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Almuzara: "Gaudí succeeded in joining Faith and Culture"

José Manuel Almuzara, the president of the Pro-Beatifying Gaudí Association, has sent us this interview, published in the Peruvian magazine CASAS, the 12th of September 2003, because of giving his lecture in Lima

-It seems that Gaudi was not only the architect of light, but of the details, too ¿Is it true so?

Yes, completely: Antonio Gaudí cared for all and sundry of the details shaping a project. He made an effort so as to avoid leaving anything to be studied and solved, in that search to reach perfection, beauty. Despite of his great artistic intuition, he did not trust in it till he checked it solidly through the experimental research and a severe self-criticism that this was the proper solution, perfect and beautiful, and in facing a project or a detail of it. He commented that: "The dimension, for God, is not great, but perfect things are".

He defined the architect as "the synthetic man, who sees things clearly in their ensemble, before they are done, that who places and ties the elements in their plastic relationship and within the proper distance".

The 7th June 1926 Antoni Gaudí, as he used to do every afternoon, left the Sagrada Familia Temple and headed towards the San Felipe Neri oratory. He had previously said goodbye to Vicente, his collaborator, telling him with his usual optimism:
"Come early tomorrow, for we shall do very beautiful things". At that time he devoted himself to weave with his own hands the lamps for the Sacrament Chapel, in the Temple crypt. Filled with joy, every time he finished a lamp for the seven chapels of the crypt, he went downstairs with the chaplain, the carpenter, the electrician and the sacrist to put it in place with a great devotion. These are some examples of how a detail planner and perfectionist the genial architect was.

- In which cases we may specifically find this diligence which hasn't only to do with tracing and lines, but with details?

Certainly, Gaudí was an architect who worried about tracings, volumes, colour, ... and the details as an architectural solution, sculptural or decorative. in some occasions of his works these details are symbols or tokens by means of which he communicates us, makes us to think. Gaudí has an exceptional self taught training, a tireless laboriousness and a solid reliance in his art, which made him to carry out such productions, which thanks to big or small details, make us approach to the divine and human.

An illustrative instance of his interest towards details, both of his human and divine interpretation, may be observed in the following fact. It has been extracted from the book "My itinerary with the architect" by Juan Matamala:

The model for the Roman soldier, who the slaughters the Innocents, who stands in the portal of Hope in the Nativity façade, he was the waiter of a nearby tavern. Besides he was two metres tall. Ricardito, in preparing the scene, could not stop laughing.
-What’s wrong with you, young gentleman Opisso? What makes you to laugh so much?.
The boy brought Gaudí away and made him notice that the tavern waiter, apart from being two metres tall, had six toes in each foot, what had been revealed when he put the Roman sandals on.
-It is phenomenal!. But you must not laugh at it, for he will get angry with you...and I don’t advise you so.
-We will have to rectify that oddity.
-Not at all! Rather, it fits to the psychology of a soldier who slaughters babies.
-And six is the number of the beast...

-We would like to understand why Gaudí is said to have him been able to interpret, in his work, the laws the Creator has left to us.

Gaudí, from his childhood, stopped watching at nature, a fact which increased his observation talents and initiated him in the path which he would follow in his artistic creativity. The secret of the Gaudí’s architecture is his minute and intelligent watching of nature, created by God. He got the models from it, both in the geometry of his structures as in the motifs used in the buildings he constructed: "This tree close to my workshop, this is my teacher" he told some day to his collaborators, summarising all what has been already told.

At the end of his life, being the fruit of that long watching and experimenting, he reached to the great synthesis in which he apples the geometrical laws, which rule in all the world of nature, "everything comes from the great book of Nature", he told insistently.

Gaudí felt and behaved as a God’s creature: "The Creation goes on and the Creator makes use of his creatures; all those who seek the laws of nature to shape new works to them, they collaborate with the Creator".

-That is to say, Of what specific way has he overturned nature in the architectural field?

Gaudí said that: "Architecture creates the organism, the nit must have a law en consonance with Nature". The direct observing, constant and thorough is reflected in all his work, mainly in the Sagrada Familia Temple, where he worked from November, 1883 until his death in June 1926, that is, for more than 40 years. In watching at the Nativity façade we discover that the Gaudí's architecture is vivified stone, in which corners the bursting and the blooming of vegetables beat and the motion of birds in their action of flying.

Gaudí reflected nature in his architecture by borrowing its laws and forms from it. As an instance I pick up two readings from the Gaudí's works, by his disciple Joan Bergós Massó, published in his book "GAUDI the man and his work".

