Gaudi, the most famous of the Modernistes, has left his architectural fingerprint throughout Barcelona. His major work, however, is the Sagrada Familia-the church of the Holy Family.
That’s the towering drip sand castle with the weird gew-gaws you see in pictures of Barcelona. I will tell you that pictures do not do the place justice. It overwhelms words and pictures.
Here are three stories about Gaudi that, I think, help to reveal the man.
1. When someone asked why he was so concerned about the fantastical detail he placed high up in the towers where no one would see it, he answered, “God sees it.” (And actually, visitors can go up in the towers, so mere mortals get to enjoy his fabulous detail too. )
2. It is said that some of the stone figures on the facade have Asiatic eyes. This is because the head stone carver, and the one still most passionately dedicated to fulfilling Gaudi’s vision, is Etsuro Sotoo. He visited Barcelona as a young man and was immediately drawn to Gaudi’s work, even though the cathedral then was just a pile of stone.
Eventually, Sotoo converted to Catholicism and has devoted his life to seeing Gaudi’s oeuvre completed. This should happen in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
3. The third story concerns Gaudi’s death. It is said that he wanted to die with the poor. In June, 1926 when he was 74 and working feverishly to complete the design of Sagrada Familia, he was hit by a tram while walking in the street. The police didn’t recognize him, so they took him to the public hospital for the poor where he died.
Truly, however, Gaudi’s masterwork has a voice of its own. Unfinished though it is, the place is a towering testament to a unique and powerful view of the divine incarnate. Frankly, I was overwhelmed to be there.
Update to the Camino journal: I am in Seville and plan to begin the walk tomorrow morning. It has rained relentlessly for the past several days. I won’t be able to ford a seasonal stream that I’m sure is impassable now, so I’ll go around by road. Apparently this adds about 5 kilometers to the route. Eeesh.