Sagrada FamiÂlia: the Masterpiece of Antonio Gaudi
The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is the masterpiece of the eccentric, ingenious Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí. Located in Barcelona, the Sagrada Família was privately-funded and has been under construction in since 1882. This is because the architect died during its construction and left no architectural plans for his successors to emulate. Gaudí’s idiosyncratic design have made it one of Spain's top tourist attractions for many years.
Antonio Gaudí can be regarded as the main exponent of Art Nouveau in Spain, but he was a true original and his work is not confined to any one style. He was a very eccentric figure. He had a number of small commissions at the beginning of his career, but as a devout Catholic he eventually abandoned his secular commissions and devoted his life to designing Barcelona cathedral, which is known as Sagrada Família.
This began as a fairly conventional building in the Gothic style, but Gaudí gradually abandoned conventions and began to rely more and more on his own imagination. He started to use fantastical biomorphic shapes. The details resemble Gothic spires and finials, but overall the form seems indeterminate and protean, as if the Gothic style has been warped. The building composed of stone blocks like any other cathedral, but the stone has been sculpted in a very plastic way, as was typical in Art Nouveau. Stepping back, the facade seems to be dripping with undulating forms. It seems to have grown organically.
The design is suffused with Christian symbolism and Gaudí intended the church to be the ‘last great sanctuary of Christendom’. A total of eighteen tall towers were intended, representing the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Christ himself. The Evangelists' towers are be surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (St Luke), a winged man (St Matthew), an eagle (St John), and a lion (St Mark). The central tower of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross.
Gaudí was certainly an obsessive, but he was also a visionary. The building is enigmatic and mystifying. The four finials of the main frontage, all terminating at different heights, have a dizzying effect, as if the viewer is overcome with religious ecstasy. Broken tiles are embedded in the surface, creating a dazzling mosaic effect. Gaudí anticipated Surrealism, which was an important movement in art and literature in the 1920s. Surrealism was all about unlocking the subconscious mind. The most famous surrealist artist was Salvdor Dalí, who like Gaudí was from Catalonia in Spain. In Dalí’s paintings the forms are distorted and deformed, like Gaudí’s architecture.
Gaudí did not work from plans like most architects. He relied on his imagination or perhaps on religious inspiration. He died in 1926 and was buried inside the cathedral. His unorthodox method of designing meant that the building could not be completed according to his scheme. Even now it is not complete, but it is being continued in a much more conventional way. The cathedral is not expected to be complete until at least 2026. However, the church is to be consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7, 2010, during his visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona.
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