Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sagrada Familia: First Impressions

Sagrada Familia, Interior Ceiling

Barcelona, Spain

My little, or rather, younger brother was in town from the 6th to the 11th of March and like a good sister, I tried to show him the sights. I had been to Sagrada Familia before, but it was on an overcast, rainy day on which I remember thinking, ¨What a shame. This place must be truly mind-blowing when the sun is shining.¨

Don´t get me wrong. Sun or no sun, the interior of the building was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was fantastical and revolutionary, but also just a wee bit gray.

So when my brother told me he wanted to see it, but that he had heard from some the interior wasn´t worth the money, I piped in to disagree. ¨That´s probably because those people saw it on an overcast day,¨ I said. ¨Or because the interior was under major construction at the time,¨ my roommate added.

With the pressure to impress on, I was determined to plan the timing of our visit correctly and it was worth the extra effort. The day was bright, the sun bright and overhead and as we entered the lobby of the church it was impossible to miss the difference it made to have the full force of that sun in play. Riotous shafts of color streamed through the windows and bounced off pillars, arches and walls,  giving the basilica an otherworldly air of sacrosanct warmth. The entire interior worked as one in celebration of the mysterious, the weird and the organic.

The vertical thrust of the building was, quite literally, palpable. A body alive, it strained upwards, like a huge, sun-thirsty plant, to unfurl leaves and blossoms across the ceiling of the nave. My brother, who stood next to me, was in a state of quiet awe. His silence lasted for more than a minute as he took it all in.

¨Wow,¨ he said eventually, ¨so THIS is what happens when you let someone talented run with their imagination. The Spanish should be proud of themselves.¨

I smiled and nodded in agreement.

Wow, indeed.

Tips for tourists to Barcelona: See Sagrada Familia on a SUNNY day, book your tower tickets in advance as they sell out, and don't forget to check for free entry for mass on some Sundays.  

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The Sagrada Familia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is slated for completion around 2026