Barcelona was the first stop on my trip with Mary Polly to Europe in September. We spent two nights there, exploring this beautiful city before boarding the Carnival Breeze for a 12 Night Mediterranean Cruise. Read all about our first day in Barcelona here.
Our second day in Barcelona started with a quick stop for pastries and coffee near our hotel. We were off early on the Metro to see the works of Antoni Gaudi, starting with Park Guell.
We wandered the forest paths of Park Guell, a space I imagine to be a welcome bit of peace in the middle of the city.
We found several spots that overlooked the city and again caught sight of La Familia Sagrada in the distance.
A rock fortress marked the highest point in the park and there were musicians and trinket sellers all around it. We reached this part of the park first and then took a winding path through trees and gardens to the long mosaic park bench that snakes all the way around a courtyard just above the main entrance of Park Guell. We realized once we saw the main entrance that we had sort of unintentionally saved the best for last.
It’s difficult to describe, but I have found many photos online that are way better than my own. I have pinned a lot of them to a Pinterest board, but here is one of the entrance that I found on Ken Kaminesky’s travel blog.
This entrance was fairly crowded even early in the morning in September, so I was fascinated to read about how this traveler managed to get this shot without any people.
We grabbed a spot on the bench (the back of the long bench is at the top of the columns in this picture) and watched the people come and go for a while.
Then we both walked around taking pictures of some of our favorites bits of mosaic. There were so many to choose from.
As we exited the park between the two whimsical buildings that flank its entrance we walked backwards down the street enjoying the views from further and further away.
Then we made our way back to the Metro. Next stop, La Sagrada Familia.
Nothing makes me feel more proud as a traveler than successfully navigating public transportation! I know this is silly because millions of people are using it every day but somehow I still get the feeling that I have cracked some sort of secret code when I get from Point A to Point B.
So when we came up from the Metro right in front of La Sagrada Familia, I was both overjoyed to finally see this amazing church close up and ecstatic that I had managed to take the right set of trains to get there.
And wow. This building is just absolutely amazing.
But it’s not just a building, it is a story. An ongoing project that calls artists, sculptors, architects, laborers and people of great vision that extends longer than their own lifetimes.
Born into being by a a Catalan bookseller in 1882, the church received its true vision from Antoni Gaudi who worked as its chief designer from 1883 until his death 1926. Less than a quarter of the building was done, but his designs and models have served to inspire the continuing work.
There are three facades or sides of the church: Nativity, Passion and Glory. The Nativity Facade was completed first, but the Passion Facade was not done until my lifetime and the Glory Facade will probably not be finished until after I am gone. I have read about cathedrals in Europe that took multiple lifetimes to complete, but I have never stood in the middle of such a project.
The more I continue to read about La Sagrada Familia, the more I feel that the entire project is an extension of the spirit of the town of Barcelona. Walking around the church drew me to the city in a way I am still unwrapping.
We spent over an hour just walking around the outside. We got some lunch and ate in the park across the street from the Nativity Facade. The sculptures on this side of La Sagrada Familia look as though they are growing from the rock of the church. Gaudi wanted them to look like part of nature. All of the models for the sculptures were humble citizens of Barcelona.
The whole story of the first 12 years of Jesus’ life is told in these sculptures.
Even the parts that make you cry are included in the telling.
Opposite the Nativity Facade is the Passion Facade. This portion was done between 1956 and 1976, and in 1987 a team of sculptors, headed by Josep Maria Subirachs began work on the scenes from the Passion of Christ.
When you walk around to this side, it’s like you are not even looking at the same building. The fierce, angular lines of this facade contrast the swirls and curves of the Nativity Facade.
Yet, this seems to be on purpose. As you get closer, you can see the story that’s being told here and somehow the stark sculptures draw lines around this part of the story. It is harsh and dramatic.
You cannot walk into the building from this side without walking past Jesus, tied to a whipping post.
He is willing and resigned. And yet just behind him is the sign of the Alpha and the Omega, a quiet reminder that he has always been and always will be. This is not the end of the story.
These sculptures were my most favorite part. I could return to them again and again. I found Subirach’s drawings later in the museum and I loved seeing the progression from paper and pencil to three dimensional figure.
After we wandered around the outside, we went in.
The interior is full of columns that look like they are trees growing from the ground and artwork so beautiful that I strained my neck trying to take it all in. I had to take a seat and lean back so I could just look.
Again, pictures cannot even begin to capture what it is like to be in this place, especially my pictures, but here is a better image of the ceiling from Wikipedia.
I love to come home from a trip and read more about a place I’ve seen or the people I’ve encountered. After La Sagrada Familia, Mary Polly and I went to see two more buildings by Antoni Gaudi, so I have been reading more about his life.
Now I could go back to Barcelona and see this same building and notice all new details about it.
Don’t you want to go with me?