On My Wow Moment

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La Sagrada Familia, the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, is one of the many great landmarks in Barcelona. For me, it was a must see, so before leaving home, we purchased our timed advance tickets during the first full day after our arrival. I left the facility stunned and moved.

I’ve been to St. Peter’s (Vatican), St. Mark’s (Venice), Duomo (Florence), St. Patrick’s (NYC), Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, stunning churches in St. Petersburg, Russia, and many other wonderful churches – but to me, La Sagrada Familia is the most moving religious place I’ve ever visited.

Famed local architect Antonio Gaudi (Gow DEE) designed the project, and the first stone was laid on in 1882. Gaudi worked on La Sagrada until his death (1926), and he is fittingly buried in a crypt below it. Historical and political events impacted construction, which is ongoing with hopes of completing the project in 2026.

La Sagrada Familia hovers over the city and its surroundings, thus easily seen from most vantage points.The outside is both striking, gaudy, and odd – it even reminds me of the towers one makes at the beach by dripping wet cone as an inverted cone. Close examination displays a detailed story and incredible intricacy with the sun providing an interplay of light and shadows playing an integral role with different direct light and shadows throughout the day.

Inside is a different story, and that provided the moving experience. Gaudi had a deep faith, was a keen observer of nature, and a strong believer in using natural light. Instead of going on and on about the interior, I leave readers with these three quotes by Gaudi to help understand him – then enjoy the pictures.

There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.

Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.

The amount of light should be just right, not too much, not too little, since having too much or too little light can both cause blindness.

NOTE: Here’s a past post that has two wonderful videos about La Sagrada Familia.

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81 thoughts on “On My Wow Moment

  1. I haven’t seen it in person, probably never will now – but I read about it and watch documentaries about it – and am fascinated by the story and history of La Sagrada Familia .

    Thanks for sharing your lovely photos Frank.

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    • Elyse,
      I look forward to see Notre Dame in Paris …. especially after seeing the smaller version here. The old & grand cathedrals are opulent … full of stuff … the art, the gold & silver, the ornate, and more …. but very little of that here … so much by shapes and light.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Debra,
      There is no question it’s architecturally brilliant … and more so than I ever imaged. (I thought the audio tour provide excellent background). Before that, I didn’t realize what Gaudi thought about light and nature. … amazing that he could put his vision into reality ….. and to do it in so many other buildings!!!

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  2. It is definitely one of a kind, and I imagine it must be stunning to see the bursts of light and color. The outside (in your photo) does indeed look like a sand castle. It is interesting to know of Gaudi’s ideas about design.

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  3. Sagrada Familia is my favorite structure in all the world, Frank! We visited Barcelona about eight years ago and spent several blissful hours exploring its beautiful spaces. I’d love to see it when it’s completed. Great post!

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  4. My ideal European tour would be one of the great architectural centers of worship…the cathedrals. I’ve visited some, (Notre Dame de Paris, St Peter’s in Rome, St. Stephens, in Austria, Westminster,…) but not this one. They are of a time when humans looked at the world quite differently from how we do today….and gorgeously beautiful, but spooky….incredibly spooky….

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    • Cynthia,
      I look forward to seeing the main cathedrals in the UK … especially London. I can see the spooky side of La Sagrada’s exterior … but not the interior … then again, that’s just me. It’s wonderful architecture, and good point about how the masses look at the world differently in different times.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sagrada Familia is a paradox to me. No question, it’s a unique architectural monument to spirituality, but unlike most other inspiring works such as great paintings, its expense is discordant with function. Compare the Golden Gate bridge or the new World Trade Center building. Even the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is functional, albeit structurally irrational. The Sagrada reminds me of Genesis’ account of the tower of Babel, Jesus’ perspective on wealth, and as well, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet, Ozymandias:

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    I do not offer these thoughts to disparage the beauty of the building – I would love to actually see it. I merely wanted to express a perspective.

    Like

    • Carrie,
      It’s a 30+ minute walk from the Old City – but we walk a lot. Other Gaudi buildings are also interesting – just not as grand as this one. Hope you make it there …. and also encounter your buddy for the photo op.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think that’s the most beautiful structure I’ve ever seen. I didn’t see it when I was there, sadly. The cathedral in Toledo was a moment for me, although it pales in comparison to this! Maybe someday!

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  7. Okay I Usually wouldn’t admit this, but today I am. I was sitting here, looking at all of your beautiful photos, starring with my mouth open lol. I so need a vacay on this dreary day today. I absolutely loved this post Frank.

