“Works well with stone, iron and broken ceramic tiles”

It is the city’s pride and joy.  It brings millions of tourists to this city every year, though there are undoubtedly plenty of other reasons to come. It is, and always has been largely a money-making enterprise for its own development. It is private funded and has little connection with the established church, either financially or, it appears, spiritually. 

It is Sagrada Familia.


This is a postcard view with no cranes.  They are aiming to complete construction, commenced in 1882 by 2026, the 100th anniversary its architect Antoni Gaudi. More likely 2050, but lots of work is underway.

It is an extraordinary design by a city hero, who was buried in the crypt in 1926. His designs, not only of this building, are heavily influenced by this strong religiosity, the New Testament, and church liturgy.

Much of his time was spent in the building of the northern side, the Nativity Façade, by which you enter the basilica. This centre section clearly looks older than much of the rest of the construction to date. 





I found this fasçade hard to read. The heavy embellishments of every conceivable and inconceivable type made identifying the characters and the stories difficult. I felt concern that this early fascade was weathering at a rate quite different to the newer work. This also made visualisation difficult (for me).

The southern side, the Passion Fasçade (or Darth Vader wall as I saw it) was much newer, with whiter stone, less elaborate decoration no doubt befitting the subject matter. Here, the figures are more modernist, angular, much less realism, but the stories stand out from their austere background. I admired this aspect of the building the most.





Inside…lots of columns..


Lots of them…


And a baldacchino, rehearsed by Gaudi in his renovation of the cathedral in Palma de Mallorca.


Some ugly tourists (can’t blame Gaudi for them)….


A subtle, rather an imposing, organ…


Glass lifts (Gaudi did have lifts in his residential buildings)….


Extraordinary ceilings, which do admire…



Some more Darth Vader moments…



and lots of quirky Gaudisms…



Some great craftsmanship in the internal walls and stairways.



The crypt from above…


Catalans refer to the building as a temple (not an expression we are familiar with in relation to a Christian building). In 2010, Pope Benedict consecrated the building as a minor basilica (a big church that is not a Cathedral – the seat of an Archbishop.
Below is the west wall what it intended as the main entrance doors of the completed building, draft shown below, through what will be the Glory Façade – telling the story of humanity and of the path’s to eternal happiness. 

Slight problem – this fasçade is almost on the boundary of the side street, leaving no room for an appropriate forecourt to the main façade and entrance. There is talk of closing the road and buying the flats opposite to make room. Because this is a private development, no one yet knows what might be negotiated.


The Glory Doors in draft, highlighting the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan, surrounded by the prayer in 50 languages as an expression of the brotherhood between cultures.

There is an adjoining Sacristy on the southern side (I don’t think those people are sanctuary servers)…..






While he works well with stone, iron and broken ceramics, Gaudi’s wooden furniture looks out of character and uncomfortable.


All the Holy Water fonts were empty.


A sign said that the Angelus was said in the basilica at midday (as it should be), and the crypt was set aside for prayer. Otherwise most tourists looked like they were in a shopping centre. No attempts at reverence for a place of God. No services appear to be held in the building. It is just a cash cow. I’m sure Gaudi would have expected more.

One comment

  1. Elsbeth

    Nearly 30 years ago Bronwen and I were in Barcelona. I’m glad that you included the Sagrada Familiia in your travels, it’s something that was an amazing experience for me (and her). Such a difference between this and your last blog! I chuckled at your suggestions of the ordinary people visiting being like going to a shopping mall. In a way, no wonder, the building has taken so long to be built and with many twists and turns in architecture, not to mention also in the social makeup of Spain. So much to take in architecturally that the notion of God becomes immersed as a part of the overall, and the sense of God can be lost. But that’s life also, amid the struggle of each day, the presence of God can be viewed in a baby, in the diverse faces of people visiting, in the vast building itself.

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