Architectural tribute to Catalonia

Architectural tribute to Catalonia

Perched right at the top of the Tibidabo mountain in the Serra de Collesrole range in Catalonia, Barcelona, is the Temple of Tibidabo or the Roman Catholic church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Situated at a height of over 500 metres, it is a mix of several architectural styles — Neo-Gothic, Roman, Byzantine and art nouveau. Though the chief architect was Enrique Sagnier, artists Eusebio Amau, Joan Puigdollers, Jose Miret, Frederic Mares, Alfons Juyol I Boch, Miquel Farre made significant contributions. The Bru workshops also played a large role.

According to popular belief, John Bosco was the founder of the church. He was given the plot when he visited Barcelona in 1886. The Hermitage, to the right of the temple, was built then. It is of special interest for two reasons. It shows the point at which the mountain ended before any work commenced. In the same year, it was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It took 16-and-a-half years for the first stone of the grand construction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to reach Tibidabo. The building work started in 1902 and went on till 1961.

The exterior looks rather like a Roman fort, on top of which is the church. It can be approached by two stairways, neo-Gothic in style. The top floor is an octagonal dome supported by eight columns. At the top of the dome is the magnificent bronze statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with outstretched arms. The devout refer to Him as Christ, the King, whose redeeming love is shown by His outstretched arms, giving benediction. The upper church is actually a square. It had a central tower and four other towers on a lower level. Within this square are the statues of the 12 apostles.

On the keystone of the main entrance is the image of the Archangel Michael. Above this, John Bosco, the temple prophet, has pride of place at the apex of the triangle. Over the left door is Teresa of Avila and over the right, Marguerite Maro Alacoque. The front of the crypt has sculptures of Virgin of Mercy (patron saint of Barcelona) with Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia) and Saint James (patron saint of Spain) on either side. In front, the crypt has a large, semi-circular arch under which are three smaller arches. The Evangelists form the capitals that support these arches.

The Great Crucifix is located in the upper temple. It is illuminated by the tinted light from the filigreed windows. High over the choir is a grand organ and the coats of arms of Hispanic nations.

An interior staircase goes up to the central tower with the splendid bronze image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowning the entire structure. An elevator goes to the top of the temple. Visitors can get a good panoramic view of Barcelona city from the terrace and an even better view from the balcony adjacent to the bronze statue.

The exhibition consists of the image of Christ, the Holy Shroud and the temple’s history. Entrance to this area is restricted. Reservation must be made in advance so the authorities can arrange an accompanied visit.

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