Harry Potter and the Gargoyles of Stone

Perhaps I am spoiled, but I have to confess I cared rather less for Barcelona than I thought I might. My hotel was chic and basic – indeed it was called exactly that. White minimalist, tiny and a nice view of a concrete wall from a third floor window. The upside was that it was in a remarkably vibrant part of town near the University. The TV didn’t work and nobody seemed to know how to fix it. The AC might have cooled a small cupboard without effort, but not a hotel bedroom where daytime temperatures scraped thirty-seven Celsius with eighty per cent humidity. The actual accomodation was in a block shared by other businesses hence had a communal doorkey, which didn’t work. The thought of myself, some years ago, returning home at three in the morning in a regrettable condition and fiddling fruitlessly with a key that didn’t actually open the door fills me, even now, with a certain loosening of the bowels. All was well – in the end – someone was found whose key worked from the inside and a replacement provided the following day.
My impression of the city was not favoured by the sight of almost every square inch of shuttered shops being graffiti-raddled. I wouldn’t normally care, but they just weren’t awfully good. The more juvenile members of the population seemed quite passionate about self-mutilation – tattooing was less of an art form, more a rite of passage, it seemed.
The metro was clean and punctual and had I not caught someone attempting to pick my pocket, I might have quite enjoyed the short and efficient journey. An elbow in the ribs of the departing thief might discourage him from further attempts, but I somehow doubt it.

Barcelona is the city of the iconic architect Gaudí whose work one either thinks is absolutely masterful, or basically loathsome. I’m afraid I fall into the latter category. His buildings seem to be half-alive, stonework giving way to trees, flowers, bunches of grapes, whatever… Looking at them for any length of time made me feel quite queasy.



 Were Harry Potter ever to turn his wizarding intentions towards the consolations of Rome, this, surely is where he would hang his broomstick. La Sagrada Familia was Gaudí‘s magnum opus containing vast, allegorical  symbols on the mysteries of the faith – extraordinary facades representing the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. The eighteen towers evoke the twelve apostles, four evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Christ. When it’s finished, La Sagrada is expected to accommodate over 13,000 people with a choir of 1500. The whole building, I am informed, is an allegory of the Christian religion. Is it, indeed. I still think that 12 euros was a lot to visit a House of God, especially such a monstrous one as this

The work was started in 1882. Interrupted in 1936 when the crypt and Gaudí’s workshop were burned, Construction resumed in 1952 using the original plans and existing models and it’s still unfinished eighty-five years after his death. Am I bovvered?


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2 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Gargoyles of Stone

  1. That is the ugliest building I've ever seen, and if you had not made sure to mention it is really in existence in Barcelona I would have been sure that you pulled the still from a particularly fantastic scene in Harry Potter or a Tim Burton special. And they're actually trying to finish it. Ugh.

    When there is a 'regrettable condition' involved, excuse could be made for many and diverse malfunctions… not just keys. Now, it's most likely decrepitude. Heehee

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  2. I really wasn't kidding – up close, I really did feel quite ill looking at the thing. Gaudi suffered from all kinds of Catholic guilts and this, it seemed, was his way of expiating them.

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