If there is one place that photographs and narrations will never do justice to – it is the Sagrada Familia, a Catholic church in the heart of the city of Barcelona in Spain.
This building and it’s play of colours and designs is one of the few that I will use the term ‘jaw-dropping’ on – a cliche that I reserve only for sights that literally make my mouth open in awe!
This will be even harder to wrap your head around when you realise that this structure has not even been completed yet. It’s celebrated Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi whose designs define Barcelona said: “My client is in no hurry. God has all the time in the world.”
Gaudi dedicated the last years of his life to the construction of the Sagrada Familia, from 1884 to 1926 (when he tragically died in an accident).
The devout Catholic was hit by a tram as he walked through Gran Via de Corts Catalanes in Barcelona and died at the L’Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. Gaudi is buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.
Still under construction almost 137 years after the groundbreaking ceremony at the site in 1882, the Sagrada Familia (Spanish for Holy Family) has survived the wrath of wars and uprisings over the century.
Consecrated in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, it is scheduled to be completed in 2026; though parts of it are already open to visitors and faithful attending mass either in the nave or the crypt.
The unconventional design of this basilica dedicated to the Holy Family was conceptualised Gaudi who only managed to see the completion of the ‘Nativity Facade’ in his lifetime.
This facade is a signature of his style and work.
There is a maze of form and function in the church’s design that is inspired by none other than nature.
My favorite part about this basilica is the visual harmony created by the changing colours and hues that shroud the interior of the church at different times of the day.
A cool blue hue in the mornings is afforded by the stained glass along the ‘Nativity Facade’.
In the afternoon, this hue slowly fades into green and yellow highlights that seem to illuminate the top part of the structure, giving a cool ‘in the forest’ like feel owing to the tree trunk like pillars. The pillars deviate from the traditional ‘flying buttresses’ Gothic church design – which function is to hold the weight of the upper structure.
In the evenings, the whole nave is flooded with fiery red and orange hues illuminated by the stain glass along the ‘Passion Facade’ of the church.
The Nativity and Passion Towers are open to the public at extra charge if you don’t include it in your initial package.
An elevator takes you up but visitors have to walk down 400 winding steps down.
The ‘Passion Tower’ is less popular and hence less crowded but has views of the ocean and the roof above the passion facade.
The ‘Nativity Tower’ is more popular and crowded as it has a bridge between the two towers that allow clear views of the designs and architecture of the top section of the ‘Nativity Facade’ which was designed and built under the supervision of Gaudi himself.
No amount of photography or videography can capture what the naked eye can see in this place.
This is just one of those places that you have to see and experience yourself.
It is worth all the effort and time in the world to spend a few hours marveling at it at least once in your lifetime.
Visiting the site was a breeze for us and the lines were not long as we were told it would be. Maybe because it was not peak season (we visited on the first week of December 2018). So a tip for you: This is a great time to beat the crowds, the long lines and the summer heat of peak season. The winter weather was slightly chilly but nothing a light jacket wouldn’t fix. There was also a cool Christmas Market at the Placa de Sagrada Familia in front of the church.
The audio guide was a great way to get a narration of the history, architecture and form of Sagrada Familia.
There are many websites with tips on where and how to buy ticket and how to get there, but I always trust the main source. This is the official website of the Sagrada Familia: Sagrada Familia Official Website
A timeline on the construction of the church can be viewed here: Sagrada Familia Chronology