Although I am still recovering from a rather powerful cold-flu, and longer posts will have to wait, I wanted to share with my readers my joy in learning that Pope Benedict XVI will be designating Barcelona’s Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, better known as the Sagrada Familia, as a Minor Basilica when he arrives for the dedication of the church this November. This will be the 9th basilica for the city of Barcelona; the most recent was the elevation of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was made a basilica by Pope Benedict last year. The announcement was made by His Eminence Lluis Cardinal Martinez Sistach at a press conference yesterday afternoon, along with other details of the upcoming Papal Visit to the city. Among these details, it was revealed that both Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia are expected to be in attendance, and the mass itself will be celebrated in Latin, Catalan and Spanish. It will be wonderful to hear a Pope celebrating mass in Catalan, I must say.
I would also direct my reader’s attention to this very interesting video from the BBC, in which their reporter Sarah Rainsford is given a tour of the construction site by the project’s chief architect, Jordi Bonet i Armengol. Dr. Bonet’s father was one of Antoni Gaudí’s assistant architects on the project, and he grew up playing on the worksite. He himself was made the chief of works on the Sagrada Familia in 1987, and since 1998 has been the President of Barcelona’s historic St. George Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Regular visitors to these pages know that there is a great controversy at present because the Spanish government is building a high-speed rail tunnel very close to the foundations of Gaudí’s iconic building. When asked in the BBC interview about the assurances of safety on the project made by the government, Dr. Bonet replies that they are insufficient. He also raises the question, which is a very valid one, as to why, in a city as large as Barcelona, it was necessary to bring this train tunneling so close to the Sagrada Familia. Without specifically attacking any group or individual, he wonders aloud whether some people do not like the fact that such a massive Catholic church is the most famous symbol of Barcelona.
From the video one can get a sense of the immense scale of the building’s interior, as well as seeing the great bronze doors of the “Our Father”; they will be the centerpiece of the main facade when it is finally completed, and while they will be in use for the Holy Father during his visit, the final construction and decoration of this side of the building is going to have to wait. The doors feature the Lord’s Prayer in dozens of languages, with the Catalan text in the largest scale and in gold – of course. Gaudí was nothing if not proud of being Catalan, and insisted on speaking Catalan and celebrating Catalan customs whenever possible, whether it was during a visit to the worksite by royalty or government officials from Madrid, or even to a policeman who ended up arresting him for speaking it without permission when he tried to attend mass.
The fact that these prominent words in Catalan, expressing in that language Christ’s instruction to us all on how to pray, will be blessed and used by the Pope during his visit, no doubt is causing Gaudí to smile a very broad smile indeed.