In Amsterdam, there’s a church right beside the world famous red-light district. Some wonder how it coexists with a place infamous for debauchery. Built in 1452, the church once sold advance repentances (basically a piece of paper saying you’re forgiven) to sailors right before they knocked on prostitutes’ windows. I guess the question isn’t how the two function alongside each other – how could they not? Not so much today, but definitely shades of codependency in that relationship at one point in time.
Through the Montemarte district in Paris, ascending the winding streets – past where famous artists like Picasso bartered for food with paintings – Sacre Couer is not only an incredible church, but the view from the steps is one of the best in the city.
I’ve seen a lot of churches in Europe. Often they’re one of the highlights of a city. Relics of another time representing the pinnacle of various styles like Roman and Gothic, architecturally speaking there’s a lot to admire. There’s also the stories behind the churches and how they came to influence the city around them. Some are rooted in fact – take the Amsterdam example I gave above. Others are the stuff of legend. In Munich, an architect apparently tricked the devil into financing the construction of the town’s church. Not too happy about being deceived, the devil left his footprint at the entrance of the church. The mark is one of the few things that survived World War II.
The images and explanations behind some of the lesser known churches have faded from my mind – an unfortunate side effect of seeing so many places in so little time. But nothing that Goudi touched in Barcelona – and his handprints are all over the city’s architecture – will leave my brain any time soon. Of all of his achievements, his church, Sagrada Familia, stands out as one of the best things I’ve seen in Europe. And it’s not even finished.
Construction on the church started in 1882.When Gaudi passed away in 1962, only a quarter of the church was finished.
The majority of his vision has materialized, thankfully (the estimated completion time is 2026). The architecture is so unique, so beyond anything I’ve seen. Rib-cage like ceilings. Spires jutting off in several directions like tree branches. Mini suns imprinted on columns. The architecture style seems so surreal and otherworldly. But I was surprised to learn that most of Gaudi’s ideas can be traced back to something that can’t get more organic or traditional: nature.
Much of the church is modeled on minerals crystallizing or the layers in sea shells. The best of nature channeled into architecture made for great viewing. I sat inside for three hours – taking in each individual detail and letting everything else roll off of me.