Towards the Beatification of Gaudí
The press called attention to it a few weeks ago. I am referring to the decision to commence the beatification process for the renowned Catalan and architect Antoni Gaudí, initiated by the Archbishopric of Barcelona and supported by the Bishops of Catalonia.
There are dozens of opinions about our genius. About his personality and his dedication. About his ingenuity and about his intentions. About his current success and fame and about his apparent failure in life.
Nevertheless, there are some sides of Gaudí which are unknown, forgotten or intentionally passed over. One of these is Gaudí's intimate and spiritual life. Very few biographies or guidebooks allude to this. I will recall a few facts.
In the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc (Artistic Circle of St. Lucas), when monsignor Torras i Bages was at its head, a circle of friendship was established between the participating artists. Among them were Gaudí and the Llimona brothers. The Fathers of the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri (Oratory of St. Felipe Neri) requested that Joan Llimona make two paintings of the patron saint of Rome: one celebrating the Holy Mass in ecstasy, and the other living with the "fanciulli" on the Janiculum in Rome.
Both can still be seen today, magnificently restored, at each side of the transept in the church of the Oratory. Llimona had the unexpected idea of modeling the well-known face of Gaudi in the person of Felipe Neri of the Italian "cinquecento".
In regards to Gaudí's spirituality, is it possible for anyone - who is acquainted to some extent with his work - to believe that all that which one contemplates, moved not only by its grandeur but also by the profound details of which it is replete, could possibly have been produced only by cold thought in search of an ostentatious work, or dedicated to discovering what may stir the viewer to admiration for his work? These were neither the criteria nor the aspirations of Antoni Gaudí. Without a profound and habitual contemplation of the mysteries of the faith, neither the Nativity facade nor any other of his works could have been conceived as he desired, and as they move us.
A biography of Gaudí should begin with his death. When he died, after being run down by a tram, nobody recognized him. He lived so confined in his "laboratory" in the Sagrada Familia! But what we do know is that he was going, on foot and on time, to his evening visit to the Oratory and, perhaps, to see his spiritual leader and confessor, the "felipó" Padre Mas.
He lived a long period of mystic life which, until his death, guided him through the paths of high mysticism comparable - architecturally speaking - to the high mysticism of Juan de la Cruz in his "Cántico espiritual" (spiritual hymn), in his verses from the XVI century, or with the verses of the "Cant espiritual" (spiritual song) of Joan Maragall, Gaudí's colleague and friend from the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc. Who can forget that the "Casa de la Pedrera" (the Quarry House) of today was originally conceived by Gaudí as a pedestal for a monument to the Immaculate Conception of Mary? The phrases "Ave, gratia plena," still sculpted into the frontispiece of the highest part of the facade, give testimony to this effect -- with a rose in the middle.
Antoni Gaudí, architect, renowned Catalan and layman mystic, also deserves to be studied with the perspective of his possible sainthood.
Cardinal Ricard Ma. Carles.
Published in "La Vanguardia" newspaper. Barcelona, November 1998.