a basilica, some bread - and barcelona

After holding our annual leadership team meetings in Lima (Peru), Antalya (Turkey), and Bogor (Indonesia) - this year it was the turn of Barcelona (Spain). Seven full days. So it is good to get away from all the work and have some fun together.

On the Monday morning, we walked to the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia ['Holy Family']. Turning the corner, having it come into view so suddenly, reminded me of what happens in Agra with the Taj Mahal. It is breath-taking, as in taking the breath away. The height is what impacted me. When it is completed it will be the tallest religious building in Europe.

Yes, you read that right. 'When it is completed' ... because it has been going for 136 years and still not finished. This is partly because it is a private project - not an official Catholic one - and so it is dependent on entrance fees for funding. Antoni Gaudi is the genius behind it. He was knocked over by a tram and killed in 1926 when the project was only 25% complete. Even today, only 8 of the 18 towers have been completed (representing 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Mary, and Jesus). They hope to have it all completed for the anniversary of Gaudi's death in 2026. There are three outward-facing facades - Nativity, Passion and Glory (still being completed) - depicting 'the most transcendental moments of Jesus' life'.

The Nativity facade faces the sunrise and tells the story of Christ's birth in a festive manner. It was completed in Gaudi's time.

Joy and tenderness is a feature of the way the different 'porticos' are depicted. Here is the central scene. It has the angels above Joseph and Mary (with Jesus), near the bottom of the photo - and the Wise Men to the left and the Shepherds to the right.

Here is a close-up of the Adoration of the Shepherds.

I was drawn to this portico on the far right of the whole facade: Jesus (on the far right) working as a carpenter. On the left is Mary's visit with Elizabeth. In the centre it is Jesus praying in the temple, with John the Baptist and Zechariah on either side, and his parents watching from below. So ornate in its detail and symbolism.

The Passion Facade faces the sunset. Completed seven decades after Gaudi's death, it followed his plans for a more stark, 'sinister air', in order to capture the pain and cruelty in Jesus' final hours. So completely different. I could have stayed all day. Here is a distant view, with 12 sculptures in total.

This next photo is The Flagellation, capturing the Kiss of Betrayal and a piece of the Gospel doors, highlighting Gethsemane, in the background. Incredible. How exactly do people walk by this and remain unmoved? But they do. It is so tough for the gospel in Europe. Behind the Kiss, you can just see the 'Magic Square' where the 310 different combinations of the cryptogram always add up to 33, the age Jesus died.

What about Peter's Denial and then the Trial, with poor, pitiable Pilate? The expressions on those faces won't leave me alone - so stark and yet so filled with emotion.

Using bronze, the Gethsemane door and the Coronation of Thorns door (alongside the central Gospel door above) also captured the eye and heart.

Inside the Basilica, the idea is to convey the sense of a forest with tall trees everywhere. All natural light streaming in, with the eastern side all greens and blues and the western side all reds and oranges.

Looking up to the roof was the other impressive direction in which to gaze.

Members of our team, Igor and Mark - and then Jennifer, Ruth and Dwi. A little reminiscent of Peter's threefold denial, Mark was rebuked three times for looking and acting like a guide and threatened with exile.

[NB: For hermeneutics-geeks, the visit to Sagrada Familia reminded me of NT Wright's 'five-act play'. Gaudi laid down some plans, started building according to those plans - but after his premature death, those who followed have had to improvise as the building continued, with some wanting to be more literalistic and author-centred, others more spacious and reader-centred ... and always a controversy somewhere, just like biblical interpretation!]

On the Thursday afternoon, our team played with the sacrament a bit, changing it from breaking bread together to (making and) baking bread together. Check these folks out on facebook: 'Bread Baking Workshop in the Catalan Countryside'. If you are in the area, just do it. Great fun.

After a bit of demonstration, it was quickly all hands-on-deck.

Along the way, there was time for some British laying-on-of-hands...

... some Nigerian praying ...

... some Colombian showing-off ...

... and some Indonesian resting.

But in the end 'a great day was had by all' - be it the Bolivian-Nigerian collaboration on pizza-making, or the the entire team's successful bread-making in the Catalan Countryside.

nice chatting



What absolutely amazing photos Paul! Thank you!
Paul said…
Have you ever been to that basilica, Sheila? It is just incredible. Bucket-list for you methinks! Paul

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