The "Pedrera" or Casa Milà, is the architectural version of a mountain range, pierced by natural openings, with the access stairs depicting the isolated rocks, which crown it. This building had to serve as a great pedestal for the sculptural monument of our Lady of the Rosary, descending over Barcelona, accompanied by two archangels.

In the developing of the Park Güell, in which he made there a series of porticoes and viaducts, by using the local material. Gaudí found in it a suitable solution, the portico-viaduct, a covered walk for the bad weather days and shady in the heat season, built with the minimal amount of materials and with the utmost variety, and which appears to have been born from the earth without any effort.

-Why is it more suitable to ratify what Jun Young Joo said: "Gaudí is preaching the Catholic faith to the whole world by means of his architecture?

For it is a confirmed reality. Gaudí lived in an ascending way in all aspects: job, familiar relations, the social and religious ones. He was hard with himself to reach virtue: "Life is a battle, strength is required to fight and strength is virtue, which can only be maintained and increased with the spiritual cultivation, that is, with the religious practise ". Therefore, being aware of this reality he frequented the sacraments, and had a spiritual leading, prayed the rosary, read the Gospel, he submitted himself to severe penance, fighting to serve God and the men as better as possible.

Thus, in this human and divine exigency, in that relation between faith and life, Gaudí manifested all his Art, his wisdom and his beliefs. In the measure in which he makes an effort to reach Beauty, Truth, Love, he transmits us through his architecture that outer and inner might he has, and which is transmitted to all his works.

-Now well, ¿Why the architects of recent times who refer to Gaudí nearly never untie the religious from the architectural?

In Gaudí it must not be done so. It is not possible to untie the religious matters from the architectural ones. He acted in every moment as a man and as a creature of God, as an architect and a Christian. He did not lead a double life, he was consequent with his faith and he manifested sorrow for those who didn’t have it, "the man without religion is a man lacking spiritually, is a mutilated man".

As a summary of his life, I would comment two basic virtues, which would be the model to follow for every of the architects or professionals of any ambit: work and sacrifice.

Antoni Gaudí was a lover of work, "It is a bad matter when a job is drawn as a hard labour; I am sorry for everyone who works as being under an obligation...One of the finest things in life is to work with pleasure". Everything was important for him and in everything he made efforts to do things well, "to do things well it is necessary: first, love; second, technique".

Antonio Gaudí practised and defended sacrifice, "life is love and love is sacrifice. Sacrifice is the only really fruitful. The cause of the spiritual and material progress of the religious orders, at homes, is that they sacrifice all their limbs for the wealth of the whole".

- What expectations do you have in arriving in Perú, which awaits you?

From the very moment in which I received the invitation from Alvaro Ballón to take part in this international event about Gaudí, together with outstanding and well-known gaudinists, I felt a great joy to know and learn from Lima and from its inhabitants, despite my stay will be unfortunately short. I like the idea of taking part together with these great professionals, learning from them and their vast knowledge and opinions.

I thank Gaudí and in a very special way to all you for the opportunity you give me and I hope and wish that we may interchange knowledge and varied experiences. This way we will manage to improve the co-existence between the peoples, which must redound to peace.

- How did the initiative to beatify Gaudí arise?

The idea came from a recently deceased priest, Father Ignasi Segarra, who, in the Easter of 1992 found himself preaching in Riudoms, a village near-by to Reus, and he devoted his spare time to read a biography about Gaudí. In his meditations, he wondered why until that moment the beatifying process of this Catalan architect had not yet been started. When he came back to Barcelona, he got in touch with me. He transmitted his enthusiasm to me, which I transmitted to the rest three members, which would eventually become the joint founders of the Association (the Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, the architect Javier Fransitorra and the biographer Josep Mª Tarragona).

The Association has as its chief goal to achieve the beatifying and canonising of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet. It only relies on the voluntary work and the donations paid into our account or kept in a moneybox placed beside the architect’s tomb, in the Sagrada Familia temple crypt in Barcelona.

Also, it is the goal of the Association, the outer diffusion of the architect in his two dimensions, spiritual and artistic, by means of the organising of lectures, exhibitions, publishings, etc.

The Association has been, and still is, the active part in the beatifying Process de Gaudí; it has asked the devotion private to the archbishophric of Barcelona, the opening of the Cause, the designing of a vice-postulator, etc.

- In what stage of the beatifying process are you now?

The Gaudí's beatifying process was officially brought to a close in Barcelona, by the Cardinal Archbishop, Monsignor Ricard Maria Carles, the 13rd of May 2003.

