Cathedral Thinking: A Foundation for Success in the Purpose Economy

By Michele Likely April 7, 2018

Not being one for public displays of emotion, I am embarrassed to say that sitting in the pews of La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, bathed in the light created by the church’s multi-colored stained glass windows – and surrounded by hordes of tourists clutching tightly to selfie sticks – I started to tear up. The audio guide crackling in my ear told me that construction on the church had started in 1882, and yet I could still see cranes outside building the final spires. I felt simultaneously grounded in the past and tethered to the future.

The church is a visual narrative of Christ’s life, complete with 18 towers, 3 detailed facades, soaring stained glass windows, and bone-like columns that twist and branch toward the ceiling. Altogether, the church reflects a delicate symbiosis between natural form and Christian iconography. Antoni Gaudí began designing the structure in 1882, inspired by a far-reaching vision that extended well beyond his lifetime. Construction on the church is scheduled to wrap up in 2026. Remarking on his vision, Gaudí said, “It is not a disappointment that I will not be able to finish the temple. I will grow old, but others will come after me. What must always be preserved is the spirit of the work; its life will depend on the generations that transmit this spirit and bring it to life.” To capture this intention, he created blueprints detailing his design for a structure that he believed would connect people to a higher power. These blueprints have inspired generations of stonemasons, artisans, and engineers to work toward the realization of Gaudí’s vision over the past 135 years.

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