The Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona was begun in 1882 and designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí. Though unfinished, it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7th 2010. Let’s look a little more closely at the man who designed it and the relationship between architecture and faith.
According to estimates, the church will be completed in 2026. It was already behind schedule in its creator’s lifetime who, when reprimanded for the time it was taking, only replied, “The One who commissioned me is not in a hurry.”
Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the Catalan master’s inspiration, and we here at CTS have put all his addresses from that trip to Spain together in the booklet, Gaudí – Inspired Architect for God:
“Gaudí desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy.
“In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God.
“He accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty. Antoni Gaudí did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points.”
Anyone who has seen Gaudí’s masterpiece can see it is a highly original piece of architecture. It has 18 towers, 12 for the 12 apostles, four for the four evangelists, one for Mary and one for Jesus, but his work was not to everyone’s liking and due to a life of holiness and austerity, he was mistaken for a tramp and left to die in the road after being hit by a tram in 1926.
In Lumen the CTS booklet on Catholicism and civilization, it says of the relationship between faith and architecture:
“A root of the Catholic emphasis on sacred architecture can be seen in the extraordinary care and devotion given to the Temple of the Old Testament. The Temple was the place of authentic sacrifice, but also the place of the presence of God.
“According to Catholic teaching, the Church is the new Israel and every particular church is a place where the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered and where God is present, in the sacramental form of the hosts in the tabernacle. So just as the Temple of the Old Testament was magnificent, Catholics have held that it is fitting to put great effort and creativity into buildings for the Mass and other sacraments.”
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