Gaudi’s masterpiece – 2

High above the apse in the basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona there is a skylight hidden behind a kind of radiating chandelier that is a physical evocation of the idea ‘Shine down, oh heavenly light, on me”.  Gaudi was a pious man, and this building is his deeply felt expression of his Catholic faith, synthesising a long cultural architectural heritage of cathedral building with the forms derived from nature which so fascinated him, forms which Gaudi saw as God’s own beautiful creation.

A hidden skylight above the altar radiates what seems like celestial light downwards in the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

A hidden skylight above the altar radiates what seems like celestial light downwards in the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

The fan-palm-like forms of the sparkling canopy roof also radiate heaven’s light into the space below.  Many nature lovers have felt that being in a climax rainforest is much like being in an old cathedral.  Gaudi has captured that emotional connection with the wonders of the natural world and made his cathedral feel like a fantastic forest.

The overlapping irregular panels in the roof of the Sagrada Familia are also textured and decorated

The overlapping irregular panels in the roof of the Sagrada Familia are also textured and decorated

The solid thrusting forms of the central column trunks turn into branches holding up the roof canopy, which then break up into a sort of triangular foliage, rippling out towards the windows on each side. and gently fading away into the outer shell of the building.

The foliage-like vaulting in the roof of the nave peters out where it meets the clerestory windows over the aisles in the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

The foliage-like vaulting in the roof of the nave peters out where it meets the clerestory windows over the aisles in the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

It isn’t all organic and flowing, though. There is a textural richness to the surrounding structural embellishments that are distinctive and unusual, but which nevertheless feel quite old and traditional, echoing ancient buildings both sacred and secular.

Gaudi's great masterpiece of  building is a wonderful imaginative combination of old and new ideas and forms

Gaudi’s great masterpiece of building is a wonderful imaginative combination of old and new ideas and forms

No other great church blurs the distinction between inside and outside like this one does, not even Amiens Cathedral. Light pours in from all the different punctuations in the skin of the enclosure, and not just through the intensely chromatic stained glass windows – which I’ll come back to in another post.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is more organic than a traditional gothic cathedral, but like Amiens Cathedral it is designed to bring in a tremendous amount of light from outside to illuminate the interior.

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is more organic than a traditional gothic cathedral, but like Amiens Cathedral it is designed to bring in a tremendous amount of light from outside to illuminate the interior.

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