Monday 8 November 2010

A basilica consecrated

Following the day upon which the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona I think it only appropriate to post a picture I took last year of one of Gaudi's fascinating models used in working out his architecture. I have the feeling that he was attempting to re-think gothic architecture in the age of the solitary artist. He devoted something like the last twenty-six years of his life to the basilica, living on site, only going out each day to attend mass. Knocked down in the street by a tram on one such outing and eventually dying as a result of his injuries he was three days in the hospital before he was recognised as the celebrated architect.
I was lucky to catch the ceremonies on a video link just as Pope Benedict, in the pontifical dalmatic, was about to annoint the altar. As he did so I was struck by the fact that this was no mere thumb touch of the holy oil but a real messy pouring out and spreading over. It resonated most powerfully for me with those scriptural instances of consecrations and annointings we come across in the Old Testament as something very materially real- no mere nice attenuated symbolising.
Pope Bendict's visit to Spain seems to me a very powerfully prophetic gesture aimed at reconnecting Europe with the Christian sources of its culture. The ancient (and continuing) tradition of pilgrimage to Compostella once drew a matrix of roads through Europe marked by great churches at nodal points while Gaudi's basilica suggests that cultural tradition still living and vital in the modern era.

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