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    • Kia,
      La Sagrada is very unique … I imagine some hate it as it is too different – but not me. For your vaca, watch for fare deals for flights to BCN … after all, you can fly nonstop! (FYI … Another vacation post soon … maybe tomorrow night).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I echo your WOW!! Great shots. Thanks, Frank! I actually looked up the roots/beginning of the word gaudy, as his name Gaudi (Gow DEE)is so close I thought perhaps this work inspired the word. Not. The word out dates his name over 200 years.

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    • Tom,
      I would say your description is accurate … If one studied the outside, you know how long it would take. As busy as it is, there is great detail. … but the interior is what got to me.

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  9. Wow is right. For me, my heart will always be held by Sacre’ Coeur, Montmatre basilica, Paris. I don’t know why this is the one for me, but it has always been the one I loved since I was a child and our first visit. Each time I have returned to Paris, I have returned to this beautiful cathedral.

    Your pictures of this visually stunning cathedral Frank remind us what the minds, hearts and hands of man are capable of. Thank you.

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    • Val,
      I didn’t know of your Paris cathedral, so I went to Google Images … That”s a place I would like to see .. besides, I haven’t been to Paris. … but I can see why that’s a special place. Many thanks for sharing your place!

      La Sagrada is unique. Interestingly, Gaudi wouldn’t praise human hands, but would give accolades to nature for providing the designs that humans duplicated. Glad you enjoyed this small tour.

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    • Nia,
      Your eyes would be very busy in this place because the shapes and lighting are fantastic. Glad you enjoyed this post … and I happened to be visiting your blog at the same time. 🙂

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    • LB,
      Absolutely … jackhammers, cranes, and more …. on the other hand, this place is different. BTW … I recall seeing a large church in New York City that has been under-construction for 100+ years.

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  10. Gaudi is so inspiring. Oh, to be there when it’s finally completed.
    Hey if you did the evening stroll from one end of Barcelona to the other like locals, you probably passed my old boss. Barcelona – people there do know how to enjoy life.
    Wonderful pictures, Frank. Thanks for sharing

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  11. And the thing is, as beautiful as those pictures are, you are able to “see” them through the eyes of your experience there while we can not. I’ve experienced that often times. The most professional photo, the most poetic words – they just can’t come close to the feeling of awe and weight and wonder when you step into such a place. And it’s not necessarily religious. It’s a melding of mind and spirit and time and collective human agreement to respect a place. I realized as I was writing the chapter of my book about my first time to Notre Dame in Paris exactly what I’m saying now: nothing compares with the live experience. But I’m so thankful for words and pictures nonetheless, because they do allow us to share to some extent these surreal and marvelous places with the rest of the world.

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    • Erik,
      Very well said on numerous counts. There’s no way pictures can substitute for being there – and that complete feeling of awe and wonder will different with each of us … heck, even will differ within an individual depending on circumstances.

      For me, if was a spiritual moment. I met a lady on the ship who said the same thing. A friend of mine told me she was moved, and isn’t religious. Then again,others are moved by the architecture, but not in a spiritual sense.

      I haven’t seen Notre Dame, but hope too … especially because there is a small version in my area. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  12. I understand ‘spiritual moment”. Probably mores so than architectural marvel. The later more a tool to achieve the other. Gaudi’s fantastical vision, as well as his name will be a fixture on this planet , like forever. You must have been peeing your paints (not literally) with excitement. I remember way way way back in art school how this Cathedral, with it’s cursive sweeping, organic lines just floored me on so many levels. Probably the most opulent man has built or building, though some how it’s character warms us over.

    Thanks Teach, for the tour and the lesson.

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    • Calvin,
      Good to know you have some background with La Sagrada, thus understand a bit of Gaudi. It seems La Sagrada consumed the last part of his life, and to think it won’t be finished until 100 years after his death. We also toured La Pedrera … wow … he enjoyed curves!

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      • That he does.

        And………believe or not, he made my mental list when I wrote –

        AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY
        He thought, “the child needs structure”.
        Then God said to Man, “go outside and play, your getting on my nerves”.
        And Man went out and tinkered.

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  13. Pingback: On the Rest of the Journey | A Frank Angle

  14. Beautiful images Frank.. I was awe-struck too when I saw the magnificence of this wonderfully inspired build when I went to Barcelona some years ago.. There are some wonderful designs by Gaudi .. Plus all his other wonderful buildings.. We spent some time too at the Gaudi museum, which is another eye opener.. A man who was here way before his time I think…

    Lovely to see the inside.. on our visit this wasn’t possible as they were doing some work on the interior when we went around 12 yrs ago now.

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