This is one of the most iconic buildings in Europe and an absolute must visit if you are in Barcelona. It was built by the one and only Anthoine Gaudi. Gaudi was Spanish and a Catalan, born in 1852 in a small town called Reus about an hour outside Barcelona. People that knew him said he was a very shy, very quiet and reserved man, quiet arrogant and rude with people, he didn’t know how to deal with them at all. He was a strict vegetarian and a very strict Catholic. He was only known to have admired one lady in his whole life, she was called Josefea Meru, she was a teacher when he was in school. She turned him down and from that moment he decided to lead a life of celibacy and dedicate himself one hundred percent to his work and God
Indeed Segrada Familia is it’s an absolute dedication to Jesus Christ. There are three grande facades. The nativity façade on the east side which is all about Jesus’s birth. The passion façade at the west side which is all about his crucifiction. And you have the glory façade on the south side which is all about his glory years and his miracles. You also have 18 spires that are pointing up to the heavens. You have 12 for Jesus’s disciples, his apostles. You have 4 for the Evanglists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who wrote the new testament. You have one for the virgin Mary, and the biggest one of them all is for Jesus Christ, when that is completed it is going to be 170 metres tall which will make it the tallest church in Europe. The reason why it is exactly 170 metres tall is because Mont Juic is the highest point in Barcelona that is 171 metres tall, and Gaudi said he didn’t want his work to surpass the work of God. The tallest spires on the Nativity and Passion façades are only 106 metres so it really will be colossal on its completion!
Gaudi did not actually start Sagrada Familia, it was started with another architect called Francisco de Paula del Villar. He resigned after one year and Gaudi took over the church in 1883 and spent the rest of his life dedicated to this building. The last 11 years of his life he actually lived inside the church. One morning in April 1926 Gaudi left Segrada Familia and walked towards his local church for his morning prayers and he got knocked over by a tram. Ironically he actually helped invent a lot of the tram system and route around the city. Towards the end of his life his clothes were torn and dirty, he had no identity documents on him and he wasn’t given immediate aid. People just thought he was a homeless man had been hit by the tram they didn’t realise it was Spain’s greatest ever architect that was lying by the side of the road. So he passed in 1926 at the age of 73.
Construction began on Sagrada Familia very slowly because it was all private donations back in the day and it slowed down even more after Gaudi passed away. At the time in 1926 only a quarter of the building had been completed. Construction was stopped all together in 1936 for the Spanish civil war. It was started again in the mid fifties after the Second World War. It passed its half way point in 2010 nearly 130 years after it was started. They are hoping to complete it in 2026 which will be the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
Unfortunately for Gaudi and for us, after he died, Catalan anarchists broke into the church, they found his workshop and they destroyed his basilica, his models, every plan he had for the building, so we have no idea what his final interpretation of this building was. The nativity façade was there when he died, that is very much all Gaudi. There is a big contrast between the types of stone that Gaudi used and what is being used now because the modern architects want to show you what is Gaudi and what isn’t. The rest of the building is being completed by architects from as far away as New Zealand who have come and helped on the building. That is why the building looks so incredibly jumbled. If you were to classify this building in architectural terms is Neo Gothic, mixed with Catalan Modernism and Art Neuvo They now have a Barcelona architect called Jordi Fauli who took over in 2012 and they are hoping he will be the one to complete it by 2026. They are very much on track to finish. In 2010 it was declared 50% complete, in 2015 it was announced to be 70% complete. So they did 20% in 5 years leaving 11 years to finish off the last 30%.
If you get a chance on your trip to Barcelona I highly recommend go and have a look inside the church. It is impossible to describe the beauty of the interior with words it is something you have to experience yourself! You have to book online a day in advance. Construction is now being funded by everyone who pays to go inside so if you do buy a ticket you are actually helping towards the completion of the church. The best time to go is around 4-5pm because that is when the light really hits the stained glass windows so if you get the chance book it for around that time. It is around 15 Euros for an entrance pass, prices can go up to 60 euros if you want private tours. If you want to go up in the spires make sure you buy it with the ticket you cant pay once you are inside. I would certainly recommend going up in the spires. There are lifts for the newer passion façade spires but I would recommend going up the oldest spires on the Nativity façade. The staircase is quite a climb but they view from the top is fantastic.
There have been a lot of critics, both good and bad over the years, Nicholas Plevin, a very famous art historian in the 60s said ‘Gaudi’s work is like sugar loaves and ant hills, it’s built with vitality but essentially in bad taste.’ Walter Gropius, a very famous architect said it was the most magnificent piece of architecture he had ever seen. George Orwell, the very famous author who wrote 1984 said ‘it’s the most hideous building I’ve had ever seen.’ But don’t take other peoples word for it go and check it out yourself you will not be disappointed!