When I was a child, we used to go to the beach for a few weeks every summer. One of our favorite activities was making “drip castles” out of wet sand. We’d grab a bucket of sand and water and carefully let the wet sand drip from our fingertips, making fantastic shapes and spires. The challenge was to see how elaborate you could make your castle, and how tall your spires could reach before collapsing.
In art history, my first take on seeing a photo of Barcelona’as La Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family) cathedral, designed by Antoni Gaudi, was “Drip castle!” I never blew it on the tests, either–the mnemonic was fixed forever. Apparently I am not the only one to see this resemblance, because when I searched for images of drip castles on Google, I found some photos of La Sagrada Familia as well:
The cathedral isn’t finished and won’t be for a decade or more, although it was begun in 1882. Up close, the exterior no longer looks like wet sand. The facade in the photo above (the Nativity Facade) is the one most photographed, I believe, and close up, all those furbelows resolve themselves into exquisitely crafted details. There are the obligatory religious figures, of course, but there are also twining vines, chickens, roses, standard Gothic features like columns that somehow turn into tentacles, rabbits, turtles and trees. It is naturistically sculpted, elaborate, whimsical and ebullient.
The other facades differ greatly in style. The Passion Facade, which depicts the end of Christ’s life from the Last Supper to the crucifixion, is sculpted in an austere, unelaborated and grimly modern style. some of it couldn’t be photographed because of ongoing construction.
As you can see, this facade was executed in an entirely different style, and it was as deliberate as the Gothic-reminiscent naturalistic style of the Nativity Facade. There are other facades, still under construction, that are more modern still.
I took three art history courses (yes, once it was because I couldn’t pass chemistry, but the other times, it was because I WANTED to!), and not once did I see a photograph of the interior. As gob-stoppingly gorgeous as the exterior is, the interior surpasses it by several orders of magnitude. I have never seen anything like it. It comes close to being unbelievable, as though someone a 100 years ago had had the ability to use CGI to create something impossible and improbably beautiful.
Unfortunately, I have to close up shop tonight and continue tomorrow (or sometime soon), because we are catching a flight to go home. I want to give the interior of La Sagrada Familia the time and attention it deserves, so buenos noches for now, and I will be back as soon as possible.