My emotions run deep and I’m not sure I can explain this very well. There is difficulty starting this post. It’s as if my fingers are tongue-tied. (Finger-tied?)
As I contemplate trying to describe to you my visit to La Sagrada Familia I am reliving the experience and am struck again by its magnitude, on so many levels. I had no idea what I was in for, that any human being could conceive of such a place. It is what I now understand to be quintessential Modernisme: curves, and nature, and big Christian faith, and light, so much light, and colors that glow, as if from on high…
Just a bit of background on the La Sagrada Familia and then I’ll present to you in separate photo galleries the three main areas of the basilica. It was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in the Modernisme or Art Nouveau Catalan style (combining elements of Gothic and Art Nouveau) with a pre-eminent focus on the Holy Family (“La Sagrada Familia”) Gaudí was a man of deep Christian faith. Construction started in 1882 and, although it remains incomplete, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated it as a minor basilica (as opposed to a cathedral which must be the seat of a bishop). It is slated to be completed in 2026, 100 years after the death of Gaudí. He understood that he would not see the completion of the church in his lifetime but he was undeterred, remarking, “My [C]lient is not in a hurry.” Since the advent of computer technology, construction has accelerated and the project which at first was thought to take many centuries will now be completed in about 150 years. And, when completed it will be the tallest church in the world.
In addition to the ineffable and heavenly interior, Gaudí planned three façades for the exterior: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South. The Nativity façade is the first completed and is dedicated to the birth of Jesus with scenes representative of life and change. (Sculptures of chameleons are actually carved into this side of the building!) In literally stark contrast, the Passion façade depicts Christ’s torture and crucifixion. It is deeply evocative. The Glory façade is unfortunately still apartment buildings that have to be bought back for the project to be completed but there is an image of the bronze door inside the church on that side with the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan and “give us this day our daily bread” in 50 languages!
Some tips for your visit to La Sagrada Familia before we move into the photo galleries:
- If you’re staying on El Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes as I did, it is a lovely and easy 1/2-hour walk.
- If using the metro, alight at the Sagrada Familia stop. Exit toward Plaça de la Sagrada Familia.
- Make reservations and pay online! You will be given a time slot and must arrive within that 15 minute window to enter. While waiting for my appointed time to enter, I witnessed people turned away either because they arrived too late or because there were no longer any times available for that day.
- Try to book your reservation online before you ever set foot in Barcelona. I waited and was not able to visit the towers because all the time slots were taken.
- There is an extra fee to view the towers. You can choose the elevator, on either the Nativity or Passion sides.
- When you reserve online, buy the audioguide. It adds richness to the visit.
- Anticipate a line/queue outside to obtain your audioguide. You may wait up to 15 or 20 minutes after you enter. If you are with 2 or more, only 1 person is allowed in line to pick up all audioguides. The staff is multilingual.
- The best view of the church as a whole is in the park across the street from the Nativity side.
- Big tip! On a hot sunny day, carry a water bottle with you. Drink up when outside (no food or drink allowed inside), then refill it at the tap in the bathrooms. This may sound a bit gross but the water is drinkable (I asked) and then you don’t have to buy expensive water from the sellers outside, use more plastic, etc.
- There are nice, clean, and (when I was visiting at least) uncrowded restrooms down the ramp on the Nativity side near the exit.
- Bring your camera (of course)! Photos are allowed inside without flash.
- If possible, and if you have an SLR or a camera/mobile phone which allows lens attachments, use a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the immensity of the place as you can.
- If your camera or phone has panoramic capabilities, this could be an alternative to a wide-angle lens (as shown in the featured image at the top). Super-fun.
- The shafts of sunlight inside entering through the Passion side windowsinmid- to late-afternoon create an incredible glow and seem to transport to another world. Portraits in this light could really be something.
A visit to this otherworldly basilica evoked for me profound emotion. May your visit be just as memorable.