It is almost impossible to visit Barcelona and not come across the works of Antoni Gaudi or at least come across his name. I got my first glimpse of the monumental Sagrada Familia as we were descending into Barcelona El Prat airport. Although I could see the monument clearly my phone camera refused to take a picture of decent resolution.
My motives for visiting Barcelona were slightly different. My main aim was to get to Tarragona, a town with a few spectacular Roman ruins (but of course!). Tarraco as it was then called had been the capital of Hispania Tarraconensis. But going all the way to Barcelona, I couldn’t not visit some of Gaudi’s buildings.
If you’re planning to visit the Sagrada Familia the best advice I can give you is to book your tickets online in advance and to choose early mornings or late afternoons. This is when the quality of light filtering through the stained glass windows is best.
I’d booked to go see the Sagrada Familia a few hours after I’d landed. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen photographs of Gaudi’s buildings before and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them. But in any case, I took the metro to Sagrada Familia and walked over to the side of the nativity facade which is where the ticket offices and the entrance is.
I could see all the construction cranes positioned around the building. The Sagrada Familia is not yet completed. Unlike modern superstructures that are completed within a decade at most, the Sagrada Familia has been more than a century in the building in tline with the tradition of the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages. So many people involved in the building, including the architect himself, would not be able to see the building completed. It’s like being in Ken Follet’s ‘Pillars of the Earth’. The church is expected to completed within the next decade or so.
I was a bit early for my slotted time, so the guard politely asked me to wait. Whilst there I saw a few other rude tourists come and hassle the guard saying “how much?”. Really! I wish tourists would learn some manners towards their hosts and host countries.
After about 10 minutes, I was allowed inside the compound. It was an impressive structure but the true surprise waited inside. The interior of the church was nothing like I have seen or experienced before.
It is said that Gaudi hated straight lines in architecture as he said nature didn’t have straight lines. I don’t know if it was the warm sunlight filtering through those glorious red hued stained glass, or those glorious columns rising to the sky- I was completely overwhelmed.
It’s hard to put into words but it felt as though I was in some kind of primeval forest, not a forest of trees, but a forest of the Universe. Or at times it felt like I was inside a womb. At that moment it felt like I could connect to feel the intense dedication of Gaudi’s vision.
That even though we are mortal and our lives truly ephemeral, we are able to create a piece of art, tribute, homage that can reflect the glory of the Universe and stand on its own against or even within a magnificient natural world.
I was riveted and could not bear to leave. At one point I had to force myself to leave and visit one of the towers (I had booked this as part of the package and you had to complete it within a certain time interval). But I came back and spent at least another hour inside. This was truly a record for me.
I truly regretted not having a slightly more wide angled lens or even a fish-eyed lens to see what magic it could have created but I tried my best to recreate what I saw.