Society 09/12/2021

Star on Sagrada Família changes Barcelona's skyline forever

The star was first lit last night

3 min
L'encesa of the star of the Sagrada Familia

BarcelonaIt's bad luck that the day of the Immaculate Conception was one of the windiest in the year. It is the ideal day for the illumination of the star that crowns the Sagrada Familia's tower of Mary. "Is that stuck on all right now? It won't fall off, will it?" asks an elderly man, a little frightened by the wind blowing in the immense square of Gaudí's temple. A few days ago a twelve-pointed star was attached at a height of one hundred and thirty-eight metres, putting the finishing touch on one of the towers of the eternally unfinished church. "Forty-nine years I've lived next door and from the first day this has seemed like a joke to me", exclaims Jeroni, who lives on Carrer de Mallorca. "How can it be that the building hasn't been finished yet? How can this be in my head?", he says as he pulls an incredulous, sardonic face. His friend Jaume reproaches him for his slander, his scepticism, as if he were an overly angry Barcelonian. I look at Wikipedia to check the dates. Construction began in 1882. One hundred and forty years seems a reasonable margin for an architectural project as pharaonic as this one.

This Wednesday is a small civic event in a time of deep scarcity of big (and medium and small) civic events. In grey times and times of devastating popularity polls. It is a cruel paradox that precisely the Sagrada Família should be the protagonist of this day of communion between Barcelona and the city. A symbol of the wild touristification, in the precise heart of the galloping gentrification. It is curious that Oriol Bohigas, a fierce critic of Gaudí's work – he called the Sagrada Familia an "Easter cake"– only just missed out on the event, and could not lick his fingers with uneasiness.

The lighting of the star of the Sagrada Família

Monsignor Omella says the Mass before the blessing. There are loudspeakers and giant screens for everyone who wants to listen. "Gaudí was a mystic, he lived the Gospel of Jesus and knew how to capture it in his work. Saint Mary wants to be your light in the midst of darkness. Today her tower is finished, but the tower of her son Jesus Christ will continue to grow little by little until it becomes the tallest, the one that can be seen from every corner of the city". "He seems to be in trance," says a family who listens to him attentively. A mother explains to the children what the twelve points of the star mean, twelve as an important number in Catholicism: "I heard them explaining it yesterday on RAC1 and it was very interesting", she stresses. Many people are captivated, many look up even though there is more than an hour to go, they take pictures even if it is dark. It makes one happy to detect a spark of Barcelona spirit, a playful evening, a different plan that the city offers us to for a walk with children on December 8 in the afternoon. Despite the gale. "It's very Christmassy, isn't it?", says Joan, who has also come with his family and you can feel his desire for stimuli to experience the city in a more natural, more organic, more neighbourly and empathetic way.

If you walk two hundred metres around it's easy to see that there are people who have come by car and are surprised that they can't park anywhere. Great ideas that people have. The metro exit at the corner of Marina and Provença is closed. Traffic is also restricted and there is a lot of surveillance. At Hasta los Andares bar on Carrer Provença, the staff is working full out. In a short time it has become a neighbourhood classic: "No rest here, star or no star", says one of the waiters. They don't mind admitting, however, that it is thanks to Gaudí that many of the bars in the area do as well as they do.

The moment arrives. Archbishop Omella goes outside and affectionally greets attendees, who are freezing. Culminating a musical crescendo and with countless flashes going off, with genuine emotion, not at all impostured, from the entire audience – "like the cauldron of the Olympic Games, remember?", I hear them say next to me – the twelve-pointed star is finally lit. "Antoni Gaudí looks at it excitedly from the sky," Omella concludes. Next to the massive and perennial cranes, Barcelona has a new light that illuminates its skyline.