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Barcelona Part 2: Oh My Gaudi and More

Antoni Gaudi Statue

You cannot visit Barcelona without seeing the stunning contributions of Antoni Gaudí. The city is a veritable museum of his works, seven of which have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Gaudí was an architect and designer whose work was driven by his passion for God. Noting that there were no straight lines or sharp corners in nature, Gaudí copied God's blueprint in his buildings.

La Sagrada Família

The Basilica de la Sagrada Família

The Basilica de la Sagrada Família, or Sagrada Família, is Antoni Gaudí's most famous work and Barcelona's most visited tourist attraction. Gaudí commenced work on the church in 1882 and worked on it until he died in 1926. In fact, Gaudí was on his way to La Sagrada Família when he was tragically hit by a tram and killed. He is buried in a crypt underneath the church.

When Gaudí died, Sagrada Família was only 25% complete. It remains unfinished today. The goal is to have it completed in 2026, the centenary of Antoni Gaudi's death.

It is difficult to comprehend the level of detail in Gaudí's design of Sagrada Família, which from afar, looked like a giant, melting sandcastle to me. When I got up close, I was overwhelmed by its sheer grandiosity and intricacy.

Joseph Entrance

La Sagrada Família means "The Sacred Family." As such, the church has three entrances, one dedicated to each member of the sacred family - Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Mary Entrance

Once completed, the church will have three façades, made up of 18 towers.

Jesus Entrance

Each tower will represent one phase of Jesus Christ's life. The Nativity Façade will represents the birth of Christ, the Passion Façade, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the Glory Façade will represents Christ’s eternal glory.

The inside of Sagrada Família is as impressive as the outside. The columns are enormous and are intended to look like trees, another ode by Gaudí to God's creation.

The stained glass windows are breathtaking. Their colors and placement were chosen by Gaudí based on the time of day during which the sun would shine through each. The color of light they cast is symbolic as well. For example, Gaudi intended for the blue and red hues to represent the birth and suffering of Christ.

The organ inside the church is supported by 8,000 pipes and surrounded by more beautiful, stained glass windows.

The Lord's Prayer

The background of the main access doors to Sagrada Família have the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) written in 50 languages. In the center of the doors, in giant, relief letters, is the entire Lord's prayer, written in Catalan. The letters "AG," in gold, that stand out from the rest, are the initials of, and a tribute to, Antoni Gaudí.

Park Güell

Park Güell Views from the Calvario

Park Güell is another of Gaudí's works and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is named after Eusebi Güell, who assigned the design of the park to Antoni Gaudí. From the top of the park, guests get gorgeous views of Barcelona. Off to the left, you can see  Sagrada Família in the distance.

It is hard to believe that this magical place was once a failed housing development. This plot of land is no longer a failure though. Park Güell sees approximately nine million visitors every year.

Throughout the park, you will once again see Gaudí's commitment to God's design, as seen in nature. This sinuous, 360-foot bench, has not a right angle to be found in shape. I was also very impressed by the ridge that Gaudí incorporated to provide lumbar support.

Gaudí also created stone archways to resemble natural caves, with columns that mimic tree trunks.

Hall of 100 Columns

The Hall of a Hundred Columns, though it only has 86, was originally designed to be a marketplace for the housing development.

The incorporation of the gorgeous, tile-shard mosaic roof, and columns is inspired by the Greek town of Delphi.

It was at Park Güell that Gaudí pioneered the "trencadís" technique. "Trencadís" means "chopped" in Catalan, referring to the small pieces of chopped ceramics, cemented together, that you will see in the artwork.

Entrance Dragon Fountain

This dragon, or salamander fountain, is almost eight feet in length and is the most famous element at the park.

The last place that I visited at Park Güell was Gaudí's home, which he did not design. Gaudí lived here for many years until he passed away. On that somber note, I left Park Güell to explore other parts of the city.

Beauty in Barcelona does not end with Gaudí. Below are some more recent developments on the Barcelona scene.

I am sure you are wondering how I can qualify a beach as a recent development. It's true though. More than two miles of beachfront was built up in preparation for Barcelona to host the 1992 Olympics.

El Peix

Similarly, this giant, fish sculpture was created by Frank Gehry for the 1992 Olympics and is now one of the most recognizable landmarks on Barcelona's seafront.

David and Goliath in the Parc de les Cascades

This Antoni Llena piece was erected just after the Olympics. The artist's unusual interpretation of the biblical story of David and Goliath is meant to symbolize the revitalization of this neighborhood, post-games.

La Torre Glòries

This bullet-shaped skyscraper is 474 feet tall and has a whopping 4,400 windows. This building, erected in 2004, is one of the city's more recent builds.

Arc de Triomf

From the new, we travel back to the old. Like some of the pieces above that were created for the Olympics, the Arc de Triomf was constructed in 1888 to welcome visitors to the city as well. The Arc was designed by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas to serve as the main entrance to the World Fair, held in Barcelona.

Plaza de Toros Monumental de Barcelona

Built in 1914, Plaza de Toros Monumental de Barcelona, or La Monumental, was the most famous bullring in Barcelona. La Monumental closed to bullfighting in 2011, but visitors can still enter to see a piece of history. If you are a Hemingway fan like me, my visit here conjured up images from his books “The Sun Also Rises” and “Death in the Afternoon.”

Barcelona City Hall

Barcelona's City Hall, or Casa de la Ciutat, is located in Plaça Sant Jaume, one of the most central points of the city. The original façade dates back to the 14th century.

Ciutat Vella

After my final day touring Barcelona, I wandered back to my hotel through the beautiful alleys, usually bustling, but now quiet after dark. After seeing so much beauty in this city, it became clear to me why (as I mentioned in my previous post) Barcelona is the only city to receive the Royal Gold Medal for architecture.

Coming up next are some of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona. Stay tuned.

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