The Ultimate Barcelona Experience

One of Gaudí's earlier projects, La Pedrera incorporated innovations like a self-supported façade and underground parking.  Under renovation during our visit, this photo is from Wikicommons.

One of Gaudí’s earlier projects, La Pedrera incorporated innovations like a self-supported façade and underground parking. Under renovation during our visit, this photo is from Wikicommons.

My first surprise about Barcelona, a metropolitan area of five million people, is that the city is only about 150 years old.  The roots of the city go back to Roman times, but the city as we see it now has few remnants older than the mid-19th century. 

Gaudí loved color.  He did not much like square corners. Photo credit: Wikicommons

Gaudí loved color. He did not much like square corners.
Photo credit: Wikicommons

Barcelona underwent major changes in the 1800’s.  In a controversial move, the powers of that time decided to tear down the medieval wall that contained the city.  Along with the wall, many medieval era buildings were also demolished.  A master plan was developed which included plazas, parks and tree-lined streets that were over 100 feet wide with wide sidewalks.  Although some property owners fought these zoning restrictions, today Barcelona has lots of wide boulevards, plazas with beautiful artwork, and public parks providing spectacular vistas of the city.  The result today is a feeling of wide open spaces with lots of light, nice breezes and lots of green space throughout the city.  Further improvements were made in preparation for hosting the 1992 Olympic Summer Games, including new beaches and modern construction.

Stylish architecture is what catches my eye in Barcelona, and none is more striking than the inescapable designs of Antoni Gaudí.  I was prepared to be amazed by the unusual shapes and bright ceramic touches of Casa Batlló, Park Güell and other famous Gaudí works.  I was hardly prepared for the spectacle that is La Sagrada Familia, the Catholic Basilica of The Sacred Family.  As we walked from the nearby Paseo de Sant Joan, my heart began beating faster as the glory of spires towering more than 500 feet over my head came into view.  Everything about La Sagrada Familia demands that I look up. 

The spires of La Sagrada Familia pierce the sky over 500 feet above street level.

The spires of La Sagrada Familia pierce the sky over 500 feet above street level.

I can hardly get my head around what I am seeing.  Is this art?  Is it architecture?  Is it the creation of a crazy man or a genius?  What sort of mind is able to bring such a remarkable vision to reality?  These thoughts go through my mind as I gaze upward in amazement and awe.  Interior pillars start out five feet in diameter at their base.  As my eyes follow their upward taper, they seem to grow sixteen evenly space ridges.  These ridges split in two as I follow the lines upward.  The vertical lines then dissolve until further up the column is perfectly round.  Suddenly, the column splits into multiple branches that taper and disappear into the ceiling they support.  The effect of the multiple pillars is like a forest of giant trees supporting an elaborate ceiling 200 feet overhead.

The West entrance to Sagrada Familia is also the oldest.  It depicts the Nativity in sculptures high over the portico.

The West entrance to Sagrada Familia is also the oldest. It depicts the Nativity in sculptures high over the portico.

La Sagrada Familia was not completed in Gaudí’s lifetime.   In fact, the construction that began over 130 years ago continues to this day.  This was not a commissioned project.  Gaudí utilized only money that was donated in order to carry out the construction.  To this day only donations from entry fees and benefactors are used to pay for the construction.  It is estimated that 2.8 million persons annually visit La Sagrada Familia.  The base admission is about $27/person without a personal guide or audio guide and exclusive of a trip up one of the towers.  The two newest towers are equipped with ultra-modern elevators.

The interior of Sagrada Familia is light and open.  Color is added with the extensive use of stained glass windows.

The interior of Sagrada Familia is light and open. Color is added with the extensive use of stained glass windows.

Gaudí believed that all great efforts required sacrifice.  He felt paying the ongoing costs of constructing La Sagrada Familia was exactly the sort of sacrifice that was required to achieve success.  It is estimated the project could take ten or more years to complete.  I do not think Gaudí would mind. 

In 1926, Antoni Gaudí was struck by a tram on his way to his local church.  He was knocked unconscious and taken in a coma to the hospital.  No one recognized him at the time.  During the night he awoke and asked to have last rites administered.  He died later that night.  He is now buried in the crypt below the main altar of La Sagrada Familia.  Catholic masses are conducted there daily.

Interior columns evoke images of a forest with branches high overhead.

Interior columns evoke images of a forest with branches high overhead.

The elaborate ceiling is braced by the many-branched columns soaring 200 feet overhead.

The elaborate ceiling is braced by the many-branched columns soaring 200 feet overhead.

