Sagrada Familia is a strikingly beautiful temple in Barcelona, and a major work of Antoni Gaudi. The towers of the Sagrada Familia are visible from afar, towering above the many houses of the city. The famous architect spent decades creating the fantastic interiors and facades of the temple, but the construction is still not finished.
Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous long-buildings in the world; completion is currently scheduled for 2026. But the Spaniards are in no hurry, as there is a legend that when the temple is finished, the end of the world will come.
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Video: Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia and the great Gaudi
Construction of the building began in 1882. The building site was purchased by the church with charitable donations from townspeople. At that time the area was still outside the city limits of Barcelona. Initially, the architect Francisco de Villar designed and supervised the project, and he planned to build the church in the Neo-Gothic style. But less than ten years later he abandoned the job because of a disagreement with the church authorities, who were the contracting authority.
Meanwhile, construction was just beginning, and to work on the temple was invited to Antonio Gaudi, who at that time had already gained fame as an extraordinary and talented architect. Sagrada Familia became the main work of the architect, who devoted more than 40 years to the cathedral. Gaudí considered Gothic and Neo-Gothic to be non-viable and obsolete trends, so he used only their basic components. Additionally the architect introduced elements of Baroque, Art Nouveau and Moorish style, adding to them a fair amount of his own developments. The brilliant architect was a pious man who wanted to put the whole New Testament in stone. It is known that Gaudi did not like to think in advance about every detail, creating individual sketches in the process of construction. The endless change of ideas sometimes led to the fact that the builders had to suspend work or even to disassemble and alter some parts of the building on demand of the architect.
The sculptures adorning the Sagrada Familia The Sagrada Familia inside the Sagrada Familia at night
He was so passionate about the project that he settled right on the construction site so that he could create unimpeded and also supervise the work. Sometimes he would go out in person to collect alms for the continued construction of the Sagrada Familia. Townspeople compared the growing cathedral to an anthill, a cave, a forest, but that was exactly what the artist had in mind.
Gaudi conceived a grandiose architectural complex, but was well aware that he would not have time to finish it in his lifetime. The plan was to erect three facades: the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory. Only the first of them was built under the direct supervision of the architect. In 1892 work began on the Nativity facade, and a fairly detailed plan of the Passion side was not ready until 1923.
In 1926, already at an advanced age, Gaudi died under the wheels of a streetcar, leaving behind almost no specific instructions or ready-made drawings. Sketches, drafts, a few models survived. His pupil and fellow worker Domenek Sugranes took over direction of the project, but he did not manage to complete it by the end of his life either. In the 20th and 21st centuries, three prominent architects – Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig-Boada and Bonet Gari – worked on the temple. They all used the few surviving blueprints by Gaudi, while realizing their own visions for the cathedral.
Video: What will the Sagrada Familia look like?
Interiors and architectural features of the temple
The Sagrada Familia is still under construction today, tentatively scheduled to be finished by 2026. In spite of this, the church deemed the building suitable for divine service, so in 2010 the cathedral was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI. According to Gaudi’s design, each of the three facades was to be adorned with four curved spires. In total there were to be twelve spires – the number of apostles.
In addition, a central tower, the largest with four spires around it, was conceived as a symbol of Christ and the evangelists. It was on this that the shining cross was to be placed. The detail with which the sculptures and bas-reliefs of the façade and interiors are executed is striking. Gaudi took great pains to make the reliefs look as realistic as possible. For example, he took casts by hand of stillborn babies, animals temporarily sedated with chloroform.
All of the current exterior details are quite detailed renderings of the New Testament. Today the facades for the Nativity and Passion of Christ are recognized as finished. The interior decoration of the temple is no less complex and picturesque: asymmetrical branching columns, colored and transparent windows located at different heights, intricate stained glass and murals. Using the laws of geometry the artist succeeded in expanding the space visually as he approached each architectural detail. This effect borders on an optical illusion and creates an unusual mood in the eyes of the visitor. Interestingly, the height of the cathedral is 170 meters – 60 centimeters below the main mountain peak of the city. This is no coincidence; the architect believed that the creation of human hands should not surpass what God created.
