Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Barcelona - Sagrada Familia, Santa Pau Hospital, La Pedrera

Tuesday was Modernista overload day, and we haven't even gone on the Modernista walking tour yet, which will be Friday. I went a bit wild and set a new personal best for photo taking in a day, at 314 photos!

We started the day early, getting to Sagrada Familia church about 45 minutes before it opened so we could take photos of the outside before the crowds came. I was not prepared to be as impressed as I was with this church, especially the facade showing "The Passion" of Christ which was so beautiful and haunting. I remember reading the book "Pillars of the Earth" and scoffing at the notion of it taking over 100 years to complete a cathedral. Well, here we saw a real life example of this, since the construction started in the late 1800s and is not due to be completed until at least 2026! It's quite daunting to see how many people are busily working at precisely fulfilling Gaudi's vision. It was also sad to hear how he died in a traffic accident in front of his masterpiece and unrecognized, was initially taken to a pauper's hospital.

Next we took a tour of a lesser known Modernista building, by the same architect as the Palau de la Musica. This was the Hospital of Sant Crue i Sant Pau, which faces the Sagrada Familia at either end of Avinguda de Gaudi, a beautiful pedestrian street lined with trees, benches and cafes. The hospital was funded by a banker named Pau Gil, who insisted that his initials P.G. be prominently displayed everywhere in recognition of his generosity. In addition to the main building, there were over 10 smaller buildings on beautiful garden grounds. Though designated a UNESCO heritage site, the hospital was fully functional until last year when a restoration project began. Because of the construction, we had to wear hardhats while on the tour.

Our last stop of the day was another Gaudi building Casa MilĂ , also known as La Pedrera, a derisive name meaning "The Quarry" by locals in 1910 who did not like the unusual building. Each floor made up a single apartment unit shaped like a donut with the rooms forming a circle. The highlight was the rooftop with its fabulously shaped chimneys.

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