Christians believe that Jesus redeemed the world from sin by sacrificing himself for the sake of all humanity, and yes before I get picked apart by theologians I know that’s a simplistic explanation! Nevertheless the message of redemption is an important one – the largest Christian statue in the world is called Christ the Redeemer after all.
Anyway, before I get to drawn into a debate with those of faith let me get on with this post, which is about redemption.
In my earlier post, Sagrilege, I expressed my reservations about Gaudí’s great cathedral the Sagrada Familia, based upon the disparity of styles on the two visible facades and the sheer excess of the decoration. Could the interior provide redemption?
Most people are familiar with the Sagrada’s exterior; it has been a feature of the Barcelona skyline for over a century, but the interior is less well-known. It was only in the last few years that the scaffolding and builders were withdrawn, allowing the Pope to consecrate the building as a basilica as recently as 2010. Naturally in the intervening years there have been millions of visitors so the relative mystery will doubtless be short-lived.
Like the facades, the interior is rich in symbolism, individual pillars and doors each carry different insignia, with different areas of the church given over to different categories. The four main pillars at the heart of the church for example bear glazed plaques representing each of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, plaques that seem to glow in the rich light that pervades the church. There are images on floors, symbols on capitols, a magic square in the doorway.
All of this is easy to miss when you are overwhelmed by the space within the building, space created by Gaudí’s unique architectural approach. I referred to columns, but perhaps a better description would be trees, for the way they branch out into formations like spiky leaves it is easy to see Gaudí drawing on nature for inspiration.
But even the architecture is subservient to another feature. Perhaps I was lucky with the weather conditions on the day, but the whole edifice was awash with light and colour. White light from higher windows and a circular skylight above the altar, and great blocks of colour created by stained glass, which instead of adopting the tradition of multi-coloured representations, restricted itself to single colour fields which were far more dramatic.
Did Gaudí redeem himself?