Sagrada Família is kind of hard to miss in Barcelona, not only because of its height and size, but it is unusual to see a seemingly old building constantly surrounded by construction cranes.
On the day of visit, tourists craned their necks to gawk at the spire, some with the ice-cream they just bought from one of the mant vendors dripping down their front as they gawked at the spires. Other posed as the crucified Christ outside the main doors. Unlike most crucifixes, the Jesus figure on this one stares down at an angle, almost as if he is flying.
Such unconventional and sometimes over decorated designs are iconic of the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). His work defines Catalan Modernism. Between 1984 to 2005, seven of his masterpieces were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, including Casa Batlló, Park Güell and the unfinished basilica, Sagrada Família.
A survey by Statista indicates that other masterpieces by Gaudí, including Park Guell, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló also rank among the top destinations.
In 1877, Gaudí designed his first building, Casa Vicens, under the commission of a merchant Manuel Vicens, on Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona. Further down the boulevard stands Casa Batlló with its colourful mosaic and dragon-like balconies. The line for tickets to these building may be long, but many more people pose for selfies outside. Visiting everyone of these Gaudí site in the city will set you back more than 100 euros ($923).
Gaudí conceived those richly sophisticated columns, vaults and other geometric structures abstracted from “the Great Book of Nature.” He once said, “The line belongs to human beings, and the curve belongs to God.” Gaudí noticed that there are no pure straight line in the nature. Therefore, almost no straight lines can be found in his work and most of them are formed by vibrant curves and organic objects. That’s the reason why visitors can see sloping trunk-shaped columns at Park Guell, the balcony railings that take the shape of mask at Casa Batlló, and snell-shell-like spiral staircase at Sagrada Família.
On 7 June 1926, after his daily work at the Sagrada Família, Gaudí was hit by a steer tram and lost consciousness when he was on his way to the Sant Felip Neri church for prayer and confession as usual. After his death, the people of Barcelona generally regarded Gaudí as the saint of the city. And the director of the Museum of the Barcelona Archdiocese wrote an article hailing Gaudí as “God’s Architect,” which was widely circulated afterwards. Since 1992 when the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudí was constituted, there were rising voices that called for his beatification, however, yet to be confirmed.
Casa Batlló, located on Passeig de Gràcia, was renovated by Gaudí between 1904 and 1906. In 1995, more than 2,500 square meters was opened to the public by its current owners for various functions such as corporate event, cocktail dinner or wedding. Over the past decades, rooms at Casa Batlló have been in demand for important events in the city.
According to the official website of Casa Batlló, the architecture is intimately connected with the legend of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia, who killed the wrathful dragon with his spear to save the princess and her people.
The ridge against the façade resembles a dragon’s backbone. Those ceramic tiles covered on the roof are dragons’ varying scales that initially turquoise on the right side, where the head begins, turn marine blue and violet in the middle, then gradually turn peach red on the left side due to the wound.
The tower, perched on the bloody side, symbolises George’s spear that pierces the dragon. It is crowned with a four-armed cross decorated with monograms of Jesus Christ (JHS), Virgin Mary (M) and Saint Joseph (JHP), outpouring Gaudí’s religiosity.
Park Güell was initially a commercial estate for wealthy upper class families and was open to public in 1926. Together with local entrepreneur Eusebi Güell, the architect Gaudí envisioned this community deeply affected by symbolism derived from Catalan nationalism, Catholicism and mythology during the period from 1900 to 1914.
Today, the park is packed with tourists as well as locals going for a jog or walking their dogs.
Park Güell was also the former site to host the First International Congress of the Catalan Language Party in 1906, while it was still under construction. During the second half of the 19th century, artists including Gaudí participates into the Catalan Renaissance which focused on the full restoration of Catalan language and culture.
Gaudí undertook the construction of Sagrada Família in 1882, and he concentrated exclusively on this sole project regardless of all other work in 1914. After living in the Park Güell for almost 20 years, Gaudí even moved to the workshop of the Sagrada Família at the end of 1925, when, a few months before his death on 10 June 1926.
Gaudí’s architecture with Christian elements is an expression of his Roman Catholic faith and he always regarded God as his ultimate client. “My client is in no hurry. God has all the time in the world.”
《The Young Reporter》
The Young Reporter (TYR) is an English news publication produced by international journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University. It started as a printed magazine in 1969. Today, TYR is produced across different platforms.
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