A motif of a few these trips has been visiting their famous sacred places. The beauty of these places seems to transcend the earthly materials used to create them. I find them breathtaking and am filled with awe. Since I had this experience yet again on my most recent trip, I thought I'd take a moment to share a few photos.
This Gothic style church was built in the 1240s. Its stained glass windows are overwhelmingly blue and fill so much of the space where there would be walls that the whole construction seems to be held up by a miracle.
Barcelona: Sagrada Família
Antoni Gaudí began building this basilica in the 1880s and it is still under construction today. Gaudi died in 1926, and since then architects have considered it an honor and challenge to help add to his vision. Perhaps more than any building I've ever seen, the Sagrada Familia defies explanation or description. The exterior has a different design on every side, exuding a feel of genius and insanity. The interior is astounding and majestic; it truly feels like holy ground as you find yourself looking upward and wandering, wandering through its vastness.
Istanbul: Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
This mosque was built in a mere seven years, from 1609-1616. It's still used today by worshippers. The call to prayer emanates throughout the city five times a day. Each mosque has its own caller and their calls are not entirely synchronized, so the effect is a sort of haunting, harmonious round. I was standing directly outside the Blue Mosque, next to one of its six towering minarets, one day last week as this happened. It was astounding.
Istanbul: Suleyman Mosque
Built by the architect Sinan from 1551-1558, this mosque is understated and awe-inspiring. I love that the wooden benches and marble stations for pre-prayer foot cleansings are still used today, rather than simply a shadow of the past.