Oh. My. Heavens. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, is a fascinating, earthly tribute to God.
For anyone unfamiliar with La Sagrada Familia, it’s a Catholic church still under construction with a completion date set for 2026. The chief architect was Antoni Gaudi, a brilliant man who died in 1926. If all goes as planned, Gaudi’s dream for this church will be realized 100 years after his death. His grave is in the crypt.
Gaudi’s vision for this church can be seen on every part of it – inside and outside. The symbolism is dramatic. Gaudi worked to free Gothic structures of their defects, and La Sagrada Familia is his visionary effort to push Christian church construction towards organic modernism.
For example, look at the photos below. Every part of the Passion Facade (lighter color) is influenced by earthly life. It’s bare and somewhat stark compared to the ornate, Gothic-influenced Nativity Facade. The bright, odd-shaped columns over the crucifixion scene on the Passion side are like human ribs; the stretched-looking strands around the scene are like tendons.
Another example of Gaudi’s modern organic approach: the columns inside the church are topped with branches, like trees. This also has the double effect of letting in more natural light. Brilliant, in every sense.
The stained glass is positioned so morning and afternoon sunlight bathe this tribute to God in glorious color. I recommend you go in the afternoon when the sunlight comes through the side windows. The picture below was taken at 3:12 p.m. on March 28, and of course best times will vary monthly.
Not only was this tour and visit fantastic, but I was lucky enough to get to go to Easter mass a few days later. I’m not Catholic, yet I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being with other people on their holy day, inside a structure that is a remarkable tribute to God.
A word about security at La Sagrada Familia. Visitors must go through metal detectors and place bags under the X-ray machines for inspection. I have never experienced this before in a church. Sadly, investigators believe it is a target for terrorists.
Strangely enough, on Good Friday, the church opened up the crypt for visitors, and we did not have to go through security to go under the church. I don’t know if the security protocol for crypt openings will change in the future. (The crypt is not always open.) Gaudi’s grave is in the crypt. If the crypt is closed, you can also see his grave from the back of the museum, looking down on it.
Don’t skip the museum on your visit. It features amazing facts about the church’s design and about its chief architect. You can also see a ‘work room’ where design plans continue today for the ongoing construction, which is financed solely through visitor entrance fees and private donations. There is no government or church funding for this construction. This is the only Catholic church I have ever paid to go inside.
I highly, strongly, urgently recommend you buy the tower climb and audio tour. I would not have appreciated the design and history as much during my visit. Sure, you can research the facts before you arrive and then simply look at things: that’s often what we do. But La Sagrada Familia is worth a splurge for budget travelers. The topside reveals beautiful views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea, and you can walk down cool spire stairwells with more views on the way down (an elevator takes you up).
The top walk and audio tour cost $36 USD. Get your tickets from the official English-version website here.
The last picture I want you to see I took from the balcony of my sister-in-law’s rental unit. She came to Barcelona with her daughter for a spring vacation and rented on a great apartment with the gorgeous view pictured below. It’s impossible to get this kind of shot from the street.
In all of the church’s we’ve been to on our travels so far, we’ve never seen anything like this. I seriously doubt there’s anything comparable. We will come back in 2026 when it’s completed. Yet still unfinished, La Sagrada Familia is extraordinary.
“What must always be preserved is the spirit of the work; its life will depend on the generations that transmit this spirit and bring it to life.” — Antoni Gaudi
(*Photo credit: The picture of us in the stairway was taken by Tedly’s sister Tina.)