Gaudi’s Masterpiece: The Church of the Sagrada Familia




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Our 2009 trans-Atlantic cruise ended in Barcelona. We stayed three extra days there before flying back to Canada and covered a lot of ground in those three days.

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Its history goes back to Roman times. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it is known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, vibrant retaurants and entertainment and most of all, for its stunning architecture, particularly that of Antoni Gaudi, a pioneer of Catalan Modernism.

La Rotonda, an example of Catalan Modernism designed by Adolf Ruiz in 1906. It was a hotel and later served as a hospital. After being abandoned for a few years, it was completely refurbished as an office building in 2013.
La Rotonda, an example of Catalan Modernism designed by Adolf Ruiz in 1906. It was a hotel and later served as a hospital. After being abandoned for a few years, it was completely refurbished as an office building in 2013. This picture is from 2009.

After leaving the ship, Janis and I and our friends Chris and Sheila took a shuttle bus to our respective hotels, then met up for a walk around, before settling at a restaurant near the Sagrada Familia for lunch.

We have lunch in a plaza near the Sagrada Familia
We have lunch in a plaza near the Sagrada Familia

Construction on this famous church whose name means Holy Family started in 1882. The work continues to this day with completion expected in 2026, the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Church of the Holy Family, one of Antoni Gaudi's master works.
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Church of the Holy Family, one of Antoni Gaudi’s master works. This side of the church is called the Nativity Facade.

We first took a walk around the church, which is huge. The immense scope of the project can be seen from the drawing below. The brown parts are the elements finished so far. The white areas, including the mammoth central tower, are barely started.

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Diagram of the completed and uncompleted parts of the Sagrada Familia.

The text says: “Drawing of the church showing the completed part and the part that is still to be built. It will help you understand the scale of the work. When it is finished it will have 3 facades (alluding to the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory) and 18 towers (12 on the facades, dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, 1 to the Virgin Mary, and the highest one to Jesus).”

Four of the completed towers. Work continues on the structure.
Four of the eight completed towers. This side is called the Passion Facade.
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On this side of the church the sculptures are angular and fairly modern in style, on the other side, the Nativity Facade, the sculptures are more traditional.

Considering they plan to have it completed by 2026, they have got their work cut out for them. The half way point was reached in 2010, 128 years into the project. But the project was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and went slowly for many years. With modern technology, the work has accelerated.

Piles of construction materials outside the church.
Piles of construction materials outside the church.

After walking around the outside we went in, first to see where work was continuing inside. We saw massive scaffolds many stories high, as well as artisans moulding giant cement and stone pieces that would eventually be hoisted into place.

Huge scaffolding inside the church as work continues.
Huge scaffolding inside the church as work continues. The video below captures even more of the vastness of the project.

After touring the construction zone, we went through an exhibit explaining Gaudi’s style. One of the fascinating elements of Gaudi’s work is his love affair with nature. Themes like giant pieces of fruit, honeycombs, spirals, roosters, a giant turtle supporting a column and so on, abound. Not to mention that the entire church looks like it is a sandcastle with glops of sand dripping off it.

Heaps of fruit atop some pinnacles at the Sagrada Familia
Heaps of fruit atop some pinnacles at the Sagrada Familia

Then another walk around outside to where we could go up the completed towers themselves. We took an elevator up one tower and exited high above the city.  The towers soar above the street level offering a fabulous view of Barcelona. And everywhere – work continues.

Looking down to the street from the walkway between the towers of the Nativity Facade
Looking down to the street from the walkway between the towers of the Nativity Facade

After wandering around up in the open air high above the city, we went still higher up the spiral staircase in another tower. These giant shafts are layered with scalloped lookout holes.

Looking out at the city through one of the scalloped windows in one of the towers.
Looking out at the city through one of the scalloped windows in one of the towers.

Then down to the basement for an exhibit of models Gaudi used in designing the church. Some of these models are a good size in themselves.

Janis and I in front of a model of the entranceway to the Passion Facade
Janis and I in front of a model of the entranceway to the Passion Facade

Without a doubt, the Sagrada Familia is the must-see sight in Barcelona. Even if you don’t tour inside, you must at least walk around this massive edifice. It is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll find a link to an additional photo gallery after this video from the Sagrada Familia website. The video shows a speeded up version of some of the construction so far followed by an animation of the construction yet to be done, ending on the completed structure planned for 2016.


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Photo Gallery: The Sagrada Familia




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We took about a hundred photos at the Sagrada Familia. Here are some of them.

The Nativity Facade with its four towers
The Nativity Facade with its four towers We were able to go up to the walkway between the two central towers.
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A crowd admires the sculptures on the Nativity Facade.
Construction continues on the church which was dedicated as a basilica in 2010.
Construction continues on the church which was dedicated as a basilica in 2010.
Inside the church - tall filagreed columns
Inside the church – tall filigreed columns
More interior columns
More interior columns
Workmen prepare materials to be hoisted into place eventually.
Workmen prepare materials to be hoisted into place eventually.
Another piece under construction
Another piece under construction
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One of the exhibits explaining Gaudi’s art. He took inspiration for this grille from honeycombs.
A turtle forms the pedestal for this column. Nature themes played a large role in Gaidi's designs.
A turtle forms the pedestal for this column. Nature themes played a large role in Gaudi’s designs.
Looking down on the street from the elevated walkway on the Nativity Facade
Looking down on the street from the elevated walkway on the Nativity Facade
At this great height there seems to be even more construction than down below.
At this great height there seems to be even more construction than down below.
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Look up the tower and you can see the scalloped windows, each recessed and shielded by an overhanging piece of stone.
Janis and the pinnacle of the central sculpture in front of the walkway
Janis and the pinnacle of the central sculpture in front of the walkway
Some of the fruit inspired decorations atop two spires.
Some of the fruit inspired decorations atop two spires.
A large stained glass window
A large stained glass window
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More spires topped with fruit decorations.
Looking up one of the towers inside
Looking up one of the towers inside
Looking down the stairwell of one of the towers
Looking down the stairwell of one of the towers
Janis inside one of the towers.
Janis inside one of the towers.
This stairwell is inspired by spirals, perhaps a shell.
This stairwell is inspired by spirals, perhaps a shell.
One last look below before taking the elevator back down.
One last look below before taking the elevator back down.
A model in the gallery below the church
A model in the gallery below the church
Back outside - a good look at the construction work.
Back outside – a good look at the construction work.
A drawing of what the project will look like when completed in 2026
A drawing of what the project will look like when completed in 2026.


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