Sagrada Familia: The Mystery of Creation, a review

Sagrada Familia: The Mystery of Creation, Stefan Haupt's look at a unique and unfinished architectural project designed by Antoni Gaudi. A review by South Brooklyn Internet.

Sagrada Familia: The Mystery of Creation, a review

Sagrada Familia, Holy Family in english, is a symbol of peace and brotherhood and a miracle of construction.

One man's vision from 130 years ago is the topic of the documentary, Sagrada Familia: The Mystery of Creation, Stefan Haupt's look at a unique and unfinished architectural project designed by Antoni Gaudi.

In 1991, during a trip to Barcelona for the preparations of the 1992 Summer Olympics, I first learned of Sagrada Familia and Gaudi’s unique style. The cathedral loomed over the city, an unfinished work of art that captured my imagination. Gaudi’s architectural designs are a tourist attraction that became an obsession. We sought out all the Gaudi buildings that we had time to visit. Sagrada Familia is the crowning jewel of Gaudi’s Barcelona tour.


Sagrada Familia stands above the skyline of Barcelona in 1992. ©Mark D Phillips

Generations have worked on the massive temple that now is a destination for over 3 million tourists a year. Pope Benedict came during his short tenure to consecrate the Nave.

The documentary gives a detailed historical look into the challenges that took place in the beginning of its construction. And we learn more about the tortured genius of Antoni Gaudi e Cornet.

Gaudi spent much of his early life at the monastery of Montsarat in Catalan and its finger shaped rocks became an important source of inspiration for the young architect. The foundation stone for Sagrada Familia was laid on March 19, 1882, and Gaudi, at the age of 31, took over from the original architect just after the start of construction. The crypt of Sagrada Familia, where Gaudi was laid to rest, is the only part of the cathedral not designed by Gaudi.

He brought this feeling of nature into the design of the temple. The cathedral became his life’s work; he spent his last years working and living within its confines.

Originally, the construction was expected to be completed by 1900. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War almost destroyed the structure and most of Gaudi's plans were lost. Franco burned all the churches in Barcelona but left the unfinished temple standing.

In the years since, the great temple has gone from near ruin to spectacular. It has been a labor of love for numerous generations of workmen.

In meeting the artists now involved in its construction, we learn the passion of this new generation to complete Gaudi's vision:

Etsuro Sutoo, chief sculpture, works from fragments of Gaudi's original models to recreate the vision of Gaudi.

Jordi Bonet, the chief architect, a man in his seventies, has spent his entire adult life working on Sagrada Familia and like Gaudi, will not see its completion.

Today’s artisans have the same passion for completing Sagrada Familia that led to Gaudi's passion and the documentary presents a beautiful picture of their skill and determination to complete this cathedral.

With most of Gaudi’s original designs lost, we are asked to consider two basic questions:

Is Sagrada Familia an untouchable work of art based on the ideas of a genius that can only be completed by him?

Or is it a place of worship which has to be completed to the best of our knowledge trying to respect the spirit of Gaudi's fundamental roles and principles?

The Passion Facade was completed in 1976, just a year after Franco's death.

Josep Maria Subirachs was commissioned in 1986 to complete the sculptures for the facade. His vision was different from Gaudi, with cubism and harsh lines. Gaudi had stated that he wanted contemporary artists to complete his work. He tried and succeeded to integrate it into Gaudi's design, with a much more modern interpretation, better suited to the times we live in.

The temple may be completed in another lifetime. The largest bell tower in the world still needs to be added atop the existing structure.

The documentary leaves the timetable open for the completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Fimailia. This could be the first chapter in a series of documentaries. Could we see a “Seven-up” type series on the completion of Sagrada Familia?

Worth watching. Sagrada Familia: The Mystery of Creation opens at The Film Society of Lincoln Center on December 19, 2014.

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