Have you seen the most breathtaking building in the world?
It’s not the Sydney Opera House. It’s not Buckingham Palace.
It’s La Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, nestled in the Catalan district of Barcelona, Spain.
This “Temple of the Sacred Family” is indeed a sight to behold. Over 3 million visitors flock to this holy site each year. Yet for many, the goal is not a religious one.
The majority of tourists come to bear witness to one of architecture’s greatest accomplishments. To see the temple spiraling high up in the air, with towers branching off into the distant sky nearly out of sight.
The enchanting cathedral is vast and spacious, yet each square inch seems to be teeming with life and art. Mazes of rooms run together, windows arch far above courtyards below and intricate statues seem to speak from alcoves and perches all around the grounds.
So what’s the story of this place? Read on to discover how and why the Basilica was constructed, and how you can visit this masterpiece of human invention.
Antoni Gaudí’s Dream of La Sagrada Familia
Impossibly balanced yet perfectly made, La Sagrada Familia is the brainchild of one of the world’s most famous architects: Antoni Gaudí.
Gaudí is perhaps most well-known for La Sagrada Familia, and indeed, it is his most ambitious work. The temple was an homage to the Holy Family and was built entirely from donations — but it stands today as a modern miracle of design.
Though construction of the temple began in 1882 (and still continues to this day), Gaudí took over the architectural work in 1883. He quickly became obsessed with it, eventually moving into the temple and living destitute between its walls.
He dressed poorly, ate little and worked solely on this one project. Fortunately for the rest of the world, Gaudí’s obsession blossomed into a work of art which commemorates him and the entire region.
La Sagrada Familia: Architecture and Intricacy
Gaudí was truly a religious spirit. He set out to display his belief through form, color, and design.
Stained glass windows serve to emphasize space and light, creating a space for introspection and epiphany inside the church. Statuary creates a living air, bringing visitors back to biblical times.
The temple is a monument to symmetry and geometry. The prevalent symbolism is that of a hierarchical Christian philosophy and is evident in every aspect of design.
Towers of Faith
Each tower represents an aspect of the religion. The tallest middle tower is an homage to Jesus Christ and a representation of heavenly ascension.
The four surrounding towers are indicative of the Gospel books, while the star-topped apse tower represents the Virgin Mary. When completed, the twelve other towers will stand by as the twelve apostles.
Facades of Christ
Three facades decorate the church, outlining the three important periods in the life of Christ.
- Birth: The first is the Façade of Birth. It is characterized by fluid human and animal statues representing life, and the Tree of Life sculpture giving a nod to nature’s order.
- Passion: The second façade is the Façade of Passion, an homage to Christ’s suffering in this world. It is said that the pillars supporting this façade are symbolic of bone, to emphasize the death and resurrection.
- Bliss: The Façade of Bliss is the last façade still yet to be completed. It will be made up of biblical scenes including heaven, hell, and the apocalypse.
The facades can be described with words, but they do no justice to the captivating art you’ll find there in person. The only way to truly get to know La Sagrada Familia is to go there yourself.
How You Can Visit La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia isn’t something to do spur-of-the-moment, though walk-ins are possible.
It is better to plan your visit and purchase tickets from the official site. It is safer, cheaper and easier to buy your tickets online in advance. In this way, you can avoid scams (and there are plenty) when making your trip.
Which Ticket is Right for You?
You may choose a guided visit with a tour guide or audio guide, or you may simply wander the spectacular halls alone.
The standard ticket is 15 euros, but keep in mind it won’t grant you access to all parts of the temple. You must purchase a different ticket to see the view from the completed towers. At any time, parts of the church will be unavailable due to the continued construction.
When to Go
The Times recommends booking a 9 AM slot, as this is the least busy part of the day. Remember to show up early, as you will not be allowed in if you miss your time slot.
Allow yourself a few hours for a visit and be prepared to stay longer than expected. Once you enter, you may stay as long as you like, and the temple is more captivating than you may think.
La Sagrada Familia is a Must-See in Barcelona
No matter what time of the year you visit Barcelona, make sure to stop in at La Sagrada Familia.
This temple is sure to inspire you with its features, and who knows? You may decide to return again year after year.