Thursday, January 5, 2012


In a few days the relaxed pace of the holidays (hectic for some though) would give in to the normal bustle of ordinary time, in the liturgical sense or otherwise. I’ve passed the holidays in several places. I spent Christmas here in my residence in Albaizar, welcomed the New Year with my relatives in Palagrugell, and I’m set to celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings the way people celebrate it in these lands tomorrow. I’ve spent these days well and to good advantage (con buen provecho, as one would express it in Spanish). As soon as I returned home (that is, Pamplona) I felt the need to sum up the experience of these holidays, especially those that I have lived in Cataluña.

As I’ve mentioned, I spent a quiet but not less merry Christmas in the residence with the few who had remained, the rest having gone of to their destination of choice for the holidays. We had an elegant dinner and we had the traditional singing of Christmas carols (which I’m not too keen on, and which actually bores me, to express it frankly). Two days later I set of for Barcelona with another Filipino. I spent two nights in there, which has been my favorite of all the Spanish cities that I’ve visited ever since I first known it, many years ago. We got to know the city during that time with one of the most conventional ways possible: clamber up a tourist bus, which cost us about 25 euros each. The ticket serves for the whole day, and the cost is worth it. Since there are many routes to choose from, we chose one that would take us on a tour of most of the attractions that Barcelona is most famous for: Sagrada Familia, Agbar Tower, Park Guëll, etc. of these attractions, we chose to get to know more the basilica of Sagrada Familia, that masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi (who is on the road to beatification) and is one of the most emblematic landmarks of Barcelona (which in Spain is otherwise known as the ciudad condal, or the Count’s City. When he was still alive, the father of the actual Spanish monarch, Juan de Borbón, held the title of the Count of Barcelona). I went in, free of charge, since for priests entrance into a church is always free (here in Spain, churches are main tourists atractions, and the average tourist has to pay for the entrance), and I could conclude that Gaudi really was an artistic genius. Here one could see what happens when art, architecture, human ingenuity and faith meet. The result is an explosion of beauty. The artist who conceived the structure took inspiration in nature; the columns and the elements that are present in the whole structure are all inspired in those found in nature: shapes inspired by minerals, columns taken from stalks of wheat tree trunks and fixtures that look like gigantic buds. One enters the main basilica and has the sensation of walking under a forest canopy, since the ceiling so high above features forms that resemble the foliage of trees. 

It’s remarkable how Gaudi had achieved this fusion between animate structures with the coldness of stone. I say this because the whole structure is dynamic; it copies the style and ambience of a gothic cathedral without its coldness. Furthermore, the whole basilica is a vibrant expression of the Christian Faith: one could teach catechism with the structure itself, since I surmise that when Gaudi planned it, he planned it to be a catechism etched in stone. The finished building (which would be done by the year 2050 or so) would be having two great towers, the highest one, crowned with a huge cross, would be dedicated to Christ; the second highest, topped by a star with many points, is dedicated to His Mother. There would be twelve smaller towers, each for the twelve apostles. There are four more for the evangelists. The finished building would look like a porcupine or an exotic coral reef. The main altar tends toward the east; the church has two porticoes, one facing the north and the other facing the south. One portico features the Incarnation, the other is the portico of the Passion: all fourteen Stations of the Cross are there. From the portico of the Passion one enters the vast basilica through doors fashioned like the pages of the Bible, with words of the Passion account carved into them. I take it that it tends to signify that one enters into the Church through the words of the Gospel, especially the announcement of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. Anyway, I conclude that the basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a meditation on the life of Christ and of the faith of the Church expressed in stone. If you’re a priest and wish to see a plastic representation of the Faith, and you happen to be in Barcelona, a visit to this basilica is an obligation.
A map and tourist guide

a view of the Sagrada Familia from
our approaching bus

Talking about architecture, Barcelona is a must-see for any serious student in architecture and engineering. It’s undeniably one of the most well-planned cities in the planet. The new city (distinct from the old center) is organized in neat city blocks. One could stand in one main road and see the street stretch to infinity. The city has at least two main thoroughfares: the Paral.lel, which runs parallel throught the city, and the Diagonal (which by this is self-explanatory). The city in itself is home to a lot of structures that are modern marvels.
The streets seem to stretch far beyond
the horizon

The cathedral of Barcelona. The last time I was here--
and that was five years ago, they were working on the
facade. They're still not through with the restoration
of the edifice.

Despite of this, it’s the old quarter that I like most. This part is unlike the new city, which was conceived in the 19th century. The old city (or casco antiguo) is a disorganized lot of narrow alleys and streets, churches from different ages and of different styles, and old buildings and houses. The Rambla runs through this part. Stemming from the Plaza de Catalunya, this I think is the part of the city that has the most concentration of people, especially tourists. Streets and narrow alleys stream from this main road to give way to poor neighborhoods and quaint plazas.

I was sorry to see time fly so swiftly. i had to leave the city in order to go up north, to spend the remainder of my travels with another place beloved by me, Palafrugell, in the northern Mediterranean coast of the Iberian peninsula. But as the bus pulled out of the Barcelona Estacio Nord towards the coast, two hours away, I vowed to return soon. 

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