Travels in Spain: Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia

November 14, 2015

” . . . the Sagrada Familia is Barcelona as much as Sacre-Coeur is Paris and the Empire State Building is New York City.”
— Mary Ellen Jordan Haight and James J. Haight, Walks in Picasso’c Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

” . . . Antoni Gaudi’s phantasmagoric prayer in stone.”
— from Frommer’s Easy Guide to Barcelona and Madrid

The highlight of my time in Barcelona was seeing Gaudi’s great basilica, La Sagrada Familia.  I have been fortunate in my travels to have seen some of those special spiritual places designed by great artists:  the Matisse chapel in Vence, Mark Rothko’s chapel in Houston, Louise Nevelson’s Chapel of the Good Shepherd in St. Peter’s Church in New York City, and on this trip Goya’s Real Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida.  Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece is another of these unique marriages of art and spirituality.

When you travel in Europe, there seems to be a cathedral in every city or large town, and for me, these cathedral visits lose their appeal after a while.  They start blurring together.  The gold-plated trimmings, Biblical paintings and statues, and displays of wealth and power seem at odds with the way I see the universe.  They do not inspire awe so much as repel.  But Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is not like that.  Its interior is awe-inspiring and your spirit seems to soar.  It feels uplifting and humble at the same time.  The space is clean and uncluttered compared to those Gothic cathedrals.  The lights, softly colored, evoke a spiritual space.  If you travel to Barcelona to do nothing but visit La Sagrada Familia, it would be worth it.

Exterior, La Sagrada Familia

Exterior, La Sagrada Familia


The Nativity facade

The Nativity façade




The angular sculptures on the Passion facade

The angular sculptures on the Passion façade

“The entire front was a kind of garden rising vertically from the pavement.  Vines climbed upward to provide niches in which statues of Biblical figures stood as if resting in some countryside grape arbor.  What in a traditional façade would have been a pillar, here became a tree in whose spreading branches perched stone birds.  On either side of the main entrance, at eye level, families of realistic chickens scratched, beautifully carved, and wherever human figures appeared, animal life appeared also, for it was obvious that Gaudi had loved nature; his definition of religion encompassed all that lived.”
— James Michner, Iberia

” . . . the spires were built in such a way that they resembled pretzel sticks studded with salt crystals, except that at the upper end they narrowed down to points of rock candy, brilliantly colored.  The spire was decorated with ceramic bits set in plaster and color was reflected everywhere. . . . and since many of the ceramic pieces were finished in gold, the spire seemed to be a finger of the sun.”
— James Michner, Iberia

Interior, La Sagrada Familia

Interior, La Sagrada Familia

“The dominant aspect of the whole concept for the cathedral was the emphasis on verticality, the linking of heaven to earth.”
— Mary Ellen Jordan Haight and James J. Haight, Walks in Picasso’s Barcelona










“The straight line is the work of Man, but the curve is the work of God.”
— Antoni Gaudi



6 Responses to “Travels in Spain: Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia”

  1. mzuritam Says:

    Most excellent! I so agree with you about visiting all the cathedrals, blurring together. I never got to Spain, but I have a book on Gaudi and his advanced, out of time, art work just moves my inner person above myself. That’s the best I can do at describing it. Thanks for your sharing!!

  2. Anne Timlick Says:

    Thank you for sharing the beauty in your photography and words- eye of the beholder! I too resonate with your comments about how this holy place affected you.

  3. kittybluhm Says:

    Thanks so much for your beautiful photographs and commentary, Rosemary. I’ll keep returning here . . .

  4. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing these pictures with us.

  5. shoreacres Says:

    I especially like the last quotation, by Gaudi. There is something about a curve, isn’t there? Point A to Point B has its virtues, but the circuitous route allows discovery.

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