Travel Log: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Continuing my travel diaries, today I want to share with you another part of our recent Spain trip: a visit to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Officially named Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, this Roman Catholic church was designed by Antoni Gaudi and is one of the major tourist attractions in Barcelona.  Gaudi was a Catalonian architect with a huge influence on architecture in Barcelona: there are ten different Gaudi designed buildings in the city to view.  Sagrada Familia is undeniably the most famous, and I'll give you a very brief history.  Construction began on the Sagrada Familia in March of 1882, and the church has anywhere from 12 to 25 years to go before completion (depending on who you ask).  Gaudi passed away in 1926, before his masterpiece was even half completed, but he left detailed plans for the architects who would continue the project.  The slow speed is due to funding, damage during the Spanish Civil War, fire, and just the incredible amount of detail work planned.  This church is enormous: when complete, Sagrada Familia will have eighteen spires and three grand facades.  It is impressive from the outside, but we wanted the full experience and bought tickets to not only walk around the ground floor, museum, and crypt, but also take the elevator up one of the Passion Towers.  You might also recognize my top and shorts from this post, and the bucket bag and sandals from this post.  Combined, they made the perfect outfit for exploring the city on a hot, summer day.

I mentioned that when completed, Sagrada Familia will have three grand facades.  This is the Nativity Facade, one of the earlier pieces completed on this church and finished in 1930.  It faces East, toward the rising sun as a symbol for Jesus Christ, and you can see the Nativity scene below.

The Nativity Facade also has elements of nature, characteristic of Gaudi's style.  Rising above the Nativity scene are four towers that are each dedicated to a saint: Matthias the Apostle, Saint Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot.

Our group in front of the Nativity facade, the entrance to the church that Gaudi wanted to be the most beautiful and accessible to the public eye.  I think you can see why!

Another view of the Nativity Facade from further back, so you can see the four towers and the "Tree of Life" in the middle above the Nativity scene.

The interior of the Sagrada Familia is designed to look like a palm grove, with the columns modeled after trees and branches.  Stepping inside for the first time truly took my breath away, and I especially loved the way the light streamed in through the stained glass windows.

View of the Central Nave looking toward the altar and the organ, where you can see how the columns look like tree trunks that split into branches toward the roof.

You've probably seen a photo like this before of Sagrada Familia - I know it's a really popular shot of the interior of the Central Nave but it is just too pretty not to include.  You can really see where the branches meet the roof, and the palm leaves covering the ceiling.  These photos don't do the interior justice, you have to just stand and stare in awe.

Additional detail on the ceiling above the altar, I'm guessing dedicated to the saints but I'm not sure.  I thought the way the light shone through was so pretty!

After walking around the Central Nave, we headed back outside to view the Passion Facade.  This was one of two large bronze doors on the way out, each with verses from the New Testament in Latin.  It was really interesting to me how some words were raised more than others on these doors--I can't read Latin, but there has to be some significance.  Maybe that was how the artist highlighted his favorite phrases?

Here you can see the exterior of the Passion Facade, and how stark and plain it looks compared to the Nativity Facade!  This facade is dedicated to the Passion of Christ, his suffering, and faces westward toward the setting sun.  The lines of this facade are more straight and harsh, and are supposed to look like bones of a skeleton.  The Passion towers were constructed after Gaudi's death using his drawings and instructions and finished in 1976, and these four towers are dedicated to four more saints: James, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Philip.  Work continues on the detail work of the exterior.

Example of the detail on the bell towers: this one is dedicated to Saint Philip.

Here you can see some of the sculptures on the Passion Facade, with Peter denying Jesus in the foreground and Jesus carrying the cross in the background.  The use of harsh, somber lines are more visible, and I think they give the sculptures a Picasso feel.

Next, we took the elevator up one of the Passion Towers to experience the amazing views.  This is looking south west over the Placa de la Sagrada Familia and toward Casa Batllo, and here you can really see how Barcelona is laid out in a grid of octagonal blocks!

Another view showing how far up we were, above the park and the tour buses.

We opted to take the twenty flights of stairs down to the ground instead of the elevator, so that we could enjoy more views of the exterior and the city.  Our journey down the tower looked pretty much like this the entire way down, with balconies and windows peppered along the way.  It was definitely narrow, and a little dizzying if you went too quickly!

This view is looking west, out toward the Mediterrean Sea and Montjuïc.

Photo op of part of our group in one of the little balconies looking out toward the Mediterranean.

As we continued down, more elements of nature were visible on the exterior.  I believe these are pomegranates and chestnuts on top of the pillars.  From what I read, the Passion Facade contains more fall and winter fruits because those are the coldest and darkest seasons in Catalonia, fitting with the harsh/suffering theme.

I do love a good spiral staircase, and this one was almost at the bottom of the tower.

One last view of the Passion Facade as we exited and walked over to the Placa de la Sagrada Familia to cool off with gelato.  There will be one more facade constructed, the Glory Facade, that will be the main entrance to the church when completed and face south.

Stracciatella gelato in the park, a perfect treat on a hot, sunny afternoon.

I hope to be able to return to visit the Sagrada Familia when it is finally completed, however many years down the road that may be.  This church is already an impressive sight, and I can't wait to see the final product.  I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of our visit to Sagrada Familia, and please check back next weekend for another Barcelona posts (I'm thinking next week will be another restaurant, then the following week Park Guell).  Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you have a great weekend!


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