The melting sand castle-like church is a work of art, and a work in progress, with every ticket bought a donation to the completion of the edifice that towers over the streets of Barcelona and is supposedly due to be finished in 2026.
Begun in the nineteenth century, with work taken over by Gaudí in 1883, the Familia reflects Gaudí’s unique style of architecture, and demonstrates his twin inspirations for the building, Christianity and nature. Enormous facades of carved figures depict biblical scenes while the branching columns of the interior give an idea of the wood he reportedly had in mind, inviting prayer. After Gaudí’s death in 1926, his plans and models were followed by subsequent architects, and the Basilica stands out as one of the most interesting buildings to see in Barcelona, dividing opinion, with George Orwell reportedly calling it one of the most hideous buildings in the world and others raving about its beauty.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. But whether you’re going to pray or just marvel at the organic lines and designs of the Church, the Basilica is a must-see for any travellers in Barcelona, and a unique spot of rest and reflection in the party capital.
Unique Things to See and Do in the Sagrada Familia
- Spot Gaudí’s inspiration from nature in the tree-like, leaning columns, helicoids, ellipsoids and more
- View the three most important events in Christ’s life in the intricate facades
- Visit the Museum of La Sagrada Familia using your Basilica ticket
- Attend Mass in the Basilica by getting an invitation at the Barcelona Conciliar Seminary the week before
The Nature of Gaudí
Gaudí, looking to improve Gothic architecture, is credited with creating a unique form of it which took inspiration from nature, making use of ruled geometric shapes found in the natural world, such as limpet-like hyperboloids and snail shell-like helicoids, and self-supporting structures without the need of buttresses. The Sagrada Familia is generally viewed as his masterpiece when it comes to this new form, which included the development of his ‘leaning’ columns, built with the geometric elements of a tree to create ‘branching’, self-supported columns in the Basilica’s interior, giving the idea of a wood to encourage contemplation and prayer, sources say.
The Church also reflects Gaudí’s inspiration from Christianity and is filled with Christian symbolism, from the 18 spires to the height of the building. This is where it can pay to opt for a guided tour or audio guide when visiting the Sagrada Familia, as these will help you spot the many architectural ingenuities and the symbolism at play.
There’s also the vague feeling that you’ve entered into an ethereal world, with the unusual, organic shapes and lines, and intriguing touches of colour, such as the stained-glass windows, blazing in the sun, or filling the interior with soft blues and greens, and reflecting Gaudí’s belief that light was the expression of life. This otherworldly feeling, apt for a place of worship, is enhanced by the choral track which is played throughout the Church’s interior.
When visiting the Sagrada Familia, keep in mind that the Basilica is one of the most popular of Barcelona’s tourist sights. Lines can stretch around the building in peak seasons, which can get very uncomfortable in the Spanish sun in summer, so it could pay to time your visit outside peak hours – early birds get the worm! Or, buy your tickets online to skip the queue.
Getting to the Sagrada Familia
Public transport to and from the Sagrada Familia is a piece of cake, with buses running nearby and a Metro station right across the road. The Metro is reliable and easy to navigate in Barcelona, while buses can drop you off a ways from the Church, so be prepared to walk a little if taking this option.
Did you know…?
The projected 18 spires, of which eight are complete, represent the Twelve Apostles, the Mother of God, Mary, the four Evangelists and Jesus Christ – naturally, the tallest.
Did you ALSO know…?
Gaudí developed a system of proportions that was to be applied to the dimensions of all parts of the Sagrada Familia.
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