For instance, the back facade is named The Nativity Facade and shows the birth of Christ and the front facade is named the Passion Facade and shows the stations of the cross and the Crucifixion of Christ. There is a third facade planned showing the Resurrection of Christ and ascension into heaven. Catholic-rared on a diet of regular Sunday mass attendance, my knowledge of the New Testament at least is quite good and Gaudí being a staunch Catholic has designed the most impressive building I have ever seen. The tiny, coincidental connection with Joyce is interesting because his masterpiece – Ulysses is also heavily enshrined in Catholicism and boasts heavy references to the Bible and Catholic faith. Both masterpieces are also heavily influenced by nature and the Human Body, with the pillars inside Sagrada Família designed to look like a Rosewood tree forest and the arches based on those found between human fingers. Likewise, Ulyssses’ Lestrygonians episode narrates Leopold Bloom’s ventures around Dublin city at lunch time in search of a good restaurant in which to eat, if you map his route out on a map of Dublin, it depicts the human oesophagus! Also the Oxen of the Sun episode has major references to childbirth and we know about all the many many references to the functions of the human body throughout the entire novel as well as sounds of nature such as the waves on Sandymount strand and Bloom’s cat meowing!
This is probably not any coincidence, seeing as Modernism is influenced by nature and the human body. However, if Sagrada Família was designed in and around 1882 (Gaudí only took over as architect in 1883),and Ulysses was only published in 1922, then Gaudí was definitely before his time! Even today this building stands out from the crowd among the amazing architecture scattered across Barcelona.
I like to keep my blog posts short, simply because I’ve always been a “brief” writer, but also because I write enough in work that in the evenings I’m usually sapped of all creativity. So basically, visit the Sagrada Familia website, don’t worry the link is in English, and just read about all the detail and history.
I’m definitely booking a ticket back to Barcelona as soon as they announce the completion!