Today we took an hour trip into the nearby city of Barcelona. Barcelona is a coastal city, with several ports and cruise ships, and was home to the 1992 summer olympics. It is also home to some beautiful churches.
We started off the day at the Cathedral of Barcelona, going down into the crypt below the main altar for Mass at the tomb of St. Eulalia. St. Eulalia was a 13 year old girl from this area that was martyred during the persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The Romans tried to make an example of Eulalia, and tortured here in many different horrific ways trying to get her to deny Jesus. But she persisted, and ultimately lost her life for Christ. She has been a patron saint of Barcelona ever since, and we were given the incredible opportunity to go down for a private Mass at her tomb. It was a truly moving experience to be in the presence of such a strong witness for the faith, especially one so dedicated to the faith so young.
After Mass, we boarded the bus for a tour of the city, ultimately making our way to the National Museum of Art of Catalania. The museum has an incredible permanent exhibit of Romanesque art from the 12th century. This art was taken and preserved directly from some of the early churches in the region. It is very different from what we’re used to looking at in our churches. Most churches only depicted images of Jesus the Pantocrator, sitting between heaven and earth in judgement and blessing, and surrounded by Mary and the apostles. The concept of this style comes from the book of Revelation, where Jesus reigns in the heavenly kingdom, surrounded by the twelve elders. Msgr. Trapp encouraged us not just to look at this art as a museum piece, but to pray with it and let the imagery and symbolism affect us spiritually, as it was intended to do when it was created.
We broke for lunch for a short while. Some men attempted to eat at the local Hard Rock Cafe, but the wait was too long for the time we had available, and so many split up for some good old American fast food, going to both Burger King and McDonald’s.
After lunch, we boarded the bus and made the drive up a local mountain, Mount Tibidabo, for a Holy Hour at Sacred Heart Church. It was an appropriate place for our seminarians to pray, obviously. 🙂 They had exposition of the Blessed Sacrament available, so most of the men made their holy hour there.
Once we were finished, we returned down the mountain for a tour of an amazing Church, the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia. This church has been in the works for over 100 years, and still has another 15-20 years until its completion. Right now it is not used full time as an active church, as that would not work well with the constant ongoing construction work. So right now they raise money for the building by their admissions fees, and they have Mass on a limited schedule.
It is an incredible place, with a unique facade and architecture. It is the design of architect Antony Gaudi, who is known throughout Spain for his modern architecture. This church is very different from any other that we have visited, done in a modern style. It does not contain all the images and statues that one finds in a gothic or baroque church, but is full of symbolism that draws your mind and heart to God in its own ways. Words cannot describe the look of this church, so we will try to get some pictures up of it soon.
As I said above, the church is open for tourism. Indeed, that is how they are funding it. But despite that, we were all amazed at how well they maintain it as a house of prayer. There are several areas throughout the building that are dedicated only to prayer, and people are not allowed in to tour or take pictures, only pray. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a chapel behind the sanctuary, and the monitor it constantly, showing great respect for our Lord.
We’ll speak more about this church tomorrow, as tomorrow is a free day. As for today, after visiting Sagrada Familia, we made our way back to Montserrat for dinner and then off to bed, as we had an early Mass the next morning.