While Antoni Gaudí has many works in Barcelona, the most famous must be La Sagrada Familia. Gaudí began work on this church in 1882 and labored on it exclusively from 1914 until his death in 1926 (when four partial spires and one facade were complete). He lived on-site and is buried there. Ten years after his death, revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War set a fire in the church that resulted in the burning of Gaudí’s original plans, models, and documents. The work is carried on in the spirit of the artist’s vision, and predicted to be complete in the first third of the twenty-first century.
Gaudí was known for a genuine faith in God, and the church he envisioned feels like an inspired sanctuary, a place of reverence and beauty—not just a showcase for a talented artist. (I do not feel this way in every house of worship I pop into on vacation.) The moment we walked inside, urban Barcelona vanished.
You can find the postcard-perfect shots of the exterior online. The exterior is hard to do justice to, and made harder by the ongoing construction. I saw a lot of postcards in Barcelona of this church, and I realized that a lot of them have had some cranes photoshopped out.
This is a detail from the Nativity Facade (the east side), the facade that Gaudí worked on and which was completed in his lifetime. I love those starry heavens.
For an additional €2,50, guests can take an elevator up (and stairs down) a tower in either the Nativity or Passion Facade. We took the Nativity elevator—our tickets assigned us a time to queue, which turned out to be because only about six people can ride the elevator at once. For me this didn’t add a lot to the visit, but the view was enjoyable. This tree with doves was way, way up on the Nativity side.
If you don’t like heights, lookouts with low barriers, or spiral staircases, the elevator jaunt is not for you.
Though I loved the experience at Casa Batlló, La Sagrada Familia was my favorite Gaudí site in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia is explatory: funded entirely by donations, from its inception to today. This helps ease the €12,50 admission for adults (that’s without the audio guide, but hey, it’s €5,50 less than Casa Batlló…). There is a small exhibit that explains the symbolism of different points, and a dedicated area for silent prayer. Catholic Mass is celebrated at least on occasion, but the website doesn’t advertise how to attend services.
You can buy tickets online ahead of time—this saved us a massive queue.
There is no reason to regret that I cannot finish the church. I will grow old but others will come after me. What must always be conserved is the spirit of the work, but its life has to depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated. – Gaudí