When it comes to cathedrals in Europe, I’m a bit burned out. They are beyond magnificent with their flying buttresses, gothic gargoyles, Michelangelo ceilings, elaborate stained glass, and even perma-popes. It’s just that over time they start to resemble each other more than they stand apart. Like when you’ve eaten at one too many restaurants owned by the same chef. The nuances of difference are lost in the sea of similarity.
The moment I stepped into the Basilica De La Sagrada Familia even this jaded traveler was jolted back into awe. No reproduction, neither photos, websites, videos, or postcards nor prior cathedral visit prepare visitors for the actual experience. Even seeing the exterior doesn’t hint at what’s waiting inside.
it’s the first time I have walked into a house of worship and felt a level of intensity commiserate with what the architects tried to convey. Imagine a chromatic forest and you’ll get a small idea what it’s like. Gaudi believed a cathedral should have just the right amount of light, neither too much nor too little because both blind people–and people should not be blind in a religious institution.
Gaudi never lived to stand in his vision of light. The stained glass, created by Joan Vila-Grau in 1999, is unique in its color and simplicity. All the stained glass is composed of abstract organic geometric shapes reminiscent of you might find in a children’s shape puzzle. Whether or not this is intentional I don’t know, but the sense I got of the coloration pattern was of a triumvirate. One side, designed to represent water is predominantly blue. One part of the other side feels like being swaddled by the sun: with warm yellows and orange tones. Closer to the altar, the huge tree-like branching pillars have a diffuse green, adding to the forest aura.
Photos are below although they don’t begin to covey what the experience is really like.