Barcelona, Spain: La Sagrada Familia

As we concluded our visit to Gaudí’s Casa Battló, we walked over to another one of his masterpiecesLa Sagrada Familia. In 1882, construction on La Sagrada Familia began with its first architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. However, due to various disagreements and conflicts, Antoni Gaudí was asked to take over the job in 1883.

To give some background information about Antoni Gaudí, he was born in 1852 and died in 1926 a few days after being hit by a tram. Nobody recognized him since he appeared to be a “beggar” due to his clothes, so he did not receive the immediate treatment. By the time somebody recognized who he was, his condition had deteriorated, and he unfortunately passed away within a few days at the age of seventy-four.

Alongside the church is a museum that showcases the numerous stages of La Sagrada Familia’s construction. One of the walls in the museum highlights a quote from Gaudí (pictured below), and it has since stuck with me. The quote states, “We must all contribute, as it has to be the church of a whole people.” Even after Gaudí’s passing, construction of La Sagrada Familia has continued, and his dream for the church is still, to this day, becoming a reality. Its expected completion date is set for 2026, so there is much to look forward to!

People from all over the world come to see La Sagrada Familia, and both the beauty and spiritual energy that fill the church are truly incredible. There are no words to describe how breathtaking the church is—inside and out—and the fine details in every nook and cranny are immaculate.

The structure of the church is quite interesting. Once completed, “The design will be completed with four domed structures, some 40 metres high, sited at each corner: two sacristies on the northern side; and on the southern side the baptistery and the chapel of the Holy Sacrament and Penitence. These four constructions and the three facades will be linked by a wide, covered corridor, with a double wall, referred to as a cloister by Gaudí, which will insulate the central nave from noise from the street, and allow circulation from one building to another without the need to cross the main nave.

Gaudí’s plan was for a group of 18 towers: 12 shorter ones on the facades (bell towers which will be 100 metres high, representing the Apostles), and six taller ones in the centre in a pyramidal layout reflecting the hierarchy of their symbolism. Of these, the tallest will be the one above the central crossing, representing Jesus Christ, reaching 172.5 metres in height. It will be surrounded by four, slimmer, 135-metre-high towers representing the four Evangelists and their Gospels. A further tower will cover the apse and will represent the Virgin Mary.

Gaudí wanted to construct a building that would make an impact on the skyline, but also show his respect for the work of God, which in his opinion should never be superseded by man: at 172.5 metres tall, the Sagrada Familia is one of the tallest religious buildings in the world but remains a few metres below the height of Montjuïcthe highest point in the municipality of Barcelona”(http://www.sagradafamilia.org).

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Day 1 in Cartagena, Colombia Continued: The Walled City and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

After seeing Las Bóledas, we drove further into the Walled CIty. One of the first things we noticed was that many houses had little knobs on the corners of their roofs. Years ago, if you were Catholic, you would put these knobs on your roof for witches to fly over your house. If you didn’t have it on your roof, it meant that you were not Catholic and since you were most probably considered a witch, you were taken into the inquisition.

Every year on September 26th, there is a competition to see who has the nicest balcony in the Walled City. For this reason, almost every house we saw had beautiful gardens on their balcony, and the reason being, the winner of the competition doesn’t have to pay taxes for an entire year. If you were to buy a new house in the Walled City, you must restore it or the government can seize it and sell it to someone willing to make the necessary renovations.

The Inquisition took place here in Cartagena during 1610 and lasted for 201 years. If you were not Catholic, you were considered heretic and would be brought to the building pictured below where you would either be tortured or killed. Either way, all women were brought here and were weighed because you could only weigh a certain amount depending on your height. If you were deemed “too skinny,” you were considered to be a witch with the capability of flying. If you were deemed “too fat,” you were considered to have the devil in you. Additionally, if a woman thought her husband was cheating on him, she could go to someone she thought was a witch and ask her to do a prayer for the husband to be faithful. If the husband was in fact faithful, the woman would be brought in and punished by having her breasts removed. If the husband’s behavior didn’t change after the prayer, it was assumed that he was still unfaithful and he would be brought in and punished in the form of having his testicles removed.

As we continued walking, we came across what translates to “Bitterness Street.” This street received its name because during the inquisition, two men were being walked toward their hanging and as they reached the end of the road, one turned to the other and said, “This should be called Bitterness Street.” Apparently, ever since then, the name remained.

The next building we saw was one in which the Spaniards would use as the main building to bring all of their merchandise into the Walled City. The square itself is called Custom Square because this building is where customs once was. Hangings during the Inquisition took place here as well.

The last sight we saw as we walked around was the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, or the San Pedro Claver Church, started by a Jesuit priest who helped the cause of the African slaves. He was called the Patron Saint of Slaves because he dedicated his life to helping the slaves. This is the only church in Cartagena with indoor balconies, and back in the day, the rich people would sit upstairs and the poor sat downstairs.

As the evening tour of the Walled City concluded, my mother, sister, brother, and I ate dinner in at Porton de San Sebastian, which is a restaurant that has a beautiful story behind it. Before owning her own restaurant, the owner would cook meals and give them to local workers in the city who didn’t have much money as a token of her appreciation. Someone wrote about this quality of this woman’s food and the premise behind what she was doing, and eventually, the writer’s review helped build up enough of a reputation for her to open her own restaurant. When she did open her own restaurant, she continued her tradition by closing her restaurant off one hour each weekday during lunch hours for local workers. The food was incredible and knowing the story behind the restaurant and its owner made the meal that much more enjoyable.