Barcelona’s holy beauty

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by Hertz - 02 May 2017

Barcelona holds much to enchant the visitor. Glorious beaches bake in the sunshine, world-class tapas tempts your palate, while the chaotic bustle of Las Ramblas contrasts with the cool shadows of the Barri Gotic streets. But many flock to see Barcelona’s famed architecture up close. One of the homes of modernism, many of the most beautiful buildings to be found in Barcelona are of a religious nature, their architects expressing their faith in unique and breath-taking constructions reaching towards the sky.

The unfinished masterpiece

The Sagrada Familia is one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of religious iconography in the world. At first glance it looks like a giant cake, dripping with icing. Closer inspection reveals its true beauty, its various facades telling different stories. Construction began in 1882 and Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s most celebrated son, took over a year later. By the time of his death in 1926 it was still a work in progress, as it remains today. Subsequent architects have worked from his designs, although not always finding public favour. Work has accelerated in recent years and the temple is due to be completed on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. A visit to the exterior, or by lift to the top, is never disappointing, with the master’s experimental geometric forms a sight to behold.

Monastery of ‘The Fair’

The Monastery of Pedralbes is a study in contrasts with the Sagrada Familia. Contained rather than crazed, uniform rather than scattershot. It’s not high on most visitors’ list, and its position outside of the city means car hire makes sense when visiting. But this religious outpost is well worth your time, built by King Jaume ‘The Fair’ in just over a year. It housed the Poor Clare Nuns from its building in 1327 through to 1983. The artwork, the chapel of San Miguel, the tiny day cells where the nuns prayed – all are beautifully maintained and give a valuable glimpse of the monastic life.

A Gothic gift

Right in the heart of Barcelona sits the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, commonly called Barcelona Cathedral. Work began on it in the 13th century and ploughed on until the 15th. However, funding shortfalls meant that it wasn’t completed until the beginning of the 20th. Taking the lift to the roof affords a wonderful view of the city, if you can tear yourself away from the 16th century organ and the wonderfully ornate choir seats.

Mountain muse

Mount Tibidabo towers over Barcelona and is home to great walks, hotels with unrivalled views, a 100-year-old amusement park and the Sagrat Cor, aka the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A more recent entry into the ranks of Barca’s esteemed religious buildings, work was started by Enric Sagnier in 1902, and finished by his son in 1961. It’s a unique combination of fortress at the bottom, neo-Gothic temple at the top. Car hire in Barcelona will aid you in reaching the top, to look down on one of the world’s finest cities. It’s a city that delivers aesthetic and spiritual pleasures aplenty.