Barcelona is filled with beautiful architecture, but none of it is quite as unique nor remarkable as the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi. Their beautiful colors and sweeping structures feel simultaneously at home and out of place against the starker buildings in the city. Love or hate them, they bring a character and vibrancy to Barcelona that few other cities could pull off.
Arguably the most famous of Gaudi’s buildings is Sagrada Família–more formally known as the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (or Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family). This Roman Catholic church is one of the most recognizable and most visited buildings in the world and, if you don’t plan ahead, you could end up standing in line for hours to get tickets–or miss the pleasure of seeing the inside all together (hint, hint–get your tickets online before you go if you can).
Construction of Sagrada Família began in 1882 and is not expected to wrap up until between 2026 and 2028 (around the centennial of Gaudi’s death). On our first trip to Barcelona we didn’t have time to visit the interior, so this time we made sure to get tickets. We were both so glad we did.
The exterior of the building is impressive, and when its 18 spires are complete, it will tower some 560 feet into the air. Intricate stone façades decorate both the western and eastern sides of the building, representing stories from the bible and Jesus’s life and death.
The Nativity Façade, located on the eastern side of the building, was where we started our tour. Looking up, we could see intricate carvings of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, along with angels, saints and even plants and animals decorating every inch of the exterior. It was so busy, our eyes almost didn’t know where to focus, but the carvings were so intricate and beautiful that we spent a good chunk of time just walking around this section of the building before going in.
Eventually we made our way through the beautiful, arching doorway and into a cavernous room that quite literally took our breath away. Every direction in which we looked, from the ceilings to the floors, was early stamped with Gaudi’s signature design. It was elaborate and beautiful, yet welcoming and airy.
From what we learned on our tour, every aspect of the Basilica, from the lighting to the acoustics, was carefully considered by Gaudi. Each and every facet is symbolic, from the floor plan based on a Latin cross, to the colors of the stained glass windows. Gaudi is said to have believed that color was the expression of life. Standing in the gentle beauty of sunlight pouring through the windows, we could certainly understand why.
The western façade was austere and almost startling after feeling the joy and celebration emanating from the eastern façade and the exquisite glory of the interior. This façade represents the death and resurrection of Jesus. Harsh lines and sharp edges bring about the sadness and suffering of the stages of the cross, each of which are represented around the doors on this side of the building.
To the side of the basilica we found stairs to take us down to the museum, which walked us through the design and construction of Sagrada Família. We were even able to peak into the present-day modelling studio where Gaudi’s original designs are restored and reproduced to help the architects remain faithful to the original plan.
Touring the Sagrada Família was definitely a highlight of our weekend visit to Barcelona. When it is finished, we hope to go back and participate in a mass there. Until then, we have the photos and lovely memories of our visit.