Inside the Holy Grove of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

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Stepping inside La Sagrada Familia cathedral is like walking into an enchanted forest. Your gaze goes and up and up, following the trunks of  trees toward light-filled branches.

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The forest is made up of several kinds of stone, so each tree trunk has its own subtle shade, some leaning red, others green. They branch out at the top into smaller and smaller columns, like fingers stretching out to hold up an impossibly ornate ceiling.

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Only it’s not a ceiling at all, but a canopy of leaves and stars woven tightly together, as you would find in any forest grove.

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Toward the right of the main entrance is the heart of the cathedral with two massive organs and rows of pews for worship. There floating  beneath an umbrella of lights is the upward-gazing figure of the Christ.

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Along the sides of the main chamber are spiraling staircases moving up the towers, to what and where, I do not know.

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Colored light floods the cathedral, streaming through the stained glass windows, or projected along the walls and columns, flowing from blue to green, and gold to scarlet,

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Glimpses of the crypts below can be seen through artful cut-outs in the stone.

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Toward the exit is a large loggia featuring some of the furnishings Gaudi created for the cathedral, and a single simple painting, capturing the tenderness and grief at the fallen Son.

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Below are two virtual tours of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. The first video is very short and gives you a 360 degree view of the interior main chamber. The second video, which takes around five minutes, shows both the exterior and interior, with some lovely aerial shots outside, while inside the church is full of worshipers during its consecration mass.

 

All the still photos in this post are my own except for the ceiling shot which came from Wikipedia.

My last blog post features the exterior of La Sagrada Familia and tells more about its creation.

 

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“A Terrifying & Edible Beauty,” Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia

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This stunning cathedral, a tribute to Antonio Gaudi’s genius and imagination, his love of God and Nature, was begun in 1882 and is still a work in progress. It’s hoped to be completed by the centennial of Gaudi’s death in 2026, but many believe it will stretch well beyond that date.

DSCN4482“There is no reason to regret that I cannot finish the church,” Gaudi wrote. “I will grow old but others will come after me. What must always be conserved is the spirit of the work, but its life has to depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated.”

“La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.”

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On it’s completion, it will tower 560 feet, slightly less than the the highest natural landmark in the vicinity, Montjuïc hill . Gaudi believed that nothing should rise higher than the hand of God, and he revered Nature, not only as God’s handiwork, but as the inspiration for all that can be called art. “Nothing is art if it does not come from nature,” he once famously said. Therefore his buildings have no straight lines or sharp corners because “there are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature.”

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Already his structure dominates the surrounding city of Barcelona, and it is only one-half of its envisioned height.

The model below shows what the completed structure is meant to look like, but only the brown parts are currently built.

Salvadore Dali referred to La Sagrada’s “terrifying and edible beauty.” Art historian Nikolaus Pevsner likened its growth to “sugar loaves and anthills.” Time Magazine found it “sensual, spiritual, whimsical, exuberant!” While George Orwell called it “one of the most hideous buildings in the world.”

I have to admit when I first saw it from the street its hugeness combined with its extremely ornate facade topped by construction cranes made the whole affair seem monstrous and grotesque. But upon closer inspection I found it fascinating and inspiring. Like Gaudi’s Casa Bottla, which I wrote about recently, around every corner, from every new angle, wherever my eye rested I discovered some new surprising detail to delight me.

The facade at front entrance to the cathedral, which celebrates the birth of Christ, is sumptuously ornate, as you see in the photos above. But as you pass through the building to the back entrance, commemorating Christ’s death, the style becomes more stark, with sharper lines, giving it a modern feel, as you see below.

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Some of the most interesting and intricate parts of the exterior were the huge portals, the doors through which you pass from the exterior into the heart of the cathedral..

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And here at the portal of Gaudi’s masterpiece I will leave you, saving the equally fascinating interior for my next post.

Painting Again, Forest Series

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I’ve started painting again, keeping toward the abstract, still experimenting with water-color and oil pastel, letting them show me how well they play together.

