The Passion Façade Doors

(The last of my posts about the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona.)

The doors on this side of the basilica are very different in style. Rather like the Da Vinci code two of the double doors are full of mysterious ciphers that I feel one should be able to decode.

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All the doors were designed by  Josep M. Subirachs. They took twenty years to complete

For the description of Christ’s passion, Subirachs created single sculptures, sculptural groups and relief letters, and four bronze doors dedicated to Gethsemane’s garden (1995), the Coronation (1997), the Gospel according to St. Matthew and the Gospel according to St. John (2000).

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The sculptor wanted all the façade work to be captured in the centre door (2000). For this reason, he decided to reproduce the text of the Gospel illustrated by means of the sculptures, with over 8,000 smelted bronze letters erected ‘like two enormous open books’. The letters have a bronze patina and the repeated letter  is one of the most emblematic techniques he used in order to turn message into a work of art.

The Nativity Façade doors

(The third of my posts about the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona.)

On the Nativity façade the portico is composed of three entrances devoted to the three Christian virtues: the Faith (to the right), the Hope (to the left) and the Charity (in the centre); each designed by Japanese sculptor, Etsuro Sotoo; decorated with plants, insects and small animals in the style of Gaudí.

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Faith on the right  is covered in roses with birds and butterflies and is devoted to the Virgin Mary.

Charity in the centre is a double door which depicts Christian Love/Charity with the Holy Family and nativity scene as the focus of the sculptures above. It was the first to be installed and includes ivy leaves and what looks to me to be Virginia creeper, squash flowers and lily flowers as well as numerous insects. The tree of life grows up through the middle of these doors.

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The left represents Hope and is dedicated to St Joseph. It is what I call the Iris door as it is full of beautiful iris flowers, lily flowers, bamboo, butterflies, terrapins and other aquatic creatures and insects.

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I found it difficult to tear myself away from the outside to actually go inside.

An unfinished temple

I’m taking a short break from the UK trip and English cathedrals and going back to October and my first visit to Barcelona where I continue in the cultural vein. First the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família which probably needs no introduction to most of you. Famous as Antoni Gaudi’s last and greatest masterpiece, it is hoped that it will finally be finished in 2026 to mark the centenary of his death. Maybe, with a bit of luck, I will be able to visit it again then.

“My client is not in a hurry…”

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View from Avenue de Gaudi

The Sagrada Familia is an international centre for spirituality which, in an exceptional setting, invites people of all backgrounds and faiths to share in a sense of life based on love, harmony, good, generosity and peace.

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Passion façade

Before going in to the building we took a wander around the outside. Although there is a lot of construction going on and cranes, scaffolding etc. in the way, it is possible to see a lot of the recent work.

The sculptures on the Passion façade (Western side) are very different to those on the Nativity side. It is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton. Although I’m not keen on the sculptures, they do convey the feeling of despair and deep suffering. The building itself is supposed to represent ribs and muscles.

Please consult Wikipedia for more information about the façades

In contrast the Nativity façade is much more decorative and characteristic of Gaudi’s naturalistic style. It faces the rising sun to the north-east to represent the birth of Christ and divided into three porticos – Faith, Hope and Charity – and a tree of life.

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The tree of life

“It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art”
~ art critic Rainer Zerbst

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The scene of the birth of Jesus with musicians and singers

“The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”
~ Paul Goldberger

You could spend an awfully long time looking at the stories and all the little details on the façades and one of my favourite parts was actually the doors – about which I will create a separate post.

If you are going to visit the Sagrada Familia then I would recommend that you buy your timed tickets online before you go to avoid the long queues, and also choose the audio tour. This gives you so much information about what it is you are seeing and you can do the tour in your own time and route. I would imagine trying to hear a tour guide in among all the crowds must be pretty difficult.

Next will be the interior which is like no other interior of a church ever seen.