Visit to Sagrada Familia

I’m a little late in putting this post up – I actually made my visit to Sagrada Familia a few weeks ago with a friend of mine who wanted to revisit this famous site.  However, given that part of this blog is supposed to be about sharing my cultural experiences in addition to everything else I thought it was an important one to put up there.  After all Sagrada Familia is probably the most widely known landmark in all of Barcelona and yes, it took me close to 10 months before visiting this beautiful church (however in my defense it has only been in recent months that the interior has been open to worship and tours).

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the outside of the church many many times – after all, I only live about 5 1/2 blocks north of it.  However, it was only recently that I actually entered this awe inspiring building.

I should probably give you a little background before jumping into the pictures.  You may or may not know that La Sagrada Familia was designed by famous architect Antonio Gaudi.  He designed a number of buildings and structures that stand out here in Barcelona from the rest – their designs stand out so well that my 6 year old is able to identify a Gaudi structure on sight.  They include Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens and of course, the most famous of all, La Sagrada Familia Church.

The church itself has been under construction since 1882 (take that Big Dig) and according to what we’ve heard, probably has another 15 years to go before completion (estimated completion date is 2027 and they think that might even be pushing it).  Aidan has asked if it will be done before we move back to the States – I had to laugh.  We told him perhaps he can come back for his honeymoon someday and see it completed.  I believe part of the reason for the construction taking so long is due to the fact that this endeavor is privately funded.  Of course given they charge 2,50€ to take the elevator to the top of one of the towers (this is after you pay an entrance fee as well) so I’m surprised it’s not complete at that rate!  According to a quote by Gaudi himself “My client is not in a hurry.”

One of the exciting things about touring the church at this time is that the workers are going like crazy these days because in just a few short weeks, on November 7, the church is to be consecrated and proclaimed a Basilica by the Pope during his visit to Barcelona.  Obviously the church will not be complete at this time but my understanding is that the areas needed for the Pope to perform this cermony will be! 

From an architecture standpoint there are several areas that I need to point out – the spires, the facades and the interior.

Spires:  The spires are one of the things that stand out the most of this church no matter where you view it from.  They are spindle shaped and the designs call for a total of eighteen high spires which are to represent in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. The central spire of Jesus Christ is to be topped with a giant cross.  This final spires’s total height (170 m) will be one meter less than that of Montjuïc (the mountain that borders the city to the south), as according to the tour we took, Gaudí believed that his work should not surpass that of God.  However, when completed, this spire will make Sagrada Familia the tallest church building in the world as well as the church with the tallest spire in the world.

View of 4 of the spires from within a spire across the way.  On the right is a view down towards the beach.
More views from within the spire
On the left is a view of the “penis” building as we call it… do you think it’s a bit sacreligious to call it a “penis” building when I’m writing about a chuch??  The right is a view of some of the construction.  You can get an idea of how high up we are from here as well – and these are the shortest of the spires they will be building!
Spiral staircase (with no guardrail!) going down the spire
Facades: There are three facades at Sagrada Familia, all very unique in their own way – the Nativity which faces East, the Glory to the South and the Passion to the West. It is the Nativity side that bears the most direct Gaudí influence (and for me personally also happens to be the side that I dislike the most of the three). The Passion facade (my favorite side) is more modern and to me appears to have much cleaner lines which I believe makes it easier to tell the story of the last days of Christ. These controversial designs are the work of Josep Maria Subirachs. According to Wikipedia, the Glory Facade, which began construction in 2002, will be the largest and most monumental of the three and will represent one’s ascension to God. It will also depict various scenes such as Hell, Purgatory, and will include elements such as the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues. I can tell you that I really haven’t seen this side of the church as it’s currently under contruction scaffolding and screens.
View of the Passion Side of the Church
More of the Passion side
And one more time – the Passion side…
The Nativity side – can you see the difference between this side and the other side???
Interior: I have to say that first of all, I was amazed at how huge the inside of this church was – not just as far as the number of people that it can hold but the height. Yes the church appears to be very tall from any distance you see it from – but I expected the interior to have a very cluttered appearance that would prevent you from seeing it at it’s full height. That is most definitely not true. The interior (which is still under construction) is stunning. And unlike ANY church I have ever been in, this one was light and bright and full of color.
The interior is supposed to be like a Latin cross and will have 5 aisles. The central nave vaults are 45 meters while the side nave vaults are 30 meters. The columns of the interior are a unique Gaudí design. Besides branching to support their load, their ever-changing surfaces are the result of the intersection of various geometric forms. From what I understood during the tour, they are supposed to represent trees as Gaudi was a big fan of pulling nature into his designs.
Interior entrance – this is the floor – beautiful!  On the right is some of the interior of the main nave – the columns are supposed to represent trees and I have to say, I LOVE the colors they used – turquoise, pink, blue, purple – just beautiful!
More columns and one of the doors.  During the tour we heard about several of the codes used in the door – there is a lot of symbolism used in the door as well as in other parts of the church.
The stained glass was stunning.  I really loved the use of the blues and greens in most of them.  Most churches I’ve seen use such darker colors and I really loved how vibrant these were.
Picture on the right – this was being installed while we were there – it appeared to just float in the air!
I feel like the van inside the center of the church gives you a good perspective on just how big this place is!
On the left – these guys were hitching up a huge piece of green glass to be attached somewhere near the ceiling – you can see the lines from the crane that is outside reaching down towards it. 
Pictures of the initial contruction
Then a few years later – amazing how much progress given their limited technology
compared to today. 
And again a few years later…
The model workshop
This is how it is supposed to look completed. The spires we were in would be those “smaller” ones that run across the front/side.
Hope you enjoyed your piece of history today!

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