An Experience of the Divine
Alicia Reese
August 31, 2022

I spent the last week in Barcelona, Spain with my mom. She studied abroad in Spain when she was in college, and I had never been before. We filled the week with visiting churches, exploring museums, and letting ourselves get lost in the meandering streets. It was glorious. My heart and my soul are filled to the brim when I have the opportunity to be somewhere new, immersing myself in a culture and context different from my own. It is humbling, awakening, and always fills me with gratitude for the divine and the infinite beauty of creation.

I was particularly taken with the numerous works of, and therefore with, the architect Antoni Gaudí. We toured Casa Batlló, La Pedrera (Casa Milà), Parc Güell, Palau Güell, and of course, La Sagrada Familia.
Gaudí designed with the tenets of function and beauty. He was ahead of his time in the creative ways he solved problems with his designs when it came to practical things like air flow, lighting, and temperature regulation, as well as in the ways he reused or repurposed materials in his designs. Gaudí was deeply inspired by nature and nature’s architect, God. He was a man of great faith. Although I was in awe of each of his projects that I had the chance to experience, it is difficult to put into words what it was like to be in La Sagrada Familia.

Work on La Sagrada Familia, using Gaudí’s designs, began in 1883 and continues to this day. Even though Gaudí died as the result of an accident in 1926, he knew, even when he began this project that it wouldn’t be finished in his lifetime. But he had a vision and he had faith. He envisioned and designed a remarkable temple, overflowing with detail, symbolism, and beauty from the first laid stone to the top of the tallest of the 18 towers, inside and outside, on each of the facades, thought was put into everything.
When you enter into the basilica your eyes are immediately drawn up, to the tops of the columns, of which there are 52, you feel like you are in a forest of light-colored stone, an open and inviting forest, calling you in deeper. As you walk toward the middle of the vast space you are bathed in a warm glow because the sun is cascading in on the side with huge stained-glass windows of reds, oranges, and yellows. These are mirrored by their counterpart windows of blues and greens. You audibly gasp at the sight and feel your mouth fall open in awe. There are too many people to count. They are swirling around you, seated in the pews, unable to take their eyes off of, something. Signs tell you to be silent, and yet, there is a gentle, endless hum of chatter happening all around you, but you don’t mind. It’s actually soothing. It makes this holy place, this sacred ground, feel alive. You want to stay here, curl up under the trees and watch the light change as it will do endlessly, but life beckons you to continue. You take a moment to give thanks to God, take one more picture, and pray that you will always be able to return to this moment in your mind and eventually to this place in the future.
I have profound respect for Gaudí, for his faith, for his vision, for the way that this holy place has become a part of so many stories, so many people. It has become a collaborative creation over the decades, and I can’t wait to see it again someday, perhaps it will be finished, perhaps it won’t, but I have no doubt that its beauty will have a similar effect on me: speechless, beloved, and ever-closer to my creator. Amen.