Gaudi – God’s Architect
Few people are as synonymous with a city as Antonio Gaudi is with Barcelona. His stunning basilica, La Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family) is a spectacular, fantastical and awe-inspiring piece of architecture that not only adorns the cityscape but extends up to the sky like a magnificent hand reaching to God. By the end of his life Gaudi had become known as ‘God’s architect’ for this beautiful construction in the Spanish city.
I just returned from a visit to Barcelona and was deeply touched by the work and life of this architect. At the time of his death in 1926, Gaudi was unquestionably the most influential architect in the world. He was a creative genius, a daring risk taker with an inventive mind who was ahead of his time. I was touched, not just by his breath-taking creations, but by his personal life and how dedicated he was to his vocation. He didn’t see himself as a famous personality, but rather as a humble servant of God. This is why I feel that he deserves to be remembered.
Gaudi was a very modest man and lived simply. He never married – however it seems this had less to do with religious inclinations, and more to do with his luck! He was born rich, but died a poor man when a tram knocked him over at a crossroad. No one even recognized him as he lay there dying. Eventually someone took him to the poor people’s hospital where he died with the poor.
He had such a gargantuan vision for this work of art that he knew he would not be able to finish it in his lifetime. When he was questioned about the time it was taking he would reply: “My client has a lot of patience”, meaning that God was not in a hurry!
La Sagrada Familia became Gaudi’s most famous architectural achievement. He began work on it soon after graduating from university in 1883. He showed such dedication and sacrifice for his work that he devoted the last 16 years of his life entirely to the project, living in its workshop and eating meager meals. This famously unfinished church is now the city’s most visited tourist attraction – drawing millions throughout the year. At the time of his death, aged 73, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Work still carries on today, funded purely by public donation and tourist’s entrance fees. The anticipated completion date is 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
Gaudi had said that this place would draw people to Barcelona, that it would be a church by the people, for its people. Which it certainly is!
As a creation of God himself, Gaudi reflects the beauty of the Creator. Indeed, Gaudi’s work reflects the purity of nature in the breathtaking decorative motifs of the Cathedral, as well as the pillars that were lovingly carved into the shape of a tall tree trunk, branching out as support for the high ceilings. Flowers and leaves were incorporated into the integral design of ceilings and walls. Gaudi’s love for ‘the One Light’ was ingeniously reflected in the interplay of sunlight and colour through the magnificent stained glass windows. The Cathedral is a masterpiece, where love and dedication, art and creativity have come together to reflect the magnificence of God. Truly, the building was, and still is, a labour of divine love.
Today, his works must be worth billions! Yet, Gaudi’s driving force was not wealth or fame. As he became engrossed in his work, he became more and more pious. There are many lessons to be learnt from this saintly gentleman, whom many hope will attain beatification by the time the cathedral is complete!
We should ask ourselves; how much do we put off starting something today that will bring benefit into our lives tomorrow, or the lives of others, just because we feel that the task is too big, too ambitious or too onerous? Or would we have the humility to let things take their natural course rather than to hurry things up so that we can quickly take the credit and the glory?
Are we able to do things ‘freely’?
Can we be a daring risk taker? Actually, not just to step outside the box, but to be able to throw the box away altogether! To expand our vision and allow our imagination to free us from the trappings of social conformity and release the inner genius!
The legacy that Gaudi has left behind is not just that of his physical creations, but also in his gift of vision, hope, courage, daring, optimism, and surrender to the divine. Out of stone he created breathtaking beauty and magnificence.
Let us also ask ourselves, what type of memorial are we leaving behind? What will we do with our lives that will continue to inspire others, and what can we do each day to add beauty and reverence to our lives?
It’s Time… for us to move beyond the limitations of our beliefs and to take up the challenge to begin to create something bold and positive in our lives today, knowing that each step is taking us closer to the masterpiece of our lives.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK