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Sagrada Familia (Cathedral)

Sagrada Familia

Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece is the most visited monument in Spain

Though it's full name is El Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (The Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family), this building is simply known as the Sagrada Familia, a basilica designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet. It is one of the most famous works by the artist and is the most iconic and visited monument in Barcelona. In 2012, the monument attracted more visitors than any other attraction in Spain, including the Prado Museum in Madrid and the Alhambra in Granada. To make the most of your time here you'll want to familiarize yourself with its surroundings.

Colourful Interior of the Sagrada Familia

A project with no end

Work on this project began in 1882 and it's still not complete today! The buidling actually started without Gaudí being part of the project, though he joined a year in and made a complete overhaul of the design.

The original idea of the Sagrada Familia came from a bookseller called Josep Maria Bocabella. He funded the project, taken on by Francisco de Paula de Villar y Lozano who proposed a replica of the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy. After some disputes during the project though, Bocabella eventually offered the project to his assistant at the time, Antoni Gaudí, who dedicated the rest of his life to the project. He famously said when questioned about the speed of the project "My client is not in a hurry...". He passed away having completed the front façade and one of the towers.

Sagrada Familia a la muerte de Gaudí

Sagrada Familia Post-Gaudí

After Gaudí died at 73 years old in a tram accident, his assistant Doménec Sugrañes took charge of the project, finishing three columns. Sadly, during the civil war, a fire broke out in the crypt, effectively destroying many of Gaudí's original plans and directions. Construction resumed in 1944 and the new architects had to imagine many of the ideas that Gaudí must have had, leading to several theories that the church we see today may vary greatly from the original intentions of Gaudí.

Regardless of whether the design adheres strictly to his plans or not, UNESCO declared the building a world heritage site in 2005, under the works of Gaudí. It's still not expected to be complete until 2026.

An original architectural piece, loaded with symbolism

The Basilica is representative of the catalan Modernist style of architecture. Here are some key points about the building and its symbolism.

  • The most famous sight is the Nativity Façade, depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. It consists of three doors, the door of Charity (Jesus), of Hope (Saint Joseph), and of Faith (Saint Mary).
  • The towers are to represent the 12 apostles.
  • The second façade to the west is the Façade of Passion, symbolizing the last days of Jesus's life.
  • The third is the Façade of Glory, dedicated to the human role in Creation; the history of humanity, its gifts to nature, sins, and heaven and hell. It remains incomplete.
  • Finally the façade of the apse is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
  • The interior is made up of a round cloister, chapel and a vestry, a nave, and several sides seperated by the forest of columns. At the bottom there is a crypt.

Some interesting facts about Sagrada Familia

  • It's the most visited attraction in Spain, followed by the Prado Museum and the Alhambra.
  • It was originally built in a field away from the city. Eventually the city grew and enveloped the building within its borders.
  • The sculptor, Josep Maria Subirachs, created a lot of controversy when created contemporary sculptures on the façade that veered away from the realistic style of Gaudí.
Figuras geométricas de la Sagrada Familia
  • Some of the sculptures have been made by Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo who takes much inspiration from Gaudí and converted to Catholicism because of the architect.
  • In 1915 he showed the work to the vatican, who named Guadí as "The Dante of Architecture" and the Sagrada Familia as one of the "greatest christian poems in stone".
  • The Façade of the Passion was built to the west for the sunset to accentuate the symbolic effect of the death of Christ.
  • Although the main door now is on the Façade of the Nativity, it is expected that this will change once the Façade of Glory is completed.
  • In the interior columns you can join the syllables scattered around to form the word "Alleluia" (hallelujah).
  • The design is formed from various geometric forms including, hyperboloids, paraboloids, helicoides, conoides and ellipsoids... lots of -oids really.
  • On the Passion Façade, there is a magic square which adds up to 33 in all directions. You can find out why in this article about Hidden Secrets in Barcelona.

Useful Information

  • Where: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona
  • How to get there: Metro - Sagrada Familia (L2 and L5). Buses - 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51. Tourist Bus - Sagrada Familia stop
  • Opening times: April to September - 9:00 to 20:00. October to March - 9:00 to 18:00. There is a reduced opening time on Christmas. Access to the tower varies, be sure to check the official Sagrada Familia website
  • Price: €15.00, you can add a guided tour, audio guide, or a visit the to Gaudí House Museum to the price. Children under 10 and those with disabilities can enter for free. Seniors, groups, students, and scholars get a discounted rate.

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