Sunday, June 30: I have a 1:00 advanced-purchase admission ticket to La Sagrada Familia, so I head there directly from Casa Batllo. I’m so happy I bought the ticket online, as the line to buy tickets reaches around the block. Since I get there a little before my appointed time slot, I have a Spanish ham pizza in the park across from the church.
According to Wikipedia, La Sagrada Família was begun on 19 March 1882 as a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901). At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.
Gaudí’s original design calls for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires were built as of 2010, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles at the Passion façade.
The Evangelists’ spires will be surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (Saint Luke), a winged man (Saint Matthew, an eagle (Saint John), and a lion (Saint Mark). The central spire of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; the spire’s total height (170 meters (560 ft)) will be one meter less than that of Montjuic hill in Barcelona as Gaudí believed that his creation should not surpass God’s. The lower spires are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.
When the spires are completed, Sagrada Família will be the tallest church building in the world (Wikipedia: Sagrada Família).
On the street across from Sagrada Familia are a number of artists displaying colorful paintings. Some of them seem to be absorbed in an intense game of chess.
The building is in the center of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country. It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, 131 years ago now, it has been built from donations. Gaudí himself said: “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.” The building is still going on and could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century (La Sagrada Familia).
In contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble a skeleton if it were reduced to only bone. Dedicated to the Passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion, the façade was intended to portray the sins of man. Construction began in 1954, following the drawings and instructions left by Gaudí for future architects and sculptors. The towers were completed in 1976, and in 1987 a team of sculptors, headed by Josep Maria Subirachs, began work sculpting the various scenes and details of the façade. They aimed to give a rigid, angular form to provoke a dramatic effect. Gaudí intended for this façade to strike fear into the onlooker. He wanted to “break” arcs and “cut” columns, and to use the effect of chiaroscuro (dark angular shadows contrasted by harsh rigid light) to further show the severity and brutality of Christ’s sacrifice(Wikipedia: Sagrada Família).
The Passion Facade is my favorite, as I find the Nativity Facade on the other side of the church too closely resembles Gothic, not my favorite architectural style. The Passion Facade, though too linear and harsh to be Romanesque, resembles that style in its simplicity.
Inside, the church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach forty-five metres (150 ft) while the side nave vaults reach thirty metres (100 ft). Gaudí intended that a visitor standing at the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, crossing, and apse; thus the graduated increase in vault loft (Wikipedia: Sagrada Família) .
Walking into this church, I find I am awestruck by the immensity and by the height, which represents to me man’s immense efforts to reach God. It literally brings tears to my eyes.
Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. As it is not the seat of a bishop, it is incorrect to refer to it as a cathedral.
Constructed between 1894 and 1930, the Nativity Façade was the first façade to be completed. Dedicated to the birth of Jesus, it is decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life. Characteristic of Gaudí’s naturalistic style, the sculptures are ornately arranged and decorated with scenes and images from nature.
The façade faces the rising sun to the northeast, a symbol for the birth of Christ. It is divided into three porticos, each of which represents a theological virtue (Hope, Faith and Charity). The Tree of Life rises above the door of Jesus in the portico of Charity. Four towers complete the façade and are each dedicated to a Saint (Wikipedia: Sagrada Família).
Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining. It is anticipated it will be completed in 2026—the centennial of Gaudí’s death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed rail link to France could disturb its stability. (Wikipedia: La Sagrada Familia)
This is an immense and amazing church and a great monument to God.
When objections were raised as to the extended completion date of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí said: “Don´t worry, my client isn´t in a hurry.” (Sagrada Familia: Gaudi Quotes)