For Berlin it’s the BER airport, for Barcelona, it’s the Sagrada Familia. A never-ending, massive construction project!
There is a difference between the two though: Construction in Barcelona has been going on for much longer and there are no construction plans.
The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic basilica in the Barcelonian district Eixample. The building process began in 1882 and at the moment hopes are up to be finally done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
After a trip to Italy, a bookseller from Barcelona was so deeply impressed by the churches he had seen there that he decided to have a big conciliation church build. His church was only going to be paid for by donations. In 1881 they were able to purchase 12800m² of land in the not yet fully developed district of Barcelona. They had originally designed a simple, three-aisled church to match the current taste of the period. Soon after the building process began an argument caused the site management to fall out with their architect. The new architect that was hired was Gaudí.
Gaudí finished the crypt according to the plans of his predecessor but already worked in some drastic changes for the rest of the church. He introduced his re-worked design in 1885, which already included 18 towers. Just before construction of the Nativity Façade began, they received a big donation which, in turn, caused Gaudís plans to become bigger as well. He developed the concept of a five-aisled basilica with 18 towers. Gaudí incorporated elements from all previous stylistic eras into the design which continued to become more and more elaborate. It became apparent that they were facing a long period of construction work to finish a building like that.
Gaudí himself worked on his church for 43 years until he lost his life in a tram accident. The building process was put on halt multiple times over the years and in the Spanish Civil War, all construction plans were lost. Construction continued in 1950 and since then the team tries to realise Gaudí’s ideas as best as they can.
The Nativity Façade and the crypt were declared UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 2005. Even today, construction is entirely funded by donations and a portion of the ticket sales.
Visiting the Sagrada Familia impressed me. We started by walking around the outside of the church. Even without knowing too much about the building’s backstory, the differences in the design of different sections of the façade were obvious. The Nativity Façade is playful, figurines and ornaments are harmoniously balanced. Whereas the opposite façade was cubic and edgy.
I was then overwhelmed as we walked into the church. Many churches are quite dark, but not the Sagrada Familia. Big and colourful windows let it a lot of light. Despite the thick clouds in the sky and the rain outside, the windows created a wonderfully warm atmosphere and allowed so much light in that the church was still lovely and bright.
The entire nave is well structured and rich in decorations. The difference to most other churches is striking. No heavy and dominant shapes, no massive gold plating and no showcasing of the church’s riches. Characteristic for this church are the bright colours, clean shapes and the feeling to be in an almost infinite space.
Unfortunately, the tower was closed on that day due to bad weather. I would have liked to stand on the little balcony that looks over the city. Don’t forget to see the small Sagrada Familia museum. Interesting exhibits about the construction of the church and different models are on display in a little workshop. I captured my impressions in a short video.
Carrer de Mallorca, 401
November to February: 09.00 – 18.00
March: 09.00 – 19.00
April to September: 09.00 – 20.00
October: 09.00 – 19.00
Opening hours on Bank Holidays may be different.
Adults with Top View: 29€ (includes audioguide, tower, Sagrada Familia)
Adults Basic: 15€ (Sagrada Familia)
Discounts are available.
It is best to buy tickets in advance in the shop. It is important to book tickets in advance. There is a limited contingent of tickets each day and only very few tickets are available to purchase on site!