The colors and details throughout the cathedral dazzle the eyes/

The colors and details throughout the cathedral dazzle the eyes.

Advertisements

23 comments on “The Ultimate Barcelona Experience

  1. Loca Gringa says:

    Ahhhhhhhhh Gaudi … but not gaudi! wanna gooooooooooooo!

  2. I think I will plan to go Spain for my next holiday, it just come in a good time, thanks!

  3. Thank you for the wonderful tour. I knew very little about Gaudi but like his thinking….very nice photos

    • Mike Lince says:

      Gaudi was an amazing character. It is wonderful to be in a city that held him and other fine architects in such high esteem. They certainly left their mark in Barcelona.

  4. Oh Wow Mike! You really captured the beauty, mystery and uniqueness of Barcelona. Great history information, too. I wasn’t aware of the major changes the city went through in the 1800s. Fascinating – I guess they were ahead of their times on modern urban planning. And what can I say about Gaudi – love the guy … and your photos truly do his structures justice. Didn’t the Sagrada Familia just knock your socks off? ~Terri

    • Mike Lince says:

      I always think of you two when I write about a new place knowing you have already been here, and I think, “How can I add something James and Terri have not already covered?” I caught a cold, so I did not get out as much as I would have liked, but I am pleased to have added a little to your extensive knowledge of the area. La Sagrada Familia surpassed everything I imagined it to be. Now we are off to explore Madrid! 🙂 – Mike

      • Have Fun in Madrid! James has been down with the flu for 2 weeks – even though he had the shot! So he empathizes with your cold. Hope you’re feeling better. ~T

  5. The photographs here are stunning Mike!!! Reading your blog is dangerous for me – every place you write about I want to visit. We just don’t have the money for that, however. Hope all is well. Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      I am glad you enjoy sharing our experiences. You are right that tourist travel is expensive. These stops in Rome, Barcelona, and Madrid are tourist travel. We enjoy seeing amazing sights, but we also look forward to settling in a place of our own soon. Thanks for following along. – Mike

  6. Mike, these photos are amazing and the details are SO interesting! I’ve read things about Gaudi, but you have really covered some fascinating information about the man and his architecture. I did not know, for instance, that he was hit by a tram and died of head injuries. Wow! The photos are just incredible! Like you, I want to just keep looking up! Thanks for sharing such incredible travel… love it!

    • Mike Lince says:

      My hands seem much steadier on the keyboard than they are holding the camera. Too often my photos come out fuzzy. That is why I just write. Thus, Florence gets credit for the photos. If you ever wish to see more photos that the few I post, you can find our photo albums on our Facebook page – The 6 Monthers – 6 Monthers.com. In fact, given your affinity for Facebook, I think you should give our page a “Like”. 🙂
      Your comments are always a joy. Thanks, Dawn. – Mike

      • Absolutely! Didn’t know you had a FB page (note to blogger: publicize! Put that on the bottom of each post 😉 )!! I will certainly do that next; you know I like everything about you and Florence!

        Well, you make a perfect team, as your writing is excellent and her photos are sublime. Hmm, She should also suggest that you © each photo with her name! Just sayin’… This was such a joy to read and look at… makes it easy!

  7. spencercourt says:

    For more Barcelona info, and maybe some tips on living there,check out the blog of an American living and working there:

    http://holayessica.com/

  8. reocochran says:

    The Antoni Gaudi architecture is distinctive and so creative in appearance! I don’t remember seeing this! I am searching my mind if I saw this cathedral but the churches we went into may not have included this one, The Sacred Family. I am so in awe of the height of these towering steeples of the church and the ancient murals, sculptures and the interior (you so aptly described) as towering trees!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Gaudi designed many structures, some of which were never built. He has a surreal sense of style and structure and the unique genius to bring his designs into reality using the technology of the 19th century. Many have studied his plans and drawings to complete the work on La Sagrada Familia according to what he intended, but then how can anyone know what he intended. I think Gaudi would be pleased to have brought so much enjoyment to the world through his designs that it is less important to get everything just right. It is a tribute to him that the work goes on until La Sagrada Familia is completed. It is worth going to Barcelona just to experience it, and that is the ultimate compliment to the man. – Mike

  9. […] Antoni Gaudí’s architecture, and the highlight for any visitor to Barcelona is without question La Sagrada Familia.  For a number of reasons, Madrid was my favorite stop.  Perhaps it was the reunion with our new […]

  10. […] time sightseeing and to visit friends.  There is no question that the highlight of Barcelona was La Sagrada Familia, although I will admit that the sights of Madrid impressed me somewhat more than did Barcelona.  […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s