Sunday, January 29, 2006

Passion Facade

Passion Facade
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Sculptor Josep M. Subirachs got a lot of flak for his (I think) brilliant work on the Passion Facade of La Sagrada Familia. He felt that it was impossible to try to follow Gaudi's style after Gaudi's death, so why try? What he created is, I think, an amazing and harrowing counterpoint to Gaudi's own Nativity Facade on the other side of the temple.

There is an inscription on one of the bronze doors from the contemporary poet Salvador Espriu's poem, "La pell de brau," which begins,
"Sometimes it is necessary and right
for a man to die for a people.
But a whole people must never die
for a single man:
remember this, Sepharad.
Keep the bridge of dialogue secured
and try to understand and love
the different minds and tongues of all your children.
Let the rain fall drop by drop on the fields
and the air cross the ample fields
like a soft, benevolent hand.
Let Sepharad live forever
in order and in peace, in work,
and in difficult, hard won

(Sephared is Espriu's name for Spain, after the old Sephardic Jewish word)

How could I not love a church with an inscription to tolerance on its own doors?

Sagrada Familia

I've been googling images for the past fifteen minutes and I just don't think there's a photograph of this place that captures the sense of being there. When I looked up from the bus and caught my first glimpse of La Sagrada Familia, I just couldn't catch my believe my eyes, but the photos all make it seem like some kind of tripped out religious version of Cinderella's Castle at Disneyworld. It's not like that at all. It... breathes. It has a pulse.


Blogger Jaume said...

Although I am not in favor of bashing Subirachs for his façade (it was the favorite sport among the Barcelona cultural elite 15 years ago), I much prefer Gaudí's Nativity, for the reasons that I could explain to you personally and also others. To mention just one, Gaudí was a "true believer" (he knew what he was doing and why --and he was totally crazy, which is not necessarily a plus, but it helps), whereas Subirachs is an honest agnostic, and it shows in their work.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I should have posted a photo of the Nativity Facade, which is a wonderful thing (but much dirtier than the Passion side of the temple). I didn't know that Subirachs was an agnostic -- never thought about it -- perhaps that's part of the power of his art? That he is entering into the story from a place of some distance and giving it a kind of visitor's respect. If that makes sense...

I think above all that I felt a tremendous sense of respect from Subirachs in how he chose to tell the story. Respect and humanist dignity.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know that detail about the doors - thanks peacebang for translating it. I hadn't expected to like the Subirachs work, but I do; it's honest, intelligent, and moving. I liked it even more after I heard he moved into the church for the duration of the project.

Apparently the figure of Nicodemus, in the burial scene, is Subirachs - his hand has been enlarged and there is an 'S' engraved on him. So though an agnostic, he engages very personally with the subject.


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