Sunday, January 04, 2004

Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

We head for the Sagrada as the first stage of a Gaudi trail, late afternoon. It's a Metro excursion, and the station exit is right under the west facade of the Sagrada.
This is the crucified Christ facade - which Gaudi did not want built first, as it would frighten the supporters of the Church. He started the eastern (birth, life) facade first.
The western facade is indeed brutal: strong lines, chunky statuary, setting sun illumination. Very striking. The Sagrada occupies a whole city block and is a construction village: the work was started in 1882, Gaudi died after a tram accident in 1926 with little more than the eastern facade towers elementary structure in place, and it is hoped to have substantial completion by the centenary of his death in 2026.
The eastern side has almost closed up by the time we get there, so we have a leisurely cafe con leche and wait for the tower floodlights to be turned on. Promptly at 1800, they are, and photos ensue. The towers are around 100m tall, with distinctive flower crosses atop, and words around and down them. There are still people moving down the towers, which gives us tomorrow's plan (we have not paid to go in, suspecting something like this to be the case).
So we head back for a quick freshen-up and then a ramble down on the other side of our area. Which almost turns pear-shaped, as we overshoot the street and end up in little alleys where the locals eye us distinctly as prey. We smartly turn and exit stage right. We find the Santa Maria de la Mer church - ancient, shrines to many more saints than we know about, clear evidence of a simple but devoted approach to religion here, as a woman goes up the image of one of the saints, touches both knees, and kisses his feet. Back through more narrow streets, but friendlier, to Hotel Levante.

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