The windows with gargoyles The staircase of the south tower of Sagrada Familia The light shining through the stained glass windows
Not the entire temple is open to tourists, as it is still a construction site. You can buy a ticket for one of the towers of the Nativity facade, the Passion, as well as the museum. Even in its unfinished form, the Sagrada Familia is breathtaking. The top of the towers can be reached by elevator or by long spiral staircases. The museum exhibits the surviving sketches and models of Gaudi, and details the history of the cathedral’s construction.
Sagrada Familia ceiling
- Location: Sagrada Familia is in Barcelona, but when construction began in 1882 it was more than 7 km from the city.
- Completion: Currently the building is expected to be finished by 2026.
- Towers: There are 13 towers above the cathedral: 12 of them are 115 m high, and one is 170 m high.
- Visitor numbers: up to 2 million people visit the Sagrada Familia each year.
- Financing: The construction is financed by voluntary donations and donations from the faithful.
- Architect: Antoni Gaudi’s most important works, besides the Sagrada Familia (1883-1926): the Palacio Guell (1886-1890); the Bishop’s Palace in Astorga (1887-1894); the Park Guell (1900-1914); the Casa Batlló or “Bones House” (1904-1906); the Casa Milá or “Quarry” (1906-1910).
How to get there
The Sagrada Familia is located at Calle Mallorca 401, Barcelona. You can get here by metro lines L2 and L5, getting off at Sagrada Familia station. There are also buses 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50 and 51 and a special tourist route. In all cases, get off at the stop of the same name near the cathedral.
In addition, you can clarify any details by calling +34 932 080 414 or visiting the official website http://www.sagradafamilia.org. Please note that you can buy tickets in advance online.
Order of attendance and opening times
The Sagrada Familia is open for visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in November and February, to 7 p.m. in March and October, and to 8 p.m. in April and September. On major holidays, which are December 25-26, January 1 and 6, you can visit the temple from 9.00 to 14.00.
Statue from Montjuïc, admiring the temple Beautiful night view Sagrada Familia temple
Dress is free, but do not wear too revealing or tight-fitting outfits. As for the cost of visiting, without a tour it is 15 euros, with a guide or audio guide (English, German, French, Spanish) is 19.50 euros and the same with an audio guide. The latter is offered in Russian, English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and Chinese. Note that to visit the towers you must buy separate tickets for the elevators, which cost 4.50 euros each.
You will have to stand in a solid line to get inside. The only way to avoid this is to buy a ticket for an organized tour. It is best to come in the morning, when there are still few tourists. In the evening there are many more people here, but the rays of the setting sun shining through the stained glass windows create an extraordinary atmosphere.
La Sagrada Familia, the brainchild of Antoni Gaudi
The Sagrada Familia, located in the tourist district of Eixample, is one of Barcelona’s most prominent landmarks and one of the world’s most famous long-running buildings. Two important factors contributed to the latter.
First, all work had to be done solely with donations. And secondly, the stone blocks underlying this structure need complex processing and individual size fitting, which also causes certain difficulties. In any case, the temple is today one of the most visited sites of modern times. According to figures published in El Periódico de Catalunya, its annual number of visitors is more than 2 million. In 2005 it was inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and in 2010 was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and is officially recognized as an urban church.
The idea of having a Sagrada Familia in Barcelona belongs to José María Bocabella, a simple book seller, who was so inspired by St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican that he decided to have a similar structure built in his own city. However, the realization of this idea had to be postponed for 10 years – that’s how long it took the bookseller to raise the money needed to buy the land.
The construction of the temple began in 1882. At that time, it was directed by Francisco del Villar, who intended to create a majestic structure in the style of canonical Gothic and shaped like an Orthodox cross. However, the work of this master did not last long – a year later he resigned, passing the baton to the famous Antonio Gaudi, for whom the temple became his life’s work. It is said that the master not only settled right on the construction site, but also often walked the streets to collect alms.
The eminent architect’s vision was radically different from the original project created by Bocabella. Considering Gothic an outdated and uninteresting trend, he used only the basic elements of this style, supplementing them with features of Art Nouveau, Baroque and Oriental exotica. What is interesting, the famous architect was a very disorganized person – not only did he not like to think everything through in advance, but he created sketches right in the course of the construction. In some cases, this endless stream of ideas meant that workers had to continually correct, or even completely redo, parts of the Sagrada de Familia.
