Friday, September 24, 2010

Window on the future

Windows in the forest
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
A highlight of the recent Fahrt to Barcelona was the visit to La Segrada Familia - the iconic, unfinished basilica which I first noticed while trying to text-wrap round an image of its towers for the school's entry in a newspaper competition. We ran a school trips section, and this particular photo taxed my fairly rudimentary skills with Pagemaker. But the jumble of towers and cranes seen from the streets of Barcelona give little indication of what is inside.

I'm used to gloom and relative silence inside the ecclesiastical buildings I've visited (there are many). Not here. Strangely, it was not the bedlam of workmen who have to make the interior ready for the Papal visit in November that made the greatest impression. It was the light - a pale, greenish/pinkish glow that suggested a mystery beyond the merely holy - the mystery of life itself. The columns are organic in their construction, arching up like great trees to split into smaller branches and then into leaf-like fans supporting the ceiling. They seem to be in no recognisable pattern, and yet nothing seems out of place. The flow of stone is elegant and natural, and the light from windows - stained glass or otherwise - permeates the space from hundreds of openings. We were told of plans to fill some of the light-apertures with coloured glass - I think the accompanying photo shows how this might look (at the top of the pillar in the middle ground)

Outside, I was aware of the contrast between the sculptures round the door we had entered by and the ones on the Passion Façade by which we left. The older are of conventional style, though placed among Gaudi's fantastically melting stonework as in a gigantic dripping candle. On the Passion façade, however, Subirach's sculpture is starkly modern, almost cubist in appearance, and intensely powerful, as the road to the Cross is depicted as an upward path on the Western side of the building. Some of the detail escaped me in the bright midday sun - I only noticed the women covering their faces when I looked at the photos I had taken.

If it does indeed take another 20 years for this amazing building to be completed, it is unlikely that I shall see it. But even as it is, Gaudi's vision has transformed my idea of what a church can be. I shall never be satisfied again!


  1. MartinRitchie11:49 PM

    Totally agree with you - it's an absolutely stunning building. Loved being able to walk through the bits under construction!

  2. I'm sorry folks, but this building leaves me cold. When it was left unfinished around 1910, so it should have remained, given that the cost of completion is going to be huge. I see no justification in the 21st century for finishing a design that corresponds to the taste of a vanished epoch, and which uses resources that could be better employed elsewhere. I have great respect for some of Gaudí's work, but the Sagrada Familia is going to look like a wedding-cake gone wrong.