Mary and Jesus riding a Donkey, On the Sagrada Familia Church
The Sagrada Familia church towering at 558 feet high is the main attraction in Barcelona, Spain. It’s unlike any other church with its unique design that has been described as “warped Gothic”, as one side appears as if it is melting in the sun with its rippling contours, and brightly colored mosaics on top of towers appearing as bowls of fruit. The leaning columns, multiple story-telling sides, and sheer intricacy, all designed by the artist Gaudi, is what makes this church stand out from all the others. The church is summary of all Gaudi’s past works and he goes to great extends to perfect each design on the church, particularly shown in the sculpture of Mary holding Jesus on a donkey, in which he elevates a live donkey to the high area in which the statue resided to ensure the sculpture of the donkey was correctly proportionate.
The design of the church is a summary of all of Gaudi’s past works, with the structural difficulties and errors he faced in the past being revisited and resolved. The leaning columns previously used in Park Guell, for example were revisited by Gaudi. Building these columns proved difficult since they were not placed at the typical ninety degree angle. To place the columns leaning into the structure, Gaudi had to calculate the perfect angel in which it would support the walls and remain in place.
The unique architecture of the church does not stop at the columns, but can be seen in each of the sides of the church as they have their own unique story-telling statues and structures. The three story-telling sides include the nativity façade, passion façade, and glory façade. On each side there are multiple sculptures and designs that tell their particular sides story through symbolism and representation of the characters. Mary holding Jesus on the donkey, for instance, is on the nativity façade, depicting their journey to Egypt after Jesus was born. The nativity façade was the first to be built in concordance with the church name “Sagrada Familia” meaning “Holy Family”. The passion façade was the second to be built and is positioned as the very front of the church. This side depicts Jesus’ death on the cross, and was designed in a modern approach using abstract rectangular shapes to represent characters. The third side, still under construction, is the glory façade that depicts Jesus rising from the dead. On each of these sides the stories are told with intricate statues and structures.
Describing Sagrada Familia Daniela, a journalist, says “What you will see and will surely surprise you, is the combination of modernism with the essence of religious architecture and Mediterranean culture: different elements that come together in one set, thus giving life to a unique work in the world.” Gaudi masters the unique style and manages to tell the story of Jesus life, from birth to death, using each side of the church. He depicts each story so intricately and proportionately, seen in the statue of Mary holding Jesus on the donkey, making the church truly a “unique work in the world”.