To me, one of the best things about travel is the architecture. I love to look at buildings, both in the United States and in other countries. Although I can recognize a flying buttress, I don’t really know much about it. Mostly I just know what I like. As an historian, architecture isn’t just beautiful. It gives clues about the culture that created it, and also the culture that either preserves or destroys it.
I remember the first time I saw photos of the work of the Catalan (Spain) architect, Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). It was better than the fairy tale castle in Germany, and since then, Barcelona has been in the top 5 on the list of places I want to visit. Some things you just need to see up close and in person.
Most of you have probably heard of Gaudi and seen something that he created. He left a body of work that was unique and imaginative. He created not just buildings, but also parks and even lamp posts. His style was inspired by nature, utilizing more curves than straight lines.
But as for the man, most of us don’t know much about him except his work. As I’ve been reading about his life, he doesn’t fit the profile of our most famous artists.
He wasn’t from a wealthy or titled family. He was not involved in any scandals. His most outrageous behavior involved an arrest for his involvement in the cause of Catalan independence from Spain, a political battle that continues today. He was famous during his lifetime for his imagination and creativity, but he also had his critics, mostly those who don’t like change. But Gaudi always stayed true to his path and his vision.
Gaudi had rheumatism from a young age, which limited his activities as a child. He was a life-long vegetarian (before it was cool) in order to alleviate his illness. He spent most of his adult life living with and caring for his father and his niece. He never married, although it is rumored that he had fallen in love with a woman who did not return his affections.
Most importantly, Gaudi was a man of faith. He was a Catholic who, at least at the end of his life, went to church daily for prayer and confession. One of his most famous works, the Sagrada Familia, is a church that he devoted the last decade of his life to building. (It’s actually still not complete, although there is hope it will be done by 2026, the centennial of his death.)
Gaudi died as the result of a traffic accident. He was hit by a tram, and due to his humble attire, it was believed that he was a vagabond and he was not given immediate aid. By the time he was identified, it was too late to save him. He was interred in a crypt at Sagrada Familia.
One humble man who continues to make a huge impact on the world.