David's Diary: Monday, January 28, 2002

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

A successful school day sees us off just after lunch to see the most famous of Gaudi's work in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia (The Church of the Holy Family) is the building that he spent forty years of his life working on. At his death in 1926, Gaudi was living in the church when he walked across the street and was run over by a tram. The church is still being finished today.

A Work In Progress
A Work In Progress

Karalee and I have visited many churches throughout Europe. Many have been in various states of restoration, surrounded by scaffolding, but La Sagrada Familia is the first church that we have ever been in that is still in the middle of construction. Current estimates indicate that the church will be completed between 2010 and 2020. While in many of the other churches we have visited we have had to use our imagination to picture how the stone masons and other crafts must have built the church, here we are given a front-row seat to the entire process.

The building process is challenging as Gaudi's original drawings and models were almost completely destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Later day architects have had to sift through the few remaining clues to try and imagine the design that Gaudi had created. The basement of the church houses several models and other documents that have been found since Gaudi's death and the Civil War. One of the major challenges is understanding Gaudi's engineering as the central tower over the church will be twice as tall as the existing towers.

Views from the Heights
Views from the Heights

After viewing the Nativity Facade, with its impressive carvings, we decide to walk up the finished towers. We climb 321 steps providing us with numerous views. We see inside the church and the construction process that is continuing today. We climb by the Nativity Facade and see the doves clinging to the green cypress tree, a symbol of refuge from storms. Climbing higher provides views over Barcelona. As the sun sets we reluncatantly climb down from the heights to return to the boat and consider the vision Gaudi created. It will be fascinating to return in ten or twenty year's time and see how that vision is realized.

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