Last May 28th I was personally charged, together with another member of the Association, to submit in Rome the original records of the process (documents having in all 1.024 pages, books, and a CD-ROM).

Somewhat later, the 9th of July, It was officially started the beatifying process of Gaudí in the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome, with the presence of Mons. Di Ruberto, secretary of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, the cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona Ricard María Carles and of three members of the Pro Beatifying Association, Etsuro Sotoo, Josep Mª Tarragona and also myself in my condition of President.

Now, the first step is to achieve the certificate of validity from the submitted documentation. Thence, a General Court Reporter will be designated, who will be charged to elaborate the "Positio" or report about the candidate to become a blessed (which contains the proofs or accreditation of the Gaudí's virtues).

The "Positio" will have to be studied and approved by a team of experts (historians and theologists), by a committee of cardinals and bishops and, finally, if the Holy Father considers it suitable, in seeing the result of the research and works carried out, he will beatify him.

- What evidence of virtues do we find in Gaudí?

The tokens of the Christian virtues of the genial God's architect are countless. It must be highlighted that Gaudí lived in a heroic degree the human and Christian virtues and he could shape them in his life and works, either the religious or civil ones.

If many people believe that the Sagrada Familia is a stone catechism, most of the Gaudí's civil buildings, such as the "Pedrera" or the Casa Batlló, also have a distinguishing religious token. For instance, Gaudí conceived the "Pedrera" like a great pedestal, which had to sustain a sculptural group, a statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her arms, surrounded by two Archangels. On the other hand, the Casa Batlló is crowned by a cross, and bears the initials JMJ (Jesus, Mary and Joseph).

The spirituality of Gaudí may be resumed by saying he was an architect who managed to unite faith and culture, progressing continuously towards improvement: "The man can’t leave the higher or lower steps, he always has to climb step by step, in intelligence, virtue, in strength". Following the St Ignatius' principle of the continuous effort, he summarised it in saying: "Man must always to be summed to himself"

- What do we know about witnesses of supernatural manifestations?

We, in the Pro Beatifying Association, receive witnesses coming from people throughout the world. They have prayed the private devotion prayer enclosed in the Gaudí’s stamp (printed in several languages) and they have got, according to their declarations, graces related to job, health, the passing of exams or the end of career project, etc.

Concerning to the supernatural graces, that is miracles from the genial architect. They are being studied by a Committee of experts on healing, inexplicable seen from the medical point of view, of a woman who had a cancerous tumour in her ovaries - which disappeared without leaving any trace -, after praying with great devotion to Antonio Gaudí.

Besides, there is certainty of three or four possible miracles in Europe and America, which will be studied in depth in the next weeks.

Personal thoughts

From my personal point of view, I’m a true enthusiast of the Gaudí’s figure, which I have studied during many years. In deepening in his life and work I’ve found many reasons to promote in an active way his beatifying.
On my opinion, it is not possible to separate the figure of the architect from the man having a compromise with his faith and dedicated to God.

It has always drawn my attention that Gaudí was interested about every of the aspects of a project, from the general idea till the minute detail. For instance, in the columns of the side walls nave windows, he placed the inscriptions, gold, incense and mhyhrr, relating them with the inscriptions, alms, prayer and sacrifice, respectively. It would be a way of resuming one of the Gaudí’s messages: with prayer, sacrifice and alms, we raise the Sagrada Familia material Temple and each one’s personal temple.

Gaudí has managed to discover, by means of a thorough, deep and intelligent observing of nature, the models, shapes, the laws the Creator has left us, for, collaborating with Him, constructing singular buildings. He commented his pupil Isidre Puig Boada: "The creation goes on ceaselessly by means of men; the man doesn’t create, he discovers and parts from this discovery. All those who seek the laws of nature to form new works collaborate with the Creator; people who copy don’t collaborate. Thus the originality consists in coming back to the origin".

Antoni Gaudí is an example for Christians and non-Christians, through his life, his thought and his work, has brought the woman and man to empower or to discover, aspects of the love towards God. His life and work reflect his unity of life; Gaudí cannot be understood out of faith.

Jun Young Joo, the chairman of the Board of Commerce and Industry of Pusan, Korea wrote us: "Gaudí is preaching the Catholic faith to the whole world through his architecture"..."By means of the Gaudí’s works, and the divine touch they possess, I became convinced of the existence of God"...

I believe that, for everybody in general and to the architects in particular, it fits us very well to have a model to follow like Gaudí, both concerning the professional and the spiritual matters.

12 September 2003