Our visit to the Nativity Tower of the Basílica de la Sagrada Família shall be my concluding post regarding this amazing, baffling, confusing, yet inspiring architectural wonder.
By the way, if you have wiggle room for scheduling your visit, I would strongly recommend to come during a non-school-holiday period and well outside of the European high season of July/August. We were surprised how crowded it was on a weekday in March, I can only imagine the cheek to jowl situation in the summer. The ladies’ [only three stalls! Ils sont fous, ces Catalans] had a queue of five despite the off season workday. If this is the only restroom, as it appeared to be, the wait during peak times should be interesting. For now, though, let’s get in line for the tower elevator. By golly, there wasn’t one! We were allowed to enter the chauffeur driven capsule right away and soared effortlessly upward. Sadly the cabin was opaque, I would’ve dearly loved to ride in one of those glass elevators they used to have in the Houston Hyatt hotel.
Upon exiting the elevator, you traverse from the arrival tower to a neighboring tower across a mishmash of short staircases, stone gangways and curvy, low-ceiling corridors with many oddly shaped openings to the right and/or left, others completely exposed to the elements, but enclosed in sturdy wire mesh for touristic safety.
The initial adventure up there was somewhat disorienting since there were several options from which to choose among right or left turns, climbing stairs or descending them. People seem to be milling about rather aimlessly at first. We decided to go mostly down and hoped for the best. Frankly, at that point, I didn’t even know that one was required to hike down to street level, or church level as the case may be, entirely under one’s own power. That minor fact, however, became clear quite soon.
This is the tip of the ‘Tree of Life’, a cedar tree, studded with white doves of peace. Just to recall, where on the Nativity Façade we find that tree, here’s a reminder:
Hidden behind the towers to some degree, the construction work commences at dizzying heights. Gaudí’s naturalist plant decorations peaking out here and there.
And if you look straight up, you really get dizzy!
I suppose it’s safer to just look sideways at a level gaze,
because it’s a long way down. On the outside,
as well as on the inside.
Around and around we went,
admiring the clever arrangments for light and ventilation.
In a westerly direction, we got a good look at several features of the basilica still under construction.
I especially enjoyed the lines, angles and shadows of the polished stone surfaces in juxtaposition to the rough finish of the tower walls.
The staircase wasn’t very pleasant to use. It had steep steps without a banister. Earlier, at a higher portion of the tower, as we were climbing even higher, I used iron rods barring the window slits to keep me steady. No such crutches in this section.
But the graffiti was entertaining, at least.
The last portion of the free-standing tower afforded some opportunities for close-up views of design details.
And isn’t it just lovely that you can summon help in a catastrophic event?
From the free-standing tower, we proceeded into a more civilized spiral staircase running outside of the main church body. It had an LED lit guide rail and cut stone steps. At intervals, this staircase provided access to certain balcony and choir features within the church. All of which were not only firmly locked, but also protected by acrylic sheets, making it virtually impossible to take clear pictures. You know me, I tried anyway!
And on and on it went, a seemingly endless spiral …