Tuesday, July 2, 2013

West Mediterranean - Cathedrals

Whether you are a faithful believer or a convinced atheist, you will undoubtedly appreciate the grandeur and intricate architecture of cathedrals in the West Mediterranean countries. These cathedrals put me in constant awe - the next one always seemed to be bigger and better and our eyes just couldn't keep up processing an unimaginable amount of details within a short period of time. Here is a list of the major ones we've been to during this trip:

1. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona 
Designed by Antonio Gaudi, Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic cathedral still under construction in Barcelona. Style wise, SF is a typical Gothic Cathedral that emphasizes verticality and light. 

Nativity Façade

What impressed me the most was actually the interior of the basilica. Inspired by nature, Gaudi cleverly created an arborescent structure that looks like a colossal forest. 

The baldachin at the altar again maximizes the illumination. 

The stained glass panels on various windows and openings let through a maximum amount of light into the basilica, so holy and glorious. 

Six pairs of giant clam shells (tridacna gigas) from the Philippines served as holy water fonts throughout the basilica. 

 2. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore at Piazza del Duomo, Florence.
The exterior of the basilica has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade covered in marble panels in various shades of green and red/pink bordered by white. The red marble (Red Sienna) is from Siena Tuscany representing Charity; white (Bianco Carrara) is from Carrara symbolizing Purity; and green (Verde Issorie) is from Issorie which means Hope. 

The octagon dome of the Duomo.

3. Battistero di San Giovanni (The Baptistry of St. John) at Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa. Constructed on the same unstable sand as the Leaning Tower, the Baptistry (as well as the Cathedral) leans 0.6 degrees toward the cathedral.

This is all Bianco Carrara, baby!

4. Notre-Dame de la Garde (Our Lady of the Guard), Marseille.
The basilica is located at the highest natural point of Marseille, which makes the Garde hill the observation spot for bird's eye view of the entire city. If you plan to take taxi up like we did, I would recommend you have the same driver wait around for 30 minutes to an hour because it'd be very hard to find a cab up there. Other tourists offered to pay us extra to share the same cab but our driver turned it down. They obviously had been waiting for a long time.

The mosaic-covered nave is topped by three cupolas each with a different theme.

The mosaic-covered geometric floor inside the baptistry.

5. La Seu Cathedral, Palma Majorca.
Also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma or Palma Cathedral, is yet another Catalan Gothic Cathedral. Though Gaudi was invited to lead the restoration project in the early 1900's, he ended up making mostly cosmetic rather than structural changes inside.  

The simplicity and verticality of the interior shows a strong Northern European influence.

This is one of the most prominent works of Gaudi's at this site, the baldachin or canopy at the altar.

6. Catedral de Barcelona

Marseille Palais de Longchamp.

After all this, it's not surprising that my eyes are still adapting to the New World.

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