The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia was one of my most favorite sights in Barcelona. The size, mass and detailed engravings, carving and statues that the building is comprised of is simply amazing. It’s no wonder that hundreds of people flock to the unfinished Catholic basilica on a daily basis. It’s estimated that over 200,000 visitors come to the Sagrada Familia each year.
Like the other unique buildings in Barcelona, the basilica was created by Antoni Gaudi. The church was begun by Gaudi in 1882, but was never finished, as Gaudi was killed by a cable car before the building was completed. When he died, less than quarter of the building was completed. The construction of the building progressed slowly as it was funded by private donations only and the Spanish Civil War interrupted the process as well. Construction was later resumed in the 50s.
This year, 2010, construction passed the midway part and major milestones were made, including the completion of the roof. The project is expected to be completed by 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death. However, there is some speculation that it could be completed by 2017, as today’s technology advancements and additional funding has assisted in speeding up the process.
We visited the Sagrada Familia in October 2010 and Pope Benedict XVI on November 7, 2010. The basilica was under major construction during our visit, as they worked to prepare the church for the consecration service, which included a congregation of 6,500 people and 50,000 people outside.
The church was never intended to be a cathedral, but it is definitely a cathedral-sized building. The building combines Gothic and Art Nouveau style, although the Art Nouveau style is taken to quite an extreme on the surface of the building alone. There are many parts to the church, but the most prominent parts are the spires. The original design call for a total of eighteen spires for the 12 Apostles, the 4 Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which will be the largest and tallest tower of them all.
Another noticeable feature of the church are the facades. The church has three facades, which include the Nativity façade in the East, the Passion Façade in the west and Glory façade in the South. The Glory façade has not yet been completed. The nativity façade depicts the birth of Christ and features many nature elements that Gaudi often included in his works. The Passion façade includes stories related to Christ being flogged and on the crucifix.
Inside, the church will have five aisles in the form of a Latin cross. The columns are thirty meters tall and are designed to appear like palm trees with the leaf-like design of the roof.
When you visit, you can access the Nave, Crypt, Museum, Gift Shop, and the Passion and Nativity towers. The towers do cost to access them, as you must now take an elevator to access them. You then cross the bridge between the towers and take the spiral staircase down. If you are claustrophobic, do not go up into the towers. The spiral staircase is very tight and the steps are small. You must be careful as you wind your way down and it can be challenging with you children as well.
This is a definite must see in Barcelona. The cost is somewhat high, but the experience is definitely one that should not be missed. Just try to see past all of the cranes.