I’d been inspired by some of Rick Steven’s paintings, his intense close-ups of trees and barks. I love the colors, the texture, the shapes.

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The painting above was my initial attempt. At first it seemed too vertical, too placid, so I began to build up the horizontal elements, the “foliage,” and finally came to the place where it seemed “done.”

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Next I wanted to do a close-up of a shapely tree trunk, and again I was dissatisfied. Too vertical, no clear focus. So I began to add areas of “lichen,” I suppose you could call it, at the lower right and upper left. Something to attract the eye and allow it to move up or down the trunk. At some point it too seemed “complete.” This one may be my favorite of the three. I like the richness of the colors, the texture.

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I’m not sure where the last one came from. I wanted to add a human element into the natural, something partially hidden, peeking out, more figurative than figure. The blue sprite appeared. But further down the tree trunk another face emerged, unbidden. With that addition, the painting took on a more ominous than playful feel. Not what I had intended at all. I’m not sure I like this one.  But it haunts me.

 

“Perfect Love” – All We Need for What Ails Us

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Francisco “Paco” Zúñiga y su viaje a la semilla | Revista Su Casa

Francisco “Paco” Zúñiga

The highest common denominator for all spiritual practices and religious teachings is Love. Love with a capital L, meaning that which transcends a personal or ego-based sense of love. Love that embraces all and everything. Love that is the ground, or source, of all being.

It’s a “perfect” love, a powerful love, a love that can change lives, and nations, even as Nelson MandelaMahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King have shown.

“Perfect Love casts out fear” is from the Bible, but it is one of those highest teachings and practices found across cultural and religious divides.

If these teachings cannot be made practical in our ordinary, flawed, imperfect lives, they are of no use to us. But as a mother who has struggled with an almost debilitating sense of fear at times, an understanding of what this verse means has saved me many times.

Fear is at the heart of all manner of darkness. “All that ails us” is some mutation of this life-crippling, joy-killing, action-paralyzing, energy-sapping, emotion. I have found myself in its grip many times. And the only way I’ve found to peel back the strangling fingers of fear is to let a more perfect sense of Love rise within me.

It is understanding that without Love, I am nothing. That love truly is the ground of my being, the source of all being. That love is what makes life worth living. And that when the time comes to depart from this life, all that will have mattered is how much we have loved; not how much we have fallen at the feet of fear. How much we have given, not how much we have taken; how much we have expressed the best in us, and sought to see the best in each other.

“Perfect Love” means to love others more perfectly. This doesn’t mean to love others in spite of their flaws or failings.

It means to love them unconditionally because we know that they are not their flaws and failings. And to know that so clearly and so fervently, that we can keep that love pure, even while doing whatever we can to help them let go of their own fears, and all the failings that go with those fears.

We are not our fears. We are not our failings. We are not our hate, or greed, or selfishness, or addiction, or anger, or violence. These are all manifestations of our fears. And the only thing worth saving or savoring in each other is what we love, and what expresses that love.

Love your enemies” is the same as saying you have no enemies, a wise woman once said. For those who would appear as our enemies are those so overcome by their own fears that they have failed to see what they love in another. And if we hate them, we have fallen into the same trap.

Isn’t that what the great moral and inspirational figures of our age have taught us? Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela? That love conquers all, even the most insidious, unjust, hateful systems of government that would try to separate, enslave, and dehumanize us?

We are not our prejudices, we are not the cruel things we say or do, the cruel systems that we create and justify. We can’t condone these things, or ignore them.  We don’t give them a pass.

But we understand that, to some degree, the most hateful and cruel among us, are us, in other circumstances. That there, but for the grace of God, go I.

That even the most loving and kind and wise among us, when governed by fear, rather than love, would be the same.

We have no enemy because we see ourselves in him, and the only way to un-make an enemy is to see his humanity, to see us in them.

That’s how Mandela was able to overcome Apartheid and lead to reconciliation.

