Basilica of barcelona: Sagrada Família – Official ticket vendors

Inside La Sagrada Família, The Breathtaking Basilica Of Barcelona

By Erin Kelly | Edited By John Kuroski

Published November 5, 2022

Updated November 7, 2022

Construction on the Barcelona basilica of La Sagrada Familia, the magnum opus of controversial Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, began in 1882 and is slated for completion in 2026.

When the cornerstone for Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia, or The Church of the Holy Family, was laid in 1882, the church was supposed to be a typical, neo-gothic church. Instead, the masterpiece of eccentric architect Antoni Gaudí is still under construction — 140 years later.

Unlike any other building on Earth, this stunning church is considered a groundbreaking example of Catalan Modernism, a phantasmagorical collage of natural forms and architectural inventiveness.

Through the century that it’s taken to build it, Sagrada Familia has slowly morphed from a grandiose vision to an iconic piece of architecture that’s known around the world. It has gone through countless stone masons and artisans — and many architects since Gaudí’s death in 1926 — to become the awe-inspiring basilica that it is today.

Completion is scheduled for 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. See photos of Sagrada Familia below and learn the full story of its complicated past.

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The basilica at sunset, reflected in a garden pond in Plaza Gaudí. Eloi_Omella/Getty images

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The breathtaking Virgin Mary tower. This tower is 565 feet tall, with the large, final star being put into place just recently on Nov. 29, 2021. PFE/Getty Images

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La Sagrada Familia is the second most visited church in Europe — second only to the Vatican. Getty Images

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Architect Antoni Gaudí’s primary goal for the church was to build facades that highlighted the three phases in Jesus’ life: the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory. Pictured here is the Nativity scene.Getty Images

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La Sagrada Familia has four main parts: the basilica, the school building, which Gaudí designed for the children of the builders, the museum, and towers. vgm8383/Flickr

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The roof is supported by angled pillars, which are tree-like column structures that create the effect of dappled light over a living forest. vpogarcia/Flickr

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Details of the interior of the Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia.Getty Images

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Gaudi’s vision aimed to incorporate organic symbolism within the architecture. The stained glass and other elements tell Jesus’ story and some stories from the Bible without the need for literacy.garyullah/Flickr

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La Sagrada Familia combines Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. It was Gaudí’s life’s work, and its design was unlike anything anyone had ever seen at the time. Jose Ramirez/Flickr

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The basilica has five naves, built in the shape of the Latin cross.Jose Ramirez/Flickr

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The main worship area with visitors inside. andrew_annemarie/Flickr

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The organ pipes reflect dazzling, multicolored light from the stained glass windows. Lisa Voigt Garms/Getty Images

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Gaudí worked on La Sagrada Familia until he died in 1926. Domènec Sugrañes i Gras took over as architect afterward. franganillo/Flickr

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The interior crucifixion statue.Enfo/Wikimedia Commons

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Construction is — and always has been — financed by private donations. davide_roe/Flickr

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Anarchists set fire to the crypt in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Philippe Lissac/Getty Images

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They also broke into Gaudí’s workshop and destroyed much of his original plans and models.solapenna/Flickr

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Exterior view of one of Sagrada Familia’s large stained glass windows. mayra/Flickr

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The chapel, bathed in colored sunlight.Artur Rydzewski/Flickr

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As work continues, even modern-day architects and engineers struggle to bring to life the complex shapes and structures that make up what will be tallest Catholic church in the world. James Strachan/Getty Images

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After Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Games, the city gained an international reputation and the number of visitors to La Sagrada Familia increased — and construction accelerated.Nikada/Getty Images

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Gaudí built the school building for the workers’ children in 1909. nh53/Flickr

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Until the middle of the 20th century, wooden scaffolding was still used to climb the church’s frightening heights. Peter Unger/Getty Images

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The Nativity Façade was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. Vanni Archive/Getty Images

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Exquisite exterior details adorn the entire basilica.sackerman519/Flickr

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The Passion façade. In 2020, the tower of the Virgin Mary surpassed the height of these spires.Jordi Boixareu/Getty Images

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Street view of La Sagrada Familia’s place in the Barcelona skyline. Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

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Four towers reach into the sky above Barcelona. Juan Silva/Getty Images

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Statues overlook the streets below. verifex/Flickr

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La Sagrada Familia still shines after the sun has gone down. Sergi Escribano/Getty Images

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33 Photos Of La Sagrada Familia, The Magnificent Catalan Church That’s Taken Over 140 Years To Build

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La Sagrada Familia, The Magnum Opus Of Antoni Gaudí

Before it became the masterpiece of young visionary Antoni Gaudí, Sagrada Familia was under the supervision of Spanish architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose original 1877 design was rather simple and traditional.

