Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sagrada Familia

The full name of Sagrada Familia is "The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família", which means Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. It is located in the center of Barcelona, Spain. I was exposed to Sagrada Familia via the December 2010 issue of National Geographic, which dubbed it the natural wonder of Barcelona. I was amazed by the temple's forest like architecture and intrigued by its seemingly perpetual construction.

Last week I went to Barcelona for a conference and thus got a chance to see Sagrada Familia in person - how exciting it was to visit an intriguing place just a few months after I read about it!

I arrived at Barcelona Sunday afternoon. Despite jet lag, I set out to walk to Sagrada Familia with a conference buddy, after an hour or so rest. Reading the tour map wrong - we assumed "up" was north, instead of walking to Sagrada Familia, we eventually climbed a small mountain - Mountjuic. When I looked toward city center from the mountain top, I saw brownish forest like structures under the smoggy sky, towering the surrounding buildings. Zoomed in on it with my camera, Sagrada Familia was clearly in sight, just like National Geographic described, minus the main tower -which is to be built by 2025.

Late Thursday morning, the last day of the conference, we took Barcelona Bus Touristic to have a quick tour of the city, and then we went to Sagrada Familia around 4pm - a local secret time to visit the temple without waiting in long lines, but have plenty time to see it - the church closes at 8pm.

As the tour bus approaching Sagrada Familia, the towers of the church, along with tall cranes were finally in sight - a clear indication that the 120+ year construction of Antoni Gaudi's dream design is still in progress. Referring to its extrem long construction, Gaudi, the architect once said: "my client is not in a hurry". As a matter of fact the church was only 25% complete when Gaudi died in 1926.

I purchased audio guide in addition to admissions to have a better understanding of the stories and histories behind the magnificent church.

The church 's outside structure has three facades Nativity, Passion and Glory - each depicts an period of Jesus life. I only saw Nativity and Passion, the Glory facade is to be built.

Nativity facade represents the birth of Jesus Christ - it faces the east where the Sun rises - symbolizing hope, joy and promise. This side was built first and looked its age. It has many sculptures, the center piece is Joseph and Marry holding the young Christ.

Passion facade tells the story of crucifixion of Jesus Christ - from the last dinner to him being crucified. This facade faces west where the Sun sets. Not knowing a lot of biblical history, I had a hard time to follow the stories the audio guide told.

In addition to the obvious symbolism in its orientation, there are a few symbols that are hidden in the architecture - such as this number puzzle (picture on the right, click on the picture to see the puzzel) or the alpha and omega symbol above the entrance. Embedded in the number puzzle is the age when Christ was crucified; alpha and omega represents from first to last (or beginning to end) - like A to Z in English. The tallest tower, the Jesus Christ tower will be at the height of 170meters when completed, one metre less than that of Montjuïc Hill in Barcelona because Gaudi believed that human creation should not surpass that of God.

Note: The internal architecture is magnificent and impressive as well. I will write about it in next post.

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