At the beginning of my study abroad journey I knew it was imperative that I visit many different cathedrals across the country of Spain. One of the main reasons being that I myself am catholic and of Mexican descent. When I visited Mexico for the first time, the first thing I did when I arrived at my parents home town was pray with my family in the San Francisco De Asis church. I mentally noted all of the architectural differences between the church in Mexico and the United States. The church in Mexico had an older feel and had no air conditioning due to its age. Additionally, it had a central gold piece that was extremely decorated with details and saints. Seeing this made me curious about Spain. I wondered, at the time, what the churches in Spain would look like since they historically had colonized Mexico. This month I had the opportunity to travel to Barcelona for a weekend and analyze some of its cathedrals.
When I first arrived in Barcelona, I could feel the change of atmosphere from Madrid. Although life in Spain in general is more relaxed, Madrid is still a city that’s rhythm is at a much higher tempo. Barcelona felt a lot more intimate in terms of how friendly the local people were when I asked for help. Additionally, the siesta time in Barcelona is a lot stricter than in Madrid. However, the Cathedrals were quite similar to the one’s in Madrid. The Cathedral of Ciutat Vella in Barcelona was quite similar to the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid because of the high altars and the detail of gold in many parts of the church dedicated to religious figures. It also reminded me a little bit of Mexico and how many of the churches have figures in gold. The high ceilings and exaggerated arches are also very common in Mexican cathedrals. It made me feel at home because of the warm familiarity.
However, although it is much of an obvious choice, the basilica of La Sagrada Familia was hands down my favorite site in the city of Barcelona. It amazed me to know I still had the capability to be genuinely shocked after seeing many amazing historical landmarks in Madrid. When I first entered La Sagrada Familia it felt like I had emerged into a new world. During my visit to the Sagrada Familia, I learned that the genius responsible for blowing my mind was Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. He was inspired by nature and God through much of his works and it was very telling through the basilica that many people travel far to visit. What really interested me the most about the structure of the inside were the pillars that stretched out at the very top. My first thought was that they looked like trees and I was happy to know that was the exact intention Gaudi had. The pillars were designed to look like trees whose branches were stretching towards the sunlight where the gorgeous multicolored glass windows surround the ceilings and walls. I spent much of my time there looking around trying to find out how Gaudi’s mind worked.
It was a lovely time seeing the connection between what I had already seen in Madrid and Mexico to Barcelona, but it was equally as nice to learn and experience architecture like Gaudi’s that I had never seen before. I think it’s easy to feel as a first generation student that our focus must be on textbook methods to learn and expand our knowledge. However, being able to travel and see La Sagrada Familia was something I will never forget. All the pictures I took will never do it justice. I learned so much about the architecture by seeing it first hand and later making the connections through information. Both are equally important. I hope that I can help and encourage students to travel more through the experiences I gained during my trip in Barcelona.