When conceiving this truly ambitious project, the master was well aware that he would not have time to finish it in his lifetime. Only one of the three facades (that of the Nativity) was completed under his direct supervision. Unfortunately, in 1926 the great architect died under the wheels of a streetcar, leaving behind neither ready-made drawings nor any specific instructions. The only thing that was found was a few sketches and several rough drafts. Further construction of the Church of the Holy Family was managed by a whole generation of outstanding architects, one of whom was Domenech Sugranesu, a pupil and colleague of Gaudi. They all used the great master’s surviving blueprints, supplementing them with their own ideas about the cathedral.
Looking at photos of Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, you can notice that it consists of 3 facades, each depicting a particular period of the Messiah’s life, and several belfries, created by special technology.
The façade, made in the Catalan Art Nouveau style, is located on the north side of the temple (the one facing the square). You won’t have to look long – this is where the central entrance “stands”. The main decoration of this wall is the sculptural images of the three Christian virtues (hope, faith and charity) and the four pointed towers dedicated to the biblical apostles (Barnabas, Judas, Simon and Matthew). The entire surface of the facade is covered with an intricate stone pattern identifying the well-known Gospel events (the betrothal of Mary, the birth of Jesus, the adoration of the Magi, the Annunciation, etc.). Among other things, on the pillars that divide the wall into 3 parts, you can see images of famous Spanish kings who contributed a lot to the development of the country and the genealogy of Christ carved in stone.
Of equal tourist interest is the wall located on the southwest side of the temple. The central figure of this element, covered with unusual polygonal reliefs, is a sculptural image of the Messiah crucified on a cross. There is also a magic square, the sum of the digits of which in any of the possible combinations gives the number 33 (the age of Jesus’ death).
According to the creators’ idea, the façade of the Passion, which represents the main human sins, should evoke a sense of fear in the creator. The so-called chiaroscuro effect, which involves the use of an unusual gradation of light and shadow, helps to reinforce it. In addition, it is on this wall you can see subjects that resonate with “The Last Supper”, “The Kiss of Judas” and other world famous paintings. The rest of the paintings deal with the events related to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God. The main entrance to this part of the building is marked by a bronze door on whose canvases are texts from the New Testament.
The Wall of Glory, located on the southeast side of the structure and dedicated to the life of the Messiah in Heaven, is the final element of Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. This facade is the largest, so in the future the main entrance of the church will be moved here. In order to do so, a bridge must be built with winding stairs, connecting the church with Carrer de Mallorca Street. And all would be well, only in place of the upcoming construction are apartment complexes, whose residents are opposed to any relocation.
And while the local authorities are trying to solve the issue with the citizens, the builders continue to erect a seven-column portico, considered a symbol of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the bell towers dedicated to the four biblical apostles. The upper part of the structure will be decorated with sculptural images of the Trinity and Old Testament texts about the Creation. Directly beneath them will be intimidating pictures of the Underworld and ordinary people engaged in righteous work.
According to the original design developed by Gaudi, the Temple of the Holy Family will be crowned by 18 bell towers, which differ not only in appearance but also in their size. The main ones are the tower of Jesus Christ, which will be no less than 172 cm high, and the tower of the Virgin Mary, which occupies an honorable second place. It is believed that on completion of these belfries the Barcelona Cathedral will be the tallest orthodox structure on the planet. To date only 8 sites have been commissioned, but the scale of this temple is already striking the imagination of the builders.
But the most important thing is that the construction of all the towers is made on the principle of shutters. Such a device has not only an aesthetic but also a practical function: thanks to the numerous gaps the church bells sound differently. In addition, whenever the wind blows, these towers will emit certain sounds, creating a beautiful acoustic effect.
Working on the project of the cathedral, the architects tried to achieve complete unity with nature. That is why inside the Sagrada Familia it looks more like a fairy-tale forest flooded with sunlight than a classical church. The church owes this effect to several decorative elements. Take a look at each of them.
The high columns that divide the church into five naves, look like giant trees or huge flowers of sunflower reaching straight to the sky. Thanks to especially durable materials (reinforced concrete, red porphyry and basalt) they easily support not only the massive church vault but also the towers towering above it. In addition, the interior columns of the cathedral constantly change their shape: at first it is a regular square, then an octagon, and at the very end a circle.
