The Sagrada Familia, a monumental Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona, Spain, has been under construction since 1882. Allowing for a few setbacks—including the Spanish Civil War—its completion is expected this year.
This magnificent basilica has become an iconic landmark, deeply cherished by locals and tourists alike. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, its remarkable façade—a stone forest of spires, turrets and towers—are a testament to both his masterful dream and man’s capability of bringing it to life.
Despite the grand liesure of the exterior, visitors come to see the interior—akin to a living, breathing symphony of light, color, and patterns. The brilliantly-lit stained glass windows, “bursting with hues”, braid together with spiralling support columns to create a sense of “enchanted harmony.”
One would be hard-pressed to find any other place on Earth that can match this overwhelming grandeur—a sentiment shared by many of those who have seen it. Antonio Amengual, a professor from the University of Barcelona, states, “It’s like stepping into the cathedral of a dream, a vision of impossible perfection and beauty.”
But is it worth it to make the trip? Prices for entry range from €10 for visitors under 12 to €22 for adults aged 17 and up, for one hour guided tours. There have been numerous complaints, however, about ticket availability online; many, thus, advise prospective visitors to purchase in person if that is an option. In addition, the Sagrada Familia requires masks, social distancing, and contactless payment—requirements that both impede an enjoyable viewing experience, yet are necessary to ensure safety.
Additionally, many individual reviews on TripAdvisor comment on how “crowded” the interiors tend to get. There’s no denying the fact that the sight of people rushing around, in awestruck wonderment, can chisel away at the awe and majesty of the basilica.
Ultimately, it comes down to having an appreciation for the Sagrada Familia itself. Those that favor Gaudí’s work, or consider it a must-see for Barcelona, will likely not be dissuaded. For others, there are some valid trade-offs to consider.
Gaudi was born in 1852 in Reus, a small city located near Tarragona, near Barcelona. His mother was a seamstress and his father was a coppersmith. He grew up surrounded by the Catalan culture and environment where both his parents encouraged his natural artistic gifts. At school, he excelled in mathematics and science, leading to his enrolment at the Barcelona School of Architecture in 1873.
During the decade of 1876-1885, Gaudi worked on designs for several projects, adding his own touches to the traditional styles of the time. He collaborated with many of the leading Catalan architects, such as Francesc Berenguer and Josep Vilaseca, who transmitted their own painstaking craftsmanship and at the same time influenced Gaudi’s own artistic evolution.
Gaudi was able to express himself fully in his mature works, such as La Sagrada Família, which he declared was “the most extravagant and daring dream of any man”. He completed large and important projects in the same style until his death in 1926.
Gaudi’s work is rooted in traditional Catalan architecture but is also marked by its highly individualized style characterised by natural forms, bright colours, and surreal shapes. Natural elements are a significant feature in Gaudi’s designs, with the incorporation of trees, rocks and other sculpted elements playing a key role in his buildings.
The use of colours also plays a crucial role in Gaudi’s work, which is known for its vibrant use of earth tones, particularly reds, yellows and blues, to enliven and energise the built environment. Gaudi makes use of light to create an ever-evolving array of colour in his projects. Natural light is used to highlight the intricate textures of materials and to highlight details, such as his trademark ceramic pieces.
Gaudi’s style is also characterized by an intricate web of structure and supports that form the walls and ceilings of his buildings. His ability to integrate complex structure and form with a remarkable level of intricacy, is a testament to Gaudi’s skill and keen eye for detail.
Gaudi’s architectural style is a reflection of his mastery of modern engineering technologies, as well as his pursuit of simplicity and beauty. Gaudi pushed the boundaries of architecture and engineering with revolutionary structural designs that were both aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound.
Gaudi’s use of geometric forms, ornamental stonework, ironwork, and ceramic pieces demonstrate his range and versatility as an architect. These details are integral components of Gaudi’s architecture, adding texture and movement to buildings, to create dynamic and inviting spaces.
Gaudi’s use of materials such as cement, stone, and iron are also part of his flair for innovation. He often uses these ingredients in conjunction with decorative elements to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing composition.
Gaudi’s design principles are also deeply rooted in nature, which he saw as an essential source of form and structure. He envisioned each of his works as part of an organic whole, with the built environment connected to its natural setting.
The Sagrada Familia, a cathedral of exceptional grandeur, is a symbol of man’s capability of realizing the visions of geniuses like Antoni Gaudí. Despite long lines and considerable costs, it is a place where one can forget the rest of the world, even if only for a fleeting moment, and be embraced by awe and beauty.