One final look (through the window from inside the Nativity Chapel looking out to the Glory Chapel still under construction) before we all gag on Gaudí. ;-)
I think the ceiling was deliberately conceived to bring the outside within — Star-shaped for the nighttime ... Palmleaves-shaped for the daytime. I can imagine how the green Venetian glass-paned skylights must cast a pale, ethereal glow on the interiors at night... especially when the moon is out and bright.
The audio guide told us that the inspiration for the ceiling and vaults is "threes"!!! That stopped us in our tracks for a moment. We looked up and around, then looked at each other with an "Aha!" expression on our faces and exclaimed as one, "Ah, TREES!!!"
Again we see how deeply Gaudí is influenced by nature! Here in the central nave, Gaudí sought to transform the church interiors into a sylvan paradise. From the ground level, one feels like an ant inside a fantastic forest, with "palm trees" rising to a height of 45 meters (that's equivalent to 147.6 feet). "They consist of a series of Catalan-style vaults based on a combination of hyperbolas and parabolas, geometric shapes that arise from straight lines." The golden Barcelona sunlight enters through skylights high up above as if through thick foliage. And the columns divide up just like real trees.
At the entrance to the church from the Passion Façade stands this impressive, almost heartrending sculpture of Jesus being scourged at the pillar. The New York Times provides a far better description of this scene than I could whip up:
In the center, Jesus is lashed to a pillar during his flagellation, a tear track carved into his expressive countenance. Note the column's top stone out of kilter, reminder of the stone soon to be removed from Christ's sepulcher. The knot and the broken reed on the base of the pillar symbolize the physical and psychological suffering in Christ's captivity and scourging. Look for the fossil imbedded in the stone on the back left corner of the pedestal, taken by Sagrada Família cognoscenti as an impromptu symbol of the martyr's ultimate victory.
A closer look at the Passion Façade: Note how much more austere and severely angular it is in comparison to the ornate, very Baroque-styled Nativity Façade. According to one source, Gaudí supposedly said of the Passion Façade: “I am ready to sacrifice the building itself, to smash vaults and cut columns in order to give an idea of the cruelty of sacrifice.”
In the center below the crucified Christ stands Veronica, faceless — because she is considered a figure of legend and not of true Biblical history — and holding out the cloth she had used to wipe Jesus's bloodied face. I think that that figure crouched at the foot of the cross is Josep Subirachs' self-sculpture, representing an agnostic's quest for answers. There are so many more details and symbolisms here that I did not get to capture, unfortunately. I guess they were just too much that my mind went on tilt from information overload!!!
The Passion Façade — a little less overwhelming than the Nativity façade, yet no less remarkable. By the time this façade was being done, Gaudí had already died and other artists merely attempted to continue the master's vision or in Josep Subirachs's case, infuse his own style and interpretation with his stark and angular sculptures.
The Nativity Façade ... or part of it! It was just too intricate and complex a façade with too many things going on that one wouldn't know where and what to focus on! Taken as a whole, it's like gigantic over-carved stalagmites!!! But imposing and awe-inspiring nevertheless...
Hoping one has solid neck muscles, this façade and all its multitude of vignettes are best viewed live — photographs simply cannot do justice to the totality of the presentations — requiring one to stand back some distance and look up (hopefully with your mouth closed) and patiently scrutinizing the painstakingly artful details and symbolic objects related to the birth of Jesus (the link leads to close-ups and more explanations). You simply have to be there to really fully comprehend this entire tableau.
By the way, only this Nativity Façade and the crypt (so far) of the cathedral have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The classic touristic shot of the spiral staircase of the Sagrada Família's Nativity façade! ;-)
Kids, do not attempt to climb up the dark, cramped and very narrow spiral staircase up one of the towers of the Sagrada Família ... that is, if you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo! We don't, fortunately. But the ascent up the 18 storeys to the very top of the tower can be pretty monotonous. We got so bored with the climb — the worst part was waiting a while until the groups ahead of us decided to move — that we only went as far as the first level — the "shortcut detour" that was located after 200-plus steps. We did enjoy the acoustics, though. So much so, we even tried singing ("tried" being the operative word here!), I'm sure much to the consternation of the other people who were ahead of us or behind us! And speaking of those behind us, there was a trio of tourists who, right from the very start, would try to break the queue and squeeze past us instead of waiting in line just to get ahead! (Hallerrr, wait your turn, you uncouth tourists!!!)
Over one century later, and the beat goes on... "They" say all the construction should be done within 50 to 80 years! Sheesh, I guess I won't live to see this finished!
Anyway, we opted to climb the dark and narrow spiral staircase up the tower on the Nativity Side, instead of taking the lift. We reached the first 3rd of the 300+ steps of the stairway and this is a view from that level. These are two of the pinnacles rising from the side nave. They are crowned with "fruits" made of brightly colored tiles. Why fruits? Hmm... why not?