Gaudí was a forward looking architect of the late 1800’s and was the primary influence of Spain’s "modernisme" style of architecture. Prominent all over the city, you see it on buildings, and even outdoor seating. Today we visited the top examples, one a park, the other, a church—and definitely unlike any we have seen.
Park Guell (pronounced Güell in Catalan, but gway in Spanish) was begun in 1900, planned as a large estate, high atop Barcelona. The wealthy would live there in a planned residential community in 60 triangular plots, and common areas. It was stopped in 1914 and deemed a failure, in part because of its relative inaccessibility as well as cost. It was then acquired by the city as a park, and as such, has made a very popular tourist spot (as well as bringing in those essential tourist dollars.)
We loved the wavy walls, the helical columns, portico of the washerwoman, and the casa de guarda-the porter’s lodge. One of the buildings is used as a school which made for nice background noises of kids playing amid the growing babble of tourists as the morning progressed.
The monumental flight of steps leads to the Hypostyle Hall - many columns, not necessarily in perfect formation (by design) with ceiling designs of broken tile mosaic, a favorite of Gaudí. The tile is found throughout the park—from ceilings to walls, to dragons (really a salamander),and decorations windows, doors and roofs. It is called "trencadis " in Catalan.
From there, we took a bus down the steep streets to the #1 tourist attraction in Barcelona—the Sagrada Familia—the church planned and started by Gaudí in 1909 and is still under construction. Gaudí was a deeply religious man and wanted to create a church that would nurture the spirituality of all who visited. We were blown away by the entire experience. After our quick lunch stop at a local fast food sandwich stop, we proceeded down the street. Quite soon, we saw the tall, thin, neo-gothic spires of the roof come into view.
The tickets are timed entry with a strict admonition to "be on time". We hurried down to the swarms of people, traffic and tourist buses in this area. Finally found the correct entrance, got our headsets and entered the building. We had done all the reservations online (they were sold out of tickets to people that hadn’t done that) and went to our first timed spot—one of the two towers available to the public. There was a quick elevator to the top where a tiny place was available for pictures. Then came the walk down—curvy, narrow stairs with several cutouts, and alternative stair options along the way. The view was great, but my (Wendy) legs were shaking by the time we arrived at the bottom.
Now for the most amazing part. On our initial view of the interior of the Basílica we were surprised at both how vast and colorful it was. Even before we started listening to our headsets, we were totally overwhelmed by the beauty and spirituality of this building. Looking up, down, right and left, we saw columns, intended to look like trees,some of different materials, meticulously and geometrically placed (everything was in terms of 7.5–meters, then doubled and tripled so the rows were exact, nave was 4 times the rows, etc).
The many, many stained glass windows were planned to complement not only the uses of the areas (warmer tones for the entrance, cooler for nave), but also to let in as much light as possible. By the time we left, the afternoon sun was just hitting some of the columns and made a spectacular sight.
As we walked around the vast interior, we saw the altar area with a huge statue of Jesus hanging from a circle just above it. The modern looking organ was played every ½ hour, for about five minutes or so, and filled the entire church with beautiful sound.
There is a chapel crypt underneath the altar which houses a smaller prayer space, and which contains Gaudi’s tomb. Smaller chapels, very modern, surround the sides and rear of the altar for meditation.
The outside is as splendid as the inside. What will eventually be the primary entrance was described in detail but is cordoned off right now. We entered through the nativity entrance, looking up into the fruits, ....(some we had pictured from our trip to the top of the tower.
We exited the vast church reluctantly and found ourselves taking picture upon picture of what is called the Passion entrance (this is the newer side, the older side is called the Nativity entrance) with its beautiful doors, quotes from the Bible, and statues of the apostles.
Gaudí planned all this out in detail during his lifetime, but knew it could not be finished until long after his death. Indeed, there is much construction going on all the time, and they expect the church, with all of it’s towers, doors and entrances to be finished in 2026–the 100th anniversary of his death. I think this should be added to the modern wonders of the world—a sight not to be missed!!