In Spain, an unlikely candidate is being championed for sainthood. It’s Antoni Gaudi, perhaps the country’s most famous architect. Gaudi died more than 80 year ago. He’s best known for his modernist masterpieces such as the still unfinished Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. Those who want him canonized say he was also a devout Catholic…and that his works actually convert people to Christianity. They’ve presented their evidence to the Vatican. It’s evidence that includes alleged miracles. The World’s Gerry Hadden reports from Barcelona.
Gerry Hadden shot this video near Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona:
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MARCO WERMAN: The man known as god’s architect could become a candidate for sainthood. Antoni Gaudi is Spain’s most famous architect. He is best known for such masterpieces as the still unfinished Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. Those who want the Vatican to recognize Gaudi as a saint point out that he was a devout Catholic and that his works actually convert people to Christianity. Gaudi’s admirers have presented the Vatican with their evidence, which includes alleged miracles. The World’s Gerry Hadden reports from Barcelona.
GERRY HADDEN: When Antoni Gaudi was laid to rest on a June day in 1926, one newspaper editorial announced the death of a saint. Today Gaudi devotee Juan Manuel Almuzara wants to make that sentiment reality.
He says Gaudi was always close to Christ. He wasn’t an architect and then a Christian but rather the other way around. He lived Christ in all aspects of his life. Almuzara stands before perhaps Gaudi’s greatest work Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Church. It is a towering modernist temple bordering on the surreal. It’s support pillars rise up like the trunks of great trees. From a distance, its spires look almost like melting candles. Almuzara’s association for the beatification of Antoni Gaudi says this work and others should move the Vatican to have the architect beatified, which is the first step toward sainthood.
He says we might find it difficult to imagine praying to an architect. It doesn’t seem very typical. We are accustomed to praying to monks, nuns, and priests but slowly we are understanding. We have letters from people, for example, who have converted to Christianity just by seeing Gaudi’s works. Here in Barcelona, Gaudi is beloved and the Vatican has already given the green light for an investigation into his saintliness. But there are those who argue he’s simply not saint material. Some have questioned his famed reputation for piety. Others say he was actually a free mason. In a 2003 BBC documentary, the historian Robert Hughes called him a mega la maniacal bore.
ROBERT HUGHES: To work with, he was a nightmare. He was short tempered. He was arrogant. He treated workers with considerable contempt. He did all the things that demanding brilliant maestros are in the bad habit of doing.
GERRY HADDEN: Others like this Italian visitor named Laura say he should simply be judged on his work alone.
FEMALE: I’m a fellow artist. In terms of Gaudi’s art, I think he’s amazing. But a saint, I’m not so sure.
GERRY HADDEN: Laura also wonders whether Gaudi meets the technical standard for sainthood, which is to have carried out or caused at least two miracles. In a modest apartment along the Spanish coast, about an hour north of Barcelona, 58 year old Ramon Amargan says he can attest to one Gaudi miracle. Amargan had his femur, thigh bone, replaced a couple of years ago but the incision wouldn’t heal. After several operations and months in the hospital, things were looking grim. Then he and his family and an extended network of friends prayed to the architect.
He says I had the good fortune of having him hear my prayers. Because of Gaudi, I am completely healed. The doctor still cannot explain how it happened. Amargan says years ago he realized that Gaudi was more than just an architectural visionary.
He says all that Gaudi imagined and built cannot be explained without the presence of some sort of inhuman intervention. “I’m talking about God. God showed him what to create.” But that argument begs the question why not beatify other masters of enduring art such as Michelangelo or Leonardo DaVinci. The debate over Gaudi’s miracles and other godly qualities will likely go on for years to come, getting beatified doesn’t happen overnight. Gaudi proponent, Almuzara isn’t impatient. He remembers a remark Gaudi made upon being asked when the Sagrada Familia would be finished. “My client,” Gaudi said, “is in no hurry”. For The World, I’m Gerry Hadden in Barcelona.
MARCO WERMAN: Gerry shot some video outside of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. You can check that out at TheWorld.org.
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