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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona – A Gaudi afternoon

When we decided to travel to Barcelona, Charles was beside himself with excitement. “It’s the city of Gaudi. Oh the architecture we’re going to see, you’re going to love it, trust me” and he kept waxing eloquent about the beauty of Art Nouveau and Modernist and the Sagrada Familia. My exposure to art nouveau or churches for that matter had so far been limited to Paris, and being the Francophile that I am, I didn’t really expect anything to top that! Of course seeing a church with him is always so much more fun, because he knows all the stories, legends, conspiracy theories and characters, bringing sculptures, friezes and paintings to life in a way no guidebook or audio guide ever can. {Note to self: Must advertise Charles as a church guide and make money off it someday}

The Sagrada Familia probably ranks highest on Barcelona’s Gaudi attractions, followed closely by Casa Mila, Casa Battlo, Park Guell and then Palau Guell. This was architect – madman- genius extraordinaire Antoni Gaudi’s swan song. It still hasn’t been completed and while work is still on as per his detailed designs, we wonder if we’ll ever see the completed structure in our lifetime (the powers that be estimate its completion in 2026).

Getting there

The Sagrada Familia is conveniently located right opposite the Sagrada Familia Metro stop {Exit: Placa de la Sagrada Familia}
As with most popular tourist attractions in Europe (have you seen how crowded Barcelona gets in the summer) it’s always smarter to buy your ticket in advance, and online. We saw a queue for tickets that went along two entire sides of the fence. Thankfully, we had purchased our (skip the line) ticket for the Sagrada Familia with AudioGuide and Tower (Euro 23.80) which is the best value. This also meant we had to book a time slot for the tower visit, and decided to time it with our arrival, so we were free to wander about as long as we pleased after.

 

Exterior and Facades

The Sagrada Familia is a towering beauty from the outside even in it’s incomplete state. Several spires and towers loomed over us blocking out the summer sun. The three other facades tell the story of Christ in parts.

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The towering Sagrada Familia

  • Passion Facade

Since the main entrance is still under construction we entered via the Passion façade. Interpreted much after his demise, the scenes of Christ’s torture and execution had angular cuts that at once seemed very different from Gaudi’s free flowing style. At the time of booking we had chosen this tower over the Nativity Façade and went and stood in the line for the tiny capsule like elevator. Up, we stepped out onto a couple of extremely tiny balconies (meant only for one or two people) and got a beautiful bird’s eye view of the park as well as a case of vertigo (ok that bit was just me, not Charles) and a lot more dizziness as we slowly made our way down the narrow, steep and spiral stairwell.

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Angular faces on the Passion facade

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Details at the elevator

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Waiting for the elevator

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The view from the top

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Details at the top

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The long way down

 

  • Glory Façade

A quick detour from the audioguide tour inside the church let us step out to view the iconic bronze prayer door, where the prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” has been inscribed in 50 languages. We had a bit of fun trying to count the number of languages we could recognize. Given our love for typography, we went nuts photographing this feature. The sculptures yet to be constructed will feature Christ’s last judgment as his soul found its way to God.

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50 languages. One prayer.

 

  • Nativity Facade

Here, we saw the work as Gaudi intended, considering it had been completed in his presence. And intricate, delicate and decorative tapestry of gothic meets modernist design, this side shows various scenes from the birth of Christ. We stood here staring at it, for the longest time as we kept discovering more and more details.

 

Inside, the church felt like a forest. We looked up at tall trees towering above us as their branches created a canopy, decorative knots on the trunks, as we walked around trying to get our bearings in the colourful light that filtered in through the stained glass. What really impressed me was something I heard in the audioguide, that Gaudi had studied the angle of the sun at various times of the day in order to design the stained glass so it reflected just the right shade of colour. Oh, and he had also studied the acoustics in great detail to ensure the choir’s balcony was at just the right height as was the grand futuristic looking organ.

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A forest canopy

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Bathed in light

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Play of colour

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The choir’s balcony

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The organ pipes

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Sigh.

We took our time, taking in all the details as we made our way across to the very festive looking Christ suspended from an umbrella that looked like a carousel. We peeped into the very official looking crypt below the altar and then made our way to museum.

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Quirky isn’t it?

Museum

I won’t go into detail about this one, because I enjoyed the surprise it was for me, but let’s just say it’s a peek into Gaudi’s head. I’ll leave it at that.

We’ve promised each other that we will return if it is completed in our lifetime. Has any structure moved you the way the Sagrada Familia moved us? Share your stories in the comments, we’d love to read them!

Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 13 20 60
http://visit.sagradafamilia.cat/?lang=en#tickets
The above information is valid as of July 2013 when we visited Barcelona.
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“Sagrada Familia, Barcelona – A Gaudi afternoon”

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