Funnily enough, Gaudí actually worked under del Villar on another project, years earlier. After disagreements with another architect on the job, del Villar abandoned Sagrada Familia and recommended Gaudí — then an ascendent designer — to take his place.

Gaudí immediately drew up new blueprints so grandiose that he eventually had to devote all of his focus to the construction of the church itself, which he did in 1914. He would spend his final decade preoccupied only with the basilica.

But by 1891, Gaudí realized that the temple would not be completed in his lifetime. Often asked about how long the church would take, Gaudí is said to have always replied, “My client is not in a hurry.”

Because of this, he decided to start construction of the exterior of the church first; nervous that donations might dry up once patrons could worship inside. In fact, donations did dry up for a while — for approximately 18 years during and after Spain’s Civil War. Anarchists set the incomplete church on fire, torching much of the workshop. But in 1954, construction restarted. By then, Gaudí was already long dead.

Indeed, when he died in 1926, the church was only about 20 percent complete.

A Bold Architectural Vision Inspired By Nature

Tanatat pongphibool, thailand/Getty ImagesLa Sagrada Familia was designed in the art-nouveau style. Once complete, it will be the tallest church of any kind.

As these photos of Sagrada Familia show, part of what makes this temple so breathtaking is its vast symbolism and parallels to nature, as was Gaudí’s signature style.

It is composed of five naves in the shape of a Latin cross. Four towers representing the 12 apostles extend from each of the three exterior facades; the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory. The three entrances of the church even symbolize the three virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love.

With organic patterns and columns that resemble trees, Gaudí’s belief that nature is the work of God is a prevalent motif. Interestingly, he was not a devout Catholic when he began the project.

According to tour guide Onno Schoemaker, Gaudí had ultra-specific and detailed biblical scenes carved into the church’s facade because he knew much of Barcelona’s working class was illiterate at the time. “So Gaudí wanted to tell the story of Jesus through imagery, through sculptures and visual elements, rather than through text. ” He explained.

Indeed, the front of the church is almost like a “storybook.” Within each of the three facades, “you get specific elements of Jesus’ life story.”

However, text is not completely absent from the design. Included in the themes are words from the liturgy; towers are inscribed with the words “Hosanna,” “Excelsis,” and “Sanctus.” When the Glory façade is finished, it will feature words from the Apostles’ Creed.

Modern-Day Controversy Haunts Sagrada Familia

JordiRamisa/Getty ImagesThe stained glass windows at the entrance to the basilica.

Today, the church is nearly complete. But now, controversy surrounds it. Residents that live nearby feel crowded out, as the continued construction encroaches on their property lines.

Janet Sanz, deputy mayor for urban planning, the environment, and transportation, serves as a spokesperson for the residents. “How do we guarantee that the neighborhood isn’t converted into one giant souvenir stand? How do we keep traffic flowing? And when we already have a shortage, is destroying more housing the best solution?” She asked.

Not only this, but there’d been rumors that Sagrada Familia never acquired the proper building permits in the first place. “When I took office,” Sanz noted, “I asked my team to look into it, and we saw that for more than 130 years, they had been building without a license.”

La Sagrada Familia’s board members wanted to rectify this oversight. In addition to securing the permits and paying past construction taxes, they made a deal to cover costs with an additional $36 million over the next decade. This could provide increased security and a private metro entrance so the surrounding streets would be less clogged with tourists.

All those improvements would undoubtedly prove helpful because, in 2005, the Nativity façade and crypt were declared a UNESCO world heritage site. This increases interest and brings in even more tourism. Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated La Sagrada Familia as a minor basilica in 2010 — increasing visitors even more.

Many on the construction team are deeply religious. Recreating Gaudí’s plans is a daunting task, but one they take profound meaning from. As current head architect Jordi Faulí remarked, “Somehow, Sagrada Familia lifts everyone so that they bring their best to it. It’s transcendent.”

After perusing these photos of Sagrada Familia, read about two of Spain’s most remarkable architectural marvels, Bellver Castle and Paronella Castle.

▷ BASILICA LA MERCÈ (Our Lady of Mercy) Barcelona

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