We have all had it happen. You are listening to a song -- reading a book -- watching a play, and suddenly you have a faint reminder of some other song, book, or play. I call them memory echos.
There is a very clever example in Stephen Sondheim's "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George. George reminisces about a lost love, and the orchestra plays two simple notes: the same two notes that open "The Way We Were." Memory. Just hearing the lyric evokes the echo.
Well, the same thing happened to me on Saturday night when I saw John's recent photographs of the Zacatecas Cathedral. The cathedral is built in a high Baroque style with rows of bas relief decoration. Take a look at his photographs -- especially, the facade lit up at night to appreciate the intricate detail.
It took me a bit to recognize the echo. But I looked through my photographs and confirmed the resounding notes.
I suspect the most famous nineteenth/twentieth century cathedral is Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Now, I know I just lost a few of you, who have consigned me to the "he's nuts" category. After all Gaudi's masterpiece is often compared to a melting wedding cake. And it is true that his designs are the very essence of expressionist architecture -- what Dali would have built if he had talent.
But look closer at Gaudi's detail on the Nativity facade. It is every bit as structural as the Zacatecas cathedral. The pillars still support the structure and provide the stage upon which the saints can strut.
Reduced to their essence, both buildings echo the same architectural force. And that may be because they both start with a basic house where God can be worshipped and where the extraneous decoration is, literally, just a facade.
But both structures are places of beauty and part of our shared western civilization -- even when the architecture of that civilization appears to jump off the page of a Tolkien novel.