Thanks for Mary for finding this article about the camapaign to confer sainthood upon architect Antonio Gaudi, creator of my favourite building site in the world: La Sacrada Familia in Barcelona. I say building site because the colossal cathedral is not due to be finished for another twenty to forty years.
It is well known for its UNESCO protected facades, but it is the columns that flank the impossibly tall and narrow nave, sculpted like impossibly slender trees that are astonishing. All imagined and engineered without finite element analysis or any other modern day computer wizardry. The grounds for Gaudi’s beatification are his pious lifestyle and his divine inspiration (attempts at finding a “miracle” to confirm his saintliness – a prerequisite on the saint application form – have resulted in some pretty hilarious and far-fetched tales. See the article for more). I have no doubt that Gaudi lead a pious life and there is no doubt that having a new saint on the block will help with the construction of this cathedral: every drop of concrete has been paid for by private donations and gate fees so a few extra pilgrims would do no harm. It would be a shame however to confuse mastery of the mechanics of materials for divine inspiration. A wander around the crypt at the at the Sagrada Familia demonstrates some of Gaudi’s technical mastery through his models (details of which deserve a post of their own).
The same could be said of other ‘devinely inspired’ engineers and architects: Christopher Wren for St Paul’s, Michelangelo for St Peter’s, Imohotep and his step pyramid (Egypt’s first). They may have prayed a lot but they are also all great engineers!
Finally, I wonder about the wisdom of granting sainthood to an architect/engineer. The bible is not exactly full of praises for worldly construction afterall…
Engraving The Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré