Architecture and Ceramics
My fave Grayson Perry was talking about art pilgrimages, and went on one himself, on an awesome motorbike. My own art pilgrimage was made in less auspicious transport, in the summer of 2001.
The summer before I came to Edinburgh to start studying architecture, I was invited on a caravanning trip with my then-boyfriend’s family in the south of France. Then, as now, it was impossible to travel easily from York to anywhere in Europe, so the best option that was decided was to drive down from York all the way to France [my hosts had come across from Belfast first] and on the way back we would drive down to Barcelona and fly out from there to… must have been East Midlands Airport. It was basically a massive mission.
Now I had an ulterior motive for our day out in Barcelona. I was going to see the Sagrada Familia, which I had read about in a large format book two years previously, and had very much influenced my choice of future career. I bided [bade?] my time, lying like a coiled spring through endless lazy afternoons watching boys playing pool, avoiding the direct sun, chasing after wee lads who stole the 20cents off the pool table… until the fateful day.
We knew we had crossed from France to Spain because the road workers were four shades browner and two foot shorter than their Provencal counterparts. I knew I was in Spain because I could feel it, calling me; ‘you’re so close now Sarah, so very close. Touch my undulating stonework, marvel at my twisted columns’
When we finally got into the city my head was swimming with a mixture of anticipation and car sickness. The rest of the party had no idea what I was talking about, but I think I had been so complicit through the previous two weeks that I was owed a bit of architectural fun. But disaster struck. We went to the wrong cathedral. Even ten years on I recall the feeling of despair as I realised that we had headed for the old cathedral in the market town, and with even more sadness how bloody far we had to walk to get to the Sagrada Familia.
On a hot day it was a lifetime away. I was on the verge of tears, and just did not know what to do. I had no Spanish money for a taxi and five unimpressed Northern Irish people watching my meltdown. I can’t remember the walk – I imagine I was half mad with the heat – but when I saw the Nativity Gates… reader, I wept.
To say the wait was worth it is an understatement. I was overwhelmed, both emotionally and physically, with a wave of happiness and contentment which I have felt only a few times in my life. I felt that Gaudi was speaking to all of us through the building, and at that time he was saying ‘you did the right thing to come here’.
I have been back to the Sagrada Familia several times since then, but the first time will always be so special for me.