Saturday 21 January 2012

Conversion by Architecture

I came across this interesting piece on Rome Reports.

Etsuro Sotoo was a professor of art at Kyoto University when he decided to travel in Europe. He arrived in Barcelona in 1978, he was so impressed with Gaudí's Sagrada Familia that he dropped everything to follow in the work of Gaudí as a sculptor. Ever since then he continued to learn more and more about the architect. Etsuro came from a cultural and religious traditions very different from that of Europe. As a result he had trouble connecting with the project in a manner faithful to the spirit of Gaudí. When he finally understood his real intention with the Sagrada Familia, it changed his life. Sotoo says that his commitment to architecture was the first step by which Gaudí helped him to rethink his values. After some time he converted to Catholicism. He is currently working on the main sculptures of the Sagrada Familia. A work that changed the course of his life.

I'm a little ambivalent about the architecture of the Sagrada Familia, although it was some years before the Holy Father consecrated the main church in 2010 that I last saw it. Although undeniably new in style it references the tradition of church buildings and its conception came from a mind that created it out of love of God. It is not a building thrown up at the cheapest possible cost but gives something of the best of the human spirit back to the Creator. It was a work of love and devotion for Gaudi and now for those who continue in his tradition.

In recent times we seem to have lost an appreciation of sacred space and architecture as a means of inspiration and evangelisation, with the focus shifting to the community that meets within the space. But this should surely not render the space itself of no interest or reduce it to the merely functional. A family that lives in a house is much more important than the house itself but the fact that the family lives there makes it a home and makes that building important, in its layout, in how we choose to beatify it - it becomes precious because of what we experience within its walls. The same must surely apply to our churches. The fact that we now build and remodel churches that are either purely functional or mimic secular buildings says that we have lost confidence. Lost confidence in the ability of the Faith to speak to others (and to us?) and therefore have lost confidence in the buildings in which we articulate that Faith. That we ignore a consecrated altar carrying within it the relics of some hero of the Faith and offer the Holy Sacrifice on a temporary wooden table is a weird situation to find ourselves in. To use the home analogy again, we ignore a fine dining room and always have a T.V. dinner on a tray.

Let's get back to some fine dining!

Etsuro Sotoo
“I know all the works, all the words, all the models, but I can't take another step. I can't come close to Gaudí. I decided not to look to him. So then where do I look? I tried to look in the way that Gaudí did. I'm a sculptor, I tried to do what he would have done. This was the magnificent and miraculous moment.”

“I invite everyone who wants to understand Gaudí to not pick the wrong door. If you really want to know him, find the the door of spirit and faith.”

“Why do we build the temple of the Sagrada Familia? A simple question: why do we build? We don't seek beauty in vanity of men. No, The Sagrada Familia is a tool for building us. Gaudí left the temple half finished, the temple of the Sagrada Familia perfectly built the man Gaudí.”


AHermanson said...

Beautiful... "a tool for building us."

Indeed our churches should assist us as we, the living stones are being built up into the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the New Jerusalem.

Thank you Fr. for this post.

Stephen Davis said...

I know of an enclosed Benedictine nun who converted to the faith through the beauty of stained glass windows.

Truth is beauty and beauty is truth.

Any news on Ss Peter and Paul, New Brighton?