Looking through the photos of the Sagrada Familia inside, notice the church crypt, located in the underground part of the structure and which became the tomb for Antoni Gaudi himself. It is entered not only by stairs, but also by elevator. Outside is a separate exit, so a visit to the crypt can be left for the very end of the tour.
The spiral staircase used to reach the observation decks is a perfectly twisted spiral that takes one’s breath away. It is said that people who suffer from heart disease or have a fear of heights and confined spaces should not use it – it can become unwell.
Artistic stained-glass windows that provide unusual refraction of light and coloring of the interior decoration of the cathedral in different colors are admired as well. The total color decoration of the Church of the Holy Family, symbolizing the four seasons, is considered a separate work of art. Specialists say that it was thanks to him that the use of stained glass began to develop as a separate decorative trend.
The Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, located at 401 Carrer de Mallorca, is open seasonally:
- November to February: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m;
- March and October: 9am to 7pm;
- April through September: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m;
- Holidays (25.12, 26.12, 01.01 and 06.01): 9 am to 2 pm.
The cost of admission depends on the type of ticket:
- Ticket with Russian-speaking audioguide – 25 €;
- Complex ticket (Cathedral + Audioguide + Towers) – 32 €;
- Ticket + professional guided tour – 46 €.
Entrance to the crypt is free. For more information see the official website of the complex – https://sagradafamilia.org/
Rules of access
In the Temple of the Holy Family by Antoni Gaudi there are strict rules of conduct, which apply to both locals and tourists:
- To visit one of the main architectural landmarks of Barcelona, you should choose simple and as closed clothes as possible: no transparent fabrics and deep necklines, length up to mid-thigh. Headdresses are allowed only for religious and medical reasons, but the feet should be covered.
- For security reasons at the entrance to the Cathedral there is a metal detector frame, inspection of bags, backpacks and suitcases.
- Smoking and alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Family.
- Bringing food and water is also forbidden.
- Photos and videos can only be taken with a cell phone, amateur camera or a camera. The use of professional equipment is not permitted.
- While you are inside the church, try not to make noise and behave respectfully.
When planning a visit to the Sagrada Familia, take heed of these helpful tips:
- Do not spare money for a professional guide or audio guide – you will learn a lot of interesting things. In addition, you can always bring headphones and use one device for two. By the way, the English-speaking audio guide is a little cheaper, so if you are fluent in this language, you can stop at it.
- Tickets to the temple is worth buying in advance. If you care about the day and time of your visit, then at least 5-7 days before your intended visit. You can do this on the official website – and not only from home, but also on site (there is Wi-Fi to pay).
- You should come to the tour 15-20 minutes before the start. The cathedral is full of tourists, so it is not easy to find a guide, and there are no refunds if you are late.
- Do you want to go to the Sagrada Familia absolutely free? Come to the Sunday service, which begins at 9 am and lasts about an hour (conducted in different languages). It is not a tour, of course, and you can’t take pictures during the mass, but you can enjoy the beauty of the cathedral in the morning sun. It should also be noted that the service is a public event, which gathers a huge number of believers. The limited space of the church is simply unable to accommodate all comers – the principle of “who wants to go first” applies.
There are several curious facts associated with the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona that make it even more interesting:
- Despite the slanted arrangement of the supporting columns, the structure of the temple is strong enough to withstand more than one hundred more sculptures and compositions made of stone.
- In many Russian-language sources one of the best creations of Antoni Gaudi is called the Sagrada Familia cathedral. In fact, the title of the main temple of Barcelona belongs to La Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia, while the Sagrada Familia is awarded quite another title – the Small Papal Basilica.
- When asked how many years it would take to build the cathedral, Gaudi replied that his client was in no hurry. What he meant was not any official or wealthy citizen, but God himself. He also frequently referred to his brainchild as “the work of three generations”.
- The construction of Barcelona’s most famous cathedral really took an indefinite time. Perhaps the reason for that were the tortoise gargoyles which Gaudi placed at the base of the central columns.
- Not only that, until recently, all construction work carried out on the territory of the temple was considered illegal. It was only in 2018 that the trustees of the church still managed to negotiate with the city municipality to obtain an appropriate license.
- Rumor has it that the cathedral will not be finished until 2026, the centennial of the great master’s death. According to one legend it will be the end of the world.
Temple of the Holy Family in detail:
Author: Olga Sheiko
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