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  • The sculptor is now working on the great bronze door of the Passion Facade

    BARCELONA. - In a corner of the facade, sculpted in stone, Subirachs hung a verse of John the evangelist: "El que estÓs fent, fes-ho de pressa" (Whatever you are doing, do it fast). This is like a sarcastic wink in this work, which has taken as long to build as the great cathedrals.

    When Subirachs was given this assignment, he did so on two conditions: that he be allowed to live on the grounds of the Sagrada Familia itself, and that he be given total freedom for his work. Both have been fulfilled.

    "They've never coerced me," he explains. "They have had total trust in me, even though I've had enemies." And, almost in passing, he recalls the demonstration in 1990, in which artists and architects called for his work to be stopped. "The worst is that it was the wrong time; they couldn't judge work that was only beginning. It's interesting because the progressive sectors mixed with the other more conservative sectors, because I later found out that complaints had been made to the bishop and, I think, even to Rome, about the statue of Christ on the cross, which was nude."

    To contrast with the Nativity Facade, completed by GaudÝ, which stands out for its Baroque character, Subirachs opted for "a hard vision, facilitated by a brutal treatment of the stone," on the Passion Facade. The sculptural retable begins with the Last Supper and follows an S-shaped layout, until the final scene, the burial. The sculptor has worked like a filmmaker, conceiving a work to be contemplated. That is why it includes entertaining elements, such as a square cryptogram with 16 numbers that can be added in 310 different combinations, which always add up to 33: the Christ's age at his death.

    "What satisfies me most is the approval this work receives from people who have an unbiased vision, who are away from all the debates. Those who come every two years to see how the work progresses."

    The artist, who a few years before had written "I was born nine months after the death of GaudÝ," whom he admired as a pre-surrealist, a Michaelangelo of the renaissance, had the opportunity to be the first to continue GaudÝ's work with a contemporary perspective. As a personal tribute, one of the figures on the facade represents GaudÝ, based on the famous photograph in which he is seen in a religious procession. The other tribute is the face of the soldiers, modeled after the chimneys of La Pedrera, which many visitors find similar to characters from Star Wars.

    Now, as the sculptor finishes the large bronze door where he has sculpted 8,000 letters taken from a fragment of the gospels, comes the first judgment of his work. It has been done by historian Imma Fontanals and Photographer Joan Iriarte in "Subirachs a la Sagrada Familia" [Subirachs in the Sagrada Familia] (Edicions Mediterrania). In a few days, the King will grant him the Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts. For him, paraphrasing Baudelaire, this work is simply "the testimony of our dignity."



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