Antoni Gaudi’s Catalan Basilica shocked me today – in the literal sense that I was rendered dumbstruck and tearful. Every time I tried to articulate a response I was overwhelmed. Words refused to take their usual shape on my tongue. My eyes flowed.
This House (which I saw late evening yesterday from the outside) utterly enthralled me on the inside. It ‘restored my soul’ – renewing my faith in humankind. That one person should imagine such a glorious, and eccentric, and wholly holy tribute to the Divine is miracle enough. That the thousands already involved in the project should be able to build such an edifice in this or any other age is quite another.
No other basilica I’ve encountered has a built-in Christmas tree fabricated in stone – sculptured shelter for Doves of Peace – nor giant snails sliding down its exterior walls, nor bunches of grapes, oranges and limes, horses and knights on their courses, and echoing music that appears to own colours as well as notation. This House is soaring, glorious, magisterial, stone crazy, profound, deep, high and utterly proximate. It is unforgettable. It is a covenantal rainbow. It speaks of a Christos, an anointed one, who reaches and teaches inter-faiths as openly and as far as any of us might imagine ‘universe’.
This House is not mean. It’s an abode that doesn’t look for the pecuniary counsel of the average church council. This dwelling-place is above and beyond average! – as all such temples of Life-Spirit (you and me) should be. Like that great artist of Life, Jesus of Nazareth, this earthly home spares no expense. Oil for anointing (yours, mine, or Mary’s) simply costs what it costs, and anticipates – like the Vocation of the Anointed. No cost is too high. The Divine Incomprehensible gives and anoints and lives and dies and lives extravagantly (heavens, look again at those colours), generously, and universally. And makes of every ever-changing shade and hue of humankind, indeed of all creation, a universally present Sagrada Família. Yet the basilica openly asks something of us – including an entrance fee. This tent invites us to make a gift of both our cogniscence and our ignorance, our understanding and our lack of it. And here this seems appropriate and proper.
The exchange and the offertory afford me opportunity to add something, to contribute something to the ongoing art, fabrication, consecration, adoration, admiration and – in the widest possible sense – the conversation, the prayer. And whether from the outside or the inside it invites me to be – perhaps expects me to be – overwhelmed, by a generous, and indescribable, and incomprehensible gift and grace. Yes. Dumbstruck. Overwhelmed. Surprised. Delighted. Shocked. Warmed. Coloured. Inspired. By Love.
a further photo gallery will follow here soon