“The temple as a whole, as well being a place for divine worship, will artistically represent the truths of religion and the glorification of God and His Saints.” – Antoni Gaudí
I spent my year-end break reading Origin by Dan Brown and Barcelona is the city of focus in Brown’s latest book. Brown wrote descriptively about Basilica de la Sagrada Familia architecture and also Langdon’s experience in the Church. As I was reading the book, I was being transported to the “Unfinished Church” that I first visited in November 2014 and again in November 2015.
I looked back at the photos taken at both visits and read the book – Gaudi The Entire Works – that I bought at my last visit to Barcelona, I decided to write a post on it.
Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia
In 1882, the early project for the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia was started by the architect, Francesc de Paula del Villar y Lozano. Then Gaudi took over the project. In May 1885, Gaudi signed the project for the ground plan of the Sagrada Familia.
La Sagrada Familia received the name of Expiatory temple because its construction was funded by private patrons, donations or alms. Those funds were used exclusively for the construction of the Church. Nowadays, donations to the Sagrada Familia are still made but most of the money collected comes from entrance tickets, with more than three million visitors a year.
Gaudí’s conception of the Sagrada Familia was based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals. There are 18 towers in total. The middle tower is dedicated to Jesus Christ and surrounding it are four towers representing the Gospels. The tower above the apse, crowned by a star, represents the Virgin Mary, while the remaining 12 towers represent the 12 Apostles, witnesses to his words and deeds.
The life and teachings of Jesus are represented on portals of the three facades. Each one represents one of the three crucial events of Christ’s existence: His Birth: His Passion, Death and Resurrection; and His present and future Glory.
The Glory facade, the largest facade, is still under construction. It is dedicated to the glory of Jesus and the road to reach God going through death, final judgment and glory.
The Nativity Facade – Christ’s Birth
In 1892, work began on the Nativity Façade and was completed two years later. It was the only facade directly built by Gaudi. In 1923, Gaudi came up with the definitive solution for the naves and roofing in plaster models at scale 1:10 and 1:25. The first bell tower of this facade was completed in 1925. The Nativity Facade was completed in 1935 and was declared WORLD HERITAGE by the UNESCO in 2005.
The Passion Facade – Christ’s Passion, Death & Resurrection
The Passion façade represents the passion and the death of Jesus in geometric edged forms. It is composed of a six columns portico, with three doors, of which the central one is divided into two by a mullion with the Alpha and Omega signs among the four bell towers. The facade is directed to the West and faces the sun as a symbol of the death of Christ.
While admiring the Passion façade, one may notice a series of numbers inside a square right next to the statue of Judas Betrayal of Jesus. It is a magic square with a series of numbers on a square grid, placed in such a manner that any row, column or diagonal line always add up to the same number, known as the magic constant of the square. And the magic constant number here is 33, the age Jesus is believed to have been executed.
The Interior of the Church
On 7 November 2010, the Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and the Church was elevated to the status of a Basilica.
Below is a picture of the statue of Jesus on the cross, hang up in mid-air like it is on a parachute right above the altar area.
The following is a huge plaque hanging on the wall is the Lord’s Prayer and not some codes, if you read Dan Brown’s Origin, you will follow my drift.
Gaudí created a knotted rope construction in which the columns correspond to the ropes in tree-like column structure. The columns are inclined and branched-like trees. The weight routed directly over the pillars in the ground.
At the Sagrada Família, the most transparent stained-glass windows are those highest up that light may stream in, illuminating the mosaics and golden vaults that characterise the nave, providing the maximum contrast.
The Museum – Antoni Gaudí (June 25, 1952 – June 10, 1926)
The Museum in the basement of the Passion façade was inaugurated in 1961. The Museum includes Gaudí’s work as a whole with a focus on the works to build the Church.
In 1914 Gaudi left all his other work to concentrate exclusively on this sole Church project for 43 years until his death in 1926.
Two corners of Gaudi’s workshop at the Sagrada Familia with one part of the wall with photographs of the mosaics at Ravenna and the altar candlesticks that Gaudi was working on and three drawings of the Passion front.
Another part of the wall was Gaudi’s bed, where he slept for the last few months of his life. Next to the bed was the model of one of the finials on the twelve bell towers dedicated to the Apostles.
On the evening of 7 June 1926, Gaudi was knocked down by a tram while on his way to the Oratory of St Philip Neri. Due to his neglected dressing and with no identity papers, everyone thought he was a hobo. A civil guard finally called a taxi to get him to the Santa Creu hospital where he was recognized. Unfortunately, Gaudi died of his wounds at the age of 73. He was buried on June 12 in a crypt in the Sagrada Familia, surrounded by thousands of people.
Gaudi’s funeral cortege, which went through much of Barcelona and finished in the Sagrada Familia, was a grand event in the city in recognition of his status as the greatest architect Barcelona has ever seen. Gaudí was buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.
At the Top of Passion Tower
After checking out the Museum at the basement of the Passion Tower, take a walk up to the top of the Tower through the hazardous narrow and steep spiral staircase for a view of the church exterior and the city.
Below pictures are the overhead view of the spiral staircase.
That’s me, taking a picture of my friend who was taking a picture of me. While walking down the narrow spiral staircase, a gentleman was walking up the stairs. I almost lost my balance while trying to make space for him to pass. Do be super careful. Try not to take selfies while walking this spiral staircase.
Following are pictures of the church exterior from the top, where you could see construction work still on-going.
To have a full visual impact of the scale of the Church, walked several blocks away to a park.
I look forward to visiting Sagrada Familia in 2026 when it is finished.
For more information and latest updates on Sagrada de Familia, do go to www.sagradafamilia.org.
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5 thoughts on “Basilica de La Sagrada Familia”
Thank you so much for your post. It looks like one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. I have never seen it personally, but I appreciate seeing it through your lens!
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The seemingly never ending wonderous journey with Gaudi
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Great post and shots. I saw it back in 2012 so I couldn’t see as much as this then. It’s an amazing feat of architecture 😍
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Thank you 😊 Indeed it is. I am looking forward to be back in 2026.
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