I still vividly remember the first time I attended church in Ghana and, although it wasn’t entirely through choice, it is something I Continue reading
Sightseeing is an obvious and essential part of travelling. When you are exploring a new city, the first thing on your to-do list is usually visiting the iconic attractions; for London it’s Big Ben, for Paris it’s the Eiffel Tower or for Rome, the Colosseum. These will always be the most popular tourist sites. There is however, an inevitable aspect of sightseeing in Europe that I have always been less keen on: churches. Whilst I understand that Christianity and Catholicism have defined Europe and contributed to its current status as a hub of cultural and social vitality, as a twenty something atheist, they aren’t usually my favourite attractions. I join the queue and pay the entrance fee, but have never expressed a passionate interest, until I visited Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia.
Spiralling up from the centre of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia is a striking sight, priced at just €12.80 for students and open all year round. The story behind the church’s construction is just as striking. Although work on it began over one hundred years ago, the Basilica is still under construction as one of the most ambitious architectural feats ever attempted. The build began in 1915 by the legendary architect Antoni Gaudi, who devoted himself completely to the Sagrada Familia’s construction.
(Gaudi’s snail-inspired spirals border Christ’s interaction with the natural world on the Nativity Facade. wikimedia.org)
Gaudi’s greatest architectural achievement is evident when looking at the Nativity Façade; a large tree of life depicting Christ’s relationship with the natural world. Facing northeast to the rising sun, the stonework is saturated with intricacy and every brick, spire and arch is inspired by nature. Did you know that the many spirals used in the design were inspired by a snail’s shell? At the foot of every column sits a carved tortoise whilst monkeys, spiders and mice adorn the walls. Although the brickwork looks as if it’s melting, upon closer inspection you will see minutely detailed carved stone leaves and foliage. Although I personally don’t connect with churches in a spiritual way, the beauty of nature portrayed upon the Sagrada Familia is something that humans of all creeds can appreciate. Continue reading
Despite being the largest city in Switzerland, Zürich probably isn’t the first choice of destination when you consider a trip to the country. Major Hollywood blockbusters such as The Bourne Identity have placed too much emphasis on the fact that this is a leading global financial centre. Not that there is anything wrong with that in itself. But it does fail to take into consideration some of the sights there which deserve to be mentioned and seen. I’m turning my attention here to three of the most famous churches in Zürich. And while that might be met with a groaning noise (because let’s face it, churches aren’t most people’s idea of a good time), I think that the exquisite attention to detail in their fine architecture and the captivating history surrounding their construction means they should be near the top of your list of things to see in Zürich.
Grossmünster church by day (holidayblog.easyjet.com)
In English, this translates to ‘Great Minster’. This church is located in the heart of the city and boasts two enormous towers, which makes it hard to miss. According to legend, Charlemagne or Charles the Great – sometimes known as “The Father of Europe” – discovered the graves of the city’s martyrs Felix and Regula and decided to build the church near the burial site as a monastery. When you step inside, it may seem bare and stark, but that’s part of the charm of the church. Artefacts such as portraits and candles have been removed so that visitors can fully appreciate the splendour of the architecture itself, as well as to to prevent distractions from worship. There is more than just the main part of the church open to admire, however: one of the two towers, the “Karl Sturm”, is open to visitors. You can climb a fairly do-able 187 steps to reach the observation deck, where you can savour the beauty of the view over the old town and the lake.