Time in Barcelona

Reader's Letter - May 2003

Last month John and I had a delightful break in Barcelona, a city we had planned to visit many times but had never got round to. What a place Barcelona is! Vibrant, exciting and cosmopolitan, always something to do, in fact we found it difficult to find time to sleep!

One of the places we couldn’t miss was the monumental church ‘El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia’… which being interpreted is ‘The Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family’ and has to be the most visited place in the whole of the city. It was begun in 1883 and was originally born out of a vision of Barcelona’s famous artist and architect Antonio Gaudi who being a devout Roman Catholic dedicated his whole life to the construction of this amazing building, which was to be a “20th century cathedral, a synthesis of all his architectural knowledge with a complex system of symbolisms and a visual explication of the mysteries of faith.” Such was his commitment to the project that he took up residence on the site itself. It is truly a wonderful place and although still a building site, it seems already to have become a place of pilgrimage. It is reckoned that it will take another twenty-five years before the building will be completed and the crowning glory will be a huge spire bearing the cross which will overshadow the city. It is possible to climb the many steps of the existing spires and take in the magnificent views which they afford and we have decided to return in twenty five years time, in the year 2028 (umm… that will make me 69 years old!) and we will see if we can still run up those steps!

Barcelona is littered with Gaudi’s other achievements but the Segrada Familia is by far his greatest work, the construction of which is now being sensitively continued by others who share his architectural vision and style. You see Antonio Gaudi died in 1926 when a tram in the street hit him; he was 74 years old and sadly was never destined to see the completion of his work, yet still the work goes on and it will be completed.

Well, holidays are times for relaxing and taking stock of life and as we took our break in Barcelona during Lent, it was appropriate to find some time to do so… but I probably would not have done so had it not been for the Sagrada Familia. We spent nearly a whole day there taking in the building as it is and the museum which has been developed in the crypt and as my mind was stimulated by so many interesting and colourful features and designs, I couldn’t help but think how important it is for us to see that our dreams are fulfilled and that our purpose in life is accomplished. Gaudi began his task and perhaps in his mind, knowing the enormity of the project that was enough, trusting that others would see it through?

We have again reflected upon the passion, the death and now the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; in doing so we can see how God brought his purposes to fruition, in a sense how his dreams were fulfilled… but in the fullness of time!

I wonder if Mary, the first to announce the news of the resurrection to the disciples, ever considered the profound implications of what she said that day – “the Lord is risen!” She perhaps had no idea how that news would touch the millions of lives which have been transformed throughout the centuries, or that because of her words, she would be remembered in the way she is.

Maybe the majority of us who live ‘ordinary’ lives don’t have great ambitions which when fulfilled will ensure that our memory lives on after us, neither do we expect to make too much of a mark in the affairs of humanity, some clearly do, for various reasons and are honoured accordingly, but we should all endeavour to see that our own personal ambitions come to something and that our dreams come to fulfilment.

We do well also to remind ourselves of the promise of Jesus in S. John’s Gospel which points us to where our true fulfilment lies… “I have come that you may have life, and have it in all it’s fullness,” and having found the life and fulfilment which he gives, we may know that we will indeed accomplish much, for through our living, in some mysterious way, we will allow the very presence of the Risen Christ to be known in the world.

Andrew Wallis

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 19th May 2003