Saturday 19 October 2013


A curious sight in the Cathar village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert interested me greatly; a sunflower nailed to a front door was something Id never witnessed before, and sparked a great degree of intrigue. After extensive research I discovered that these were called 'Eguzkilore'.

Derived from an ancient tradition, the custom is scarcely mentioned or explained in texts, however it appears to have come from the Basque region, and is deeply rooted in French and Spanish folklore. 'Eguzki' (sun) and 'lore' (flower), (literally 'Sunflower' in Basque language), are actually dried silver thistles, and are traditionally believed to bring good fortune to the house which they adorn. In folklore it is believed that the Eguzkilore represents the sun and its power, which includes protecting a house during the hours of darkness, and warding off evil spirits, devils and witches. This tradition appears to be born out of Basque paganism, which existed in the Western Pyrenees before the arrival of Christianity in the region.
It is wonderful to see this old custom, which is clearly deeply rooted in Pyrenees tradition, survived today through the people of Saint Guillem la Desert.

Saturday 5 October 2013

La Sagrada Família: Exterior

La Sagrada Família, or to use its full name; La Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, is by far the most incredible building I have ever, or will ever be lucky enough to visit.
Originally begun in 1882 the Sagrada Família was a church on the outskirts of Barcelona with the grand ambition of replacing the Cathedral, located in Barri Gotic, as the focal point of faith in Barcelona. The original architect Francisco de Paula del Villar resigned after just one year, and his boots were filled by Antoni Gaudí, who replaced the Gothic revival designs with something altogether different. The museum below the Sagrada Família provides a detailed insight into Gaudi's architectural designs and how these developed with time, becoming less traditional and far more visionary, unique and other worldly.

The Sagrada Família has an organic quality which is unlike any other I have ever seen in a building. The entire vast structure appears to have erupted out of the earth, and is continuing to do so. The sheer scale of the structure is one which is simply impossible to absorb and digest. An eternity could be spent dwarfed in awe of the lofty towers protruding high into the sky, but not until you have journeyed to the top of one of these towers can you truly appreciate the grand scale on which everything at the Sagrada Família operates. Journeying 65 metres to the top of the Passion facade tower and walking the 400 spiraling steps back to earth was certainly a knee knocking experience, but an incredible one.

With an estimated completion date of 2026 (just in time for the centenary of Gaudi's death) the Church is a hive of activity. Watching the Sagrada Família grow before your eyes is a curious experience. This is by far the most impressive and complex construction project I have ever seen, and watching the construction workers and skilled craftsmen working tirelessly to complete this vast monument gives a glimpse into the past and how people watching the construction of monumental buildings such as Barcelona Cathedral, York Minster or The Notre Dame must have felt.

I urge anyone who has the opportunity to visit the Sagrada Família to do so, it is an experience you will never forget.

Friday 4 October 2013

Gargoyles and Grotesques

Gargoyles and Grotesques were in great abundance in both France and Catalunya, but Barri Gòtic offered some of the finest and most unique grotesques I have ever seen.

I had long looked forward to visiting the Barcelona district, and wasn't disappointed! Barri Gòtic's narrow maze of streets and alleys were packed with churches, restaurants and antique dealers. The districts beautiful architecture is wonderfully intricate and seemingly endless. The detailed fantastical figures which adorn most of the buildings are full of character, and seem to carry an entirely unique personality which is utterly delightful.