La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona’s Unfinished Symphony
The incredible Sagrada Família Church, if you haven’t heard of it, is a giant Basilica in the center of Barcelona, Spain It is a work on a grand scale and is not expected to be completed for another 30 to 80 years! Barcelona’s skyline is accustomed to the somewhat weird mix of old spires and modern cranes that envelope the Sagrada Família. It will seem strange if one day the invasive, yet accepted, cranes disappear from Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished Barcelona symphony!
Construction on La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, began in 1882 and at the end of 1883 Antoni Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, which subsequently occupied his whole life right up until his death in 1926. He played an active role in directing the construction of the Sagrada Família and often requested that work be modified and adjusted until it was exactly the way he wanted it, according to the vision he had in his mind.
In 1892 Gaudí began work on the foundations of the East facing Nativity Façade of La Sagrada Família. After 1914, Gaudí submitted his work exclusively to the Sagrada Família and on November 30th, 1925, the construction of the first bell tower of the Nativity Façade, dedicated to St Barnaby, was finished, rising a 100 meters high. This is the only one that Gaudí lived to see built. Antoni Gaudí died on the 10th of June 1926 as a result of a tragic accident in Barcelona, that had occurred three days earlier, when he was run over by a tram. On the 12th of June Antoni Gaudí was buried in the Carmen Chapel of the crypt of La Sagrada Família, where his remains still lie today.
The Nativity Façade of La Sagrada Família celebrates the birth of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It is also referred to as the Façade of Life, Joy or Christmas and is elaborately adorned with references to the joy of life, such as flowers and animals, on and around its three entrances:
– The Portal of Faith is devoted to the theological virtue of faith and to Mary.
– The Portal of Hope is devoted to the theological virtue of hope and to Joseph.
– The Portal of Charity is devoted to the theological virtue of Christian charity or love and to Jesus.
In 1911 Gaudí planned the West facing Passion Façade and in 1923 the definitive solution to the naves and roofs. The works advanced slowly, though, and Gaudí was recorded as saying:
“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”.
The Passion Façade of La Sagrada Família, representing the Passion of Jesus, depicts the pain, sacrifice and death suffered by Jesus, and is expressed in highly dramatic and emotionally intense groups of sculptures. As the façade faces west it receives the last rays of the day’s sun hence heightening the symbolic effect of the darkness and shadows that haunted Antoni Gaudí. Like the other façades, it has three entrances, dedicated to charity, hope and faith, and four bell towers. This façades’ towers are dedicated (from left to right) to the apostles St James the Less, St Bartholomew, St Thomas and St Philip. The sculptures on the Passion Façade stand out as they contrast against their background being ornament free and composed of simple forms. In this way Gaudí wanted to symbolize the desolation, the pain and the death of Jesus Christ with a dramatic doorway illustrating the sacrifice made by Jesus for mankind.
The South facing Glory Façade is still under construction and, when finished, will be the main entrance to the church. Gaudí included the construction of a great exterior flight of steps, in the project, to provide a solemn access to the Sagrada Família.
Since Gaudí’s death, different architects have continued the work of the Sagrada Família based on Gaudí’s original ideas. However today, because of the nature of the existing designs, his work is partly open to interpretation and leads to much controversy – be it the new construction materials which, some feel, Gaudí himself would not have used, or the present day architects’ interpretation of the original designs, unacceptable for many Gaudí fans. Regardless of all the controversy surrounding the Sagrada Família it is a truly magnificent building and an absolute must-see when you visit Barcelona.
With all that is featured on the outside, of this magnificent masterpiece, it is hardly surprising that the inside is as spectacular as you would imagine. But, we’re not going to give too much away, you need to experience this wonder for yourself while in Barcelona, but the interior looks like a forest of beautifully designed trees. The ornate trunks, branches and clusters of leaves are all visible in this forest of columns where, as the light seeps through the windows, a sensation of woodland and vegetation appears within the Sagrada Família.
Antoni Gaudí is Barcelona’s most internationally renowned and emblematic architect and throughout his work, you will see much of his architectural inspiration came from his experiences in nature. His work has become one of the main cultural attractions of Barcelona, and is a legacy that has been declared UNESCO World Heritage. La Sagrada Família, over the years, has become one of the most universal signs of identity of Barcelona, and indeed Spain. It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content.
Special mention should also be made to other famous works of Gaudí in Barcelona, like his famous Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. Gaudí’s famous La Pedrera was built between 1906 and 1910 for the Milà family and is one of the main Gaudí residential buildings in Barcelona. It is one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture and is more a sculpture than a building. And not forgetting, one of the most beautiful icons of the city of Barcelona, Park Güell, a work by Antoni Gaudi carried our between 1900 and 1914, with wonderful views of the city where you can enjoy a peaceful stroll surrounded by nature and modernist works.
Many of our Food, Wine and Cultural Tours include a visit to Antoni Gaudí’s amazing unfinished La Sagrada Família in Barcelona (as well as to other masterpieces). This means that, you not only get to beat the queues into the Church but, one of our Officially Licensed Bi-Lingual Guides will give you your own private tour and show you so much more.