Barcelona, Day 3

The last time I was in Barcelona there was scaffolding everywhere inside as well as outside the Sagrada Família, which is par for the course since the construction of this church gives new meaning to the phrase work in progress.

The basilica broke ground in 1882, about a year before Gaudí took over and breathed life into this Gothic/Art Nouveau/extraterrestrial Catholic church. The reason that I make an outer-worldly reference is because when you are looking at the exterior of the church–and just as in gazing at stars, the longer you look, the more bizarre details will appear. All the odd surprises you would expect from Gaudí come into focus and you have to ask if you are really seeing what you think you are seeing. I’ll give you a visual example. Here’s how you might be approaching the church, on foot or by horse carriage:

You’ll first have to get used to all that it is and the enormous throng of people visiting it…

then as your eyes thaw from the shock your brain just experienced in seeing the church, you want to look at everything (though impossible to take it all in) at least twice. Are those really salamanders instead of gargoyles guarding the façades?

And, hang on a sec, are those teeth providing a halo around the holy family??

Of course there are fruits on top of the spires!

But wait till you step inside. For a church built in a bygone century, it sure feels like the future…

It’s like no other church I’ve seen anywhere around the world. There are waves, curves, and so many references to nature that I do feel like I’m standing in the middle of a forest among all these teetering columns:


The entire church is bathed in light. So it’s one forest where you have no cover of shade but instead a rainbow shower. It’s beyond incredible. I would venture that heaven must feel a bit like this place…

When Gaudí died in 1926 at the age of 73, less than 25% of the church had been completed. The targeted completion deadline is 2026, marking the centennial of his death. Knock on wood, I’ll meet you right back here in thirteen years, on the front steps of this hopefully scaffold-free church where I took my favorite photo from this trip to Barcelona:

La Sagrada Família is for everyone, however you choose to define your faith.

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