That’s how Gandhi was able to face the oppressors and free his county.

That’s how Martin Luther King was able to peacefully resist an oppressive system and usher in the Civil Rights Act.

It’s fear for ourselves, our children, our families, our community, our country, our way of life, that leads to resentment and anger and blame and shame and discouragement or despair. That eventually leads to resignation and indifference and apathy and depression and joylessness.

And it’s learning to love ourselves and each other more perfectly that casts out those fears, and frees us from all its crippling mutations.

“Perfect Love” – a powerful antidote for all that ails us.

I reblogged this as a gentle reminder to myself in time of need. First posted in December 2013 in a slightly altered form.

A Mermaid’s Dream House, Casa Battlo

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When I stepped inside Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona, I felt like I was back on La Gitana, swimming through the coral beds and sea caves. Mesmerized by the mysterious and fantastic shapes I found at every turn, and dazzled by the kaleidoscopic colors that surrounded me, as if refracted through streams of light.

There are no straight lines in this house that floats upward four floors on spiral stairs. The rooms have no corners, only softly rounded contours, detailed by wisps, curls, and bubbles, as if sculpted by waves and etched with sea-foam. Light streams through every window and down stair shafts and through stained glass.

Follow me from ground floor to roof to see more of Gaudi’s masterpiece. All the photos are my own except where otherwise noted. More photos can be found at the link below.

Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was a Spanish architect from Catalonia. His most famous works, Casa Battlo and the Sagrada Familia cathedral, are located in Barcelona. While he was part of the Modernisme or Art Nouveau movements, his work was highly distinctive, elemental and organic, influenced by nature.  He took particular pleasure in detailing his creations, working in ceramics, stained glass, woodwork, and often created the furnishings in his homes.

I’ll have more of his work in another post on his Sagrada Familia.

Wikipedia Photo by Sara Terrones – Viajar lo cura todo

CC photo by Mstyslav Chernov on Wikipedia

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Photo by Chongming 76 from Wikipedia

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CC Photo by Sara Torones on Wikipedia

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CC Photo by Sara Torones on Wikipedia

All photographs are mine except where otherwise noted.

 

When the Sea Rises and the Light Fails

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J. M. W. Turner

J.M.W. Turner

For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” ~ James Baldwin

My world has shifted in the last few weeks in a way that has left me reeling, looking for something to hold onto, to keep from sinking into darkness.

The remarkable thing is I’ve managed to pull myself back from that edge, to realize that no matter what seems to be happening “out there,” what really matters is what’s happening “in here,” in our own consciousness. Will we let an overwhelming sense of loss, grief, and rage pull us under? Or hold on tight to the ones we love, and the things that give us joy, a sense of buoyancy, and the ability to ride out this storm.

I am not alone. Those in the Carolinas experiencing the ravages of Florence have been been facing those rising seas, that failing light. We all experience these calamities, whether of our own or another’s making, or something completely out of our control. Nothing is fixed “out there.” But our minds are our own. We get to decide how we weather our storms, whether we hold on to each other and the things we love, or let the sea engulf us and our light go out.

“September 15th”- Methany & Mays Moving Tribute to Bill Evans

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Maurice Sapiro; Painting, "Mist"

Mist by Maurice Sapiro

This “unspeakable beautiful” song was created as a tribute to Bill Evans, one of the greatest jazz pianist/composers ever, who died 38 years ago today. He played with Miles Davis and Chet Baker before creating his own trio. He greatly influenced the work of many jazz musicians who came after him and who are creating music today.

Bill had this quiet fire that I loved on piano. The way he approached it, the sound he got was like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall. I had to change the way the band sounded again for Bill’s style by playing different tunes, softer ones at first.  -Miles Davis

Bill Evans is seen as the main reformer of the harmonic language of jazz piano.[15][61] Evans’s harmonic language was influenced by impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel[62] His versions of jazz standards, as well as his own compositions, often featured thorough reharmonisations. Musical features included added tone chords, modal inflections, unconventional substitutions, and modulations.  –Wikipedia

Bach was another huge influence on his music and the way he played. Perhaps it’s these classical influences on his jazzwork and improvisions that move me so much. Below the tribute by Methany and Mays is Evans “Peace Piece”, a favorite of mine and so many others.

