STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAMI L. RICE
I hadn’t even stepped inside yet but had already declared Barcelona’s Sagrada Família my new favorite place in the world.
From the stony stations of the cross built into the façade on one side, to the splashes of color in just the right places all over the exterior, to dripping, stony incarnations of gingerbread house icing, to engraved names here and there of characters in the Bible stories the building tells—it was all magnificent. It was a storybook come to life.
After all the beautiful but somber European churches I’ve stepped into these past years of being based in France, this place told of another aspect of faith.
I saw joy here. Whimsy. Play.
All of which I desperately needed more of after months of a new volunteer job I’d fallen into that had me walking alongside strong people who’d been thrown into desperate, scary times thanks to geopolitical actors over whom none of us have power. It continues to be heavy, somber—if invigorating—work, faithful work befitting those other impressively muted churches I’ve visited in Europe, where one enters into a place of pious hush.
But I arrived in Barcelona knowing I was near a breaking point in the urgent, unending ad hoc rescue around which I was newly learning to put boundaries after months of being on call nonstop. The emergency had turned long-term, making 24/7 efforts unsustainable.
I came to Barcelona because a friend invited me. It was a quick trip with no real agenda other than going somewhere new, seeing a bit of the city, expanding my Spanish explorations, and gaining enough miles to get special airline status for the first time in my life.
As I boarded the plane from Paris, I kind of knew that, in layman’s terms, Gaudí is a thing in Barcelona and his style is crazy.
What I didn’t know is that it’s perfection.
It’s a music composition rooted by major chords and lightened by a dancing melody that repeats certain notes just enough to tie the tune together.
What I didn’t know is that the wonder my eyes drank in would literally pour refreshment inside of me, refreshment that leaked from my eyes in gentle, cleansing tears.
Here too was architecture that befit hard yet faithful efforts. But here was also a reminder of hope, of a faith in which joy coexists with hard realities, of mature yet childlike belief. One enters here into a place of soul dancing.
And how my soul needed to dance for a little while.
Kami Rice, Anthrow Circus’s editor, plies her insatiable curiosity from a base in northern France and from perches in coffeehouses, cafés, and friends' homes the world over. As a freelance journalist, she has reported for the Washington Post, The Telegraph, The Tennessean, Nashville Arts Magazine, and Christianity Today, among many others. Her more creative work has appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, The High Calling, and Washington Institute's Missio. Her French to English translation has been published by Éditions Beaux-Arts de Paris. She also edits manuscripts and articles for a variety of clients and loves learning about the lives of regular, real people wherever she finds herself.