One thing I’ve been doing here is acquainting myself with Gaudí, the Catalonian architect. You may not know who Gaudí is, but you’ve probably seen his stuff. I even learned about him in high school without knowing it, because I had no idea who Uge (an architect major) was talking about until I googled him and the content from my arts principles class appeared before my eyes. On Sunday we went to mass at Sagrada Familia, this huge, absolutely stunning cathedral—the last thing he never built, because he died before its completion. Using the plans he left behind, the city has taken it upon itself to bring his designs to fruition. I’ll post a couple of pictures here:
So, yes; his style is rather different. But it’s absolutely incredible to see. He was motivated by nature and tried to capture its essence in all of his work, that’s why the façade of the cathedral looks kind of like a drip sand-castle. The cathedral itself has a theme: it’s supposed to emulate the forest. There are enormous columns inside that, like trees, support the canopy above. At the top, they part and stretch across the ceiling until they’re difficult to separate from one another, like branches subdividing until they’re nothing but an indistinguishable thicket. The stained-glass windows are rainbow, and they’re beautiful at all hours. But if you’re standing there at the right time of day, they color everything inside. Absolutely beautiful. There is detail in everything; Nuria and I were standing outside, talking, and behind Nuria was this rock, approximately up to my knees. It wasn’t important; it was just a rock, built into the corner of one of the maintenance cottages so that the corner wasn’t so painfully angular (which Gaudí hated!). But I noticed after I looked over her shoulder a few times that a very, very subtle cross was visible on its face, formed by the strategic placement of slightly discolored stone (I’m not crazy or reading too much into things, like English majors are prone to do—Nuria saw it, too!).
On all sides, hundreds of figures are carved into the stone, and they all have meaning. Agustín showed me one that was of two men kissing. Resting very unnoticeably under the robe of the man on the right was a snake. Agustín explained to me how the men were Judas and Jesus, and how the snake was a foreshadowing of Judas’ betrayal. It was fun because Agustín, Nuria, Benja and I just stood outside for five minutes interpreting everything on the walls. (Rather, they interpreted everything on the walls, while I did my best to interpret what they were saying. It’s been a bit of a problem for me.) There are little puzzles everywhere. For instance, everywhere you turn, you run into the same thing, this:
It’s a magic square. In every direction—horizontal, vertical, or diagonal—the numbers add up to the same thing. In this case, thirty-three (which, according to Christian tradition, is how old Christ was when he was crucified . . . don’t ask me, read this site). It appears in thirty-three places in the cathedral. I didn’t even know that. I literally (and I can indeed use that word here) just found that out after a very thorough Google search.
I should really end it here. We’re actually going back to Sagrada Familia, so I don’t even know what I don’t know about it yet. But I will try very hard to restrain myself from writing eight more posts of this length about it. If nobody reads this, that’s fine with me. I can at least pat myself on the back for having written a blog! And while I do promise (to try) not to write about Sagrada Familia again, I haven’t even gotten started on Casa Batlló! Expect an entry on that, next.