Hoping you have a lovely and mellow weekend.

 

Down the Rabbit Hole with Salvador Dali

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Image result for salvador dali museum brugesOne highlight from my trip to Bruges this summer was visiting the Salvador Dali Museum. Dali is celebrated for his surrealistic paintings, his “art of exaggeration” and love of the bizarre. Less well known, but just as fantastic, are his book illustrations and sculpture.

My favorite was his Alice in Wonderland illustrations. An image of Alice skipping rope is hidden in nearly all the illustrations. See if you can find them.

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Other drawings and book illustrations follow, among them from Don Quixote, Aladdin and His Lamp, MacBeth, and the Bible.

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His sculptures are just as wild and wonderful.

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And all this set in a corner below the famous Bell Tower featured in the equally bizarre and fantastic film In Bruges. No wonder my whole visit there felt surreal.

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“There are some days I think I’m going to die from an overdosis of satisfaction.”                      – Salvador Dali

Read more about Dali’s Alice in Wonderland illustrations from Brain Pickings

The Poetics of Place: Redwood Speech,Watershed Prayers

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“I want to see our words jump off the ground, erupt from a sensual earth, musty, humid, gritty. I want to taste words like honey, sweet and dripping with eternity. I want to hear words coming from my mouth and your mouth that are so beautiful that we wince with joy at their departure and arrival. I want to touch words that carry weight and substance, words that have shape and body, curve and tissue. I want to feel what we say as though the words were holy utterances surfacing from a pool where the gods drink. . . . .

My language must be redwood speech, watershed prayers, oak savannah, coupled in an erotic way with fog, heat, wind, rain and hills, sweetgrass and jackrabbits, wild iris and ocean current. My land is my language and only then can my longing for eloquence by granted. Until then I will fumble and fume and ache for a style of speaking that tells you who I am.”   – Francis Weller

One of my first blog posts in 2012 featured a speech by Francis Weller that captures so eloquently how the earth, our natural habitat, speaks to us and inspires us to speak. How it shapes our language and the way we express ourselves, not only in literature but in art and music and dance.

You can read his whole speech at his website Wisdom Bridge – Modern Pathways to our Indigenous Soul. The excerpt above, my quote of the week, hopefully will whet your appetite to do so.

As you read his speech, you might want to listen again to how nature inspires and shapes music, here in Max Richter’s reimagining of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, one of my favorite pieces.

Musee d’Orsay, Eye-Candy for Art Lovers

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I could have spent weeks savoring up all this museum has to offer, instead I had five hours. Still I was in heaven. The structure itself is a masterpiece, a renovated train station with a magnificent clock tower set on the Left Bank of the Seine River across from the Louvre.

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This was the most visitor-friendly art museum I visited in Europe. An enormous hall was surrounded by various rooms on several floors all flowing into one another. I was forever lost in the Louvre and the Prado, but here I always felt gently guided as I roamed from one room to another in my exploration of all the artwork.

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While the Louvre features art created before 1850, d’Orsay picks up from there, featuring an impressive array of Impressionists, both pre and post, including Van Gogh and Gauguin, Monet and Manet, Derain and Degas, Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Cezanne, among others, along with a powerful selection of sculpture, and artwork less familiar to me.

Below is a random sampling of some of the work I loved seeing.

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What I loved too was being able to get so close I could see the individual brush strokes. See if you can guess whose paintings these came from.

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These are just a fraction of the photos I took, which are a small fraction of all the wonderful artwork on display at the d’Orsay.

I leave you with a painting by only American I can remember seeing, although there may have been others. I was bewitched by this Winslow Homer I’d never seen before. It captures something of the enchantment I felt dancing in the arms of the masters on that magical day.

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