I didn’t really go to Spain, nor Barcelona... I just went to La Sagrada Familia. I scheduled a day-long layover in between Croatia and Morocco for this specific purpose. Exhausted and food-poisoned, I took a plane, then a bus, then a metro until I arrived at the foot of one the most astounding (and still unfinished) architectural achievements in human history.
I toured the basilica for roughly two hours. The “Nativity Facade” (the only one of four facades architect Antoni Gaudí finished himself) was the most complex piece of stonework I had ever seen, and each piece contributed to a sculptural story of Christ’s birth. The doors of the facade, constructed of bronze and shaped to resemble a collection of leaves, were designed by a Japanese architect who had studied Gaudí since the 1970s. They were a testament to the project’s global scope; architects from all over the world have contributed. From the tiny windows in the towers, I could see Gaudi’s giant sculptures of grapes and wheat, symbolizing the harvest that sustains life. Inside, the supporting columns were cut to look like trees, and each was a slightly different shade than the next due to the natural colors of the sourced stone. By eschewing straight lines, Gaudí removed the most distinctive feature of modern manmade structures and thus made the environment of the cathedral feel more like an extension of the natural world. It is clear that Gaudí‘s appreciation of nature was deeply intertwined with his religion.
As I walked out of the cathedral and the spiritual experience wore off, my legs ached horribly and pains shot through my stomach. The toll that the all-day pilgrimage took on my body was painfully apparent, but the spectacle of Gaudí’s masterpiece was well worth the sacrifice.