I kinda feel for anyone here who owns and manages a big, "can seat 5,000 parishioners", church built in the 1200's -- that never seem to have more than a few dozen attending even the biggest mass. How do you pay for the upkeep of things? Barcelona is the first place I've been to in Europe that pushes the envelope on the solution to this problem, with most churches charging people to visit -- nothing widespread (yet) in Italy or France.
So churches here appear to have recognized that they are tourist attractions, and by some rough math, rake in a LOT of dough from folks paying €5 and more to go in for their 10 min visit. Then they charge extra for crypt visits or cloister visits or library visits or rooftop visits.
Probably the king of this is the Sagrada Familia, the single "must see" attraction in all of Barcelona. It's a project started around 1910 and due for completion in 2026. Mind bogglingly big and with a price tag to match, you gotta pay for it somehow, and that somehow is €15 entry fees, €5 audio guides, €9 elevator rides (though they only come as a package with the audio guide), €35 private guided tours -- and they get to do that because the Sagrada is unlike any church you have ever seen, or are likely to see.
The design dude that dominates the talk (though not the architecture) of this town is Antoni Gaudi -- he of the weird designs seen in buildings I talked about here. Sr. Gaudi is hugely modernistic, and after doing a bunch of other projects in town (which I will write about soon), dedicated his life from 1914 onwards till his death in 1926 to designing and building the Sagrada. While he completed the design (which was the hard part, as I will get to), he didn't get far in the build; he built the crypt and one of the church's 3 facades.
|Bassoons were invented around 1650|
|And this has what to do with anything?|
|The critters are cute|
|So are the bugs|
When I got inside and listened to the audio guide, then toured the "how he did it" museum underneath, it started to make sense. Gaudi put together two fundamental breakthrough "never been done before" bits of architecture and design: the incorporation of elements inspired by nature, and the elimination of the T-square in favour of geometrical elements based on paraboloids and other mathematical forms.
As to the former, one only need to look at his columns. They are trees, spreading as they rise to act as an umbrella, eliminating the need for external (or internal) buttresses as in every other church built before 1900. Even the places where the "trunks" split to "branches" feature details modelled from nature, as if other branches are broken off -- patterned after birch trees.
|They rise then spread|
|Trees above the choir loft|
|The main corridor|
Brilliant. Massively tall yet wide open. And the "forest canopy" (AKA the ceiling) is a series of identical parabolic dishes which reflect sound, especially above the choir loft. They manage the sound, but like the shape of eggs, are incredibly strong and support roof with ease. Being identical, they are mass produced reducing costs.
|And they look like a forest canopy|
|A mosaic colour mix|
|The blue side|
|Oranges and greens|
|Note the columns|
|An angular Christ on the cross|
|Geometric bad guys|
|Straight line model of the roof canopy forms|
|Undulating roof of the school...|
|...rendered as a model. Easy|
|Maybe not the intent, but that's what it looks like|
We wanted to go up the Towers of the church to see the impressive view. We took the €9 elevator ride.
What a waste. The elevator takes you (and 8 others) up 65 m to a tiny viewing platform that has room for 10. Elevators arrive every 2 min; do the math. The one we took (the Passion tower) is a construction zone around the platform. The views are mostly blocked by fences and towers.
|Wow. What a view.|
|10 stories of this...|
|...surrounding this tower...|
|...then down 10 stories through this shaft|