The Sagrada Familia is an enormous Roman Catholic Church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. Located in the L’Eixample district, it is one of the the most famous landmarks in Barcelona and is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
During the mid 19th century José María Bocabella, Chairman of The Holy Brotherhood organisation commissioned the architect Francisco del Villar to design a basilica dedicated to the Holy Family and construction began in 1882. Francisco del Villar designed a neo gothic church but due to disagreements between him and Bocabella, the architect resigned and the project was taken over by Gaudi in 1883. Gaudi redesigned the project entirely in his modernist style and worked on the Sagrada Familia until his death in 1926, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to it. Since then, several architects have continued the work, following Gaudi’s original idea. The estimated completion date of the project is subject to debate but currently it is scheduled to be completed in 2026. The building is financed entirely by private donations and entrance fees.
The Sagrada Familia is visited annually by millions of people and many also study its architectural and religious content. The plan consists of a large church in the shape of a Latin cross with three main facades and eighteen towers, designed with the ultimate goal of explaining the teachings of the Gospel. Twelve towers represent the twelve apostles (four on each of the three facades) another four represent the four Evangelists, one represents the Virgin Mary with the tallest representing Jesus Christ. The facades depict Biblical Stories and to date, two facades and eight towers all over 100 metres high have been completed. The eastern facade (the Nativity facade) was the only one completed by Gaudi and his style is very visible from the numerous plants and animals sculpted into the stone.
Construction slowed following Gaudi’s death in 1926 and at that stage only the Nativity facade, one tower, the apse and the crypt were completed. Progress was further delayed due to the Spanish Civil War in 1936, during which the crypt was burned and many original drawings, designs and models were destroyed. Work recommenced in the 1940’s with the architect Francesc de Paula Quintana restoring the crypt and many of the models. In 1961 a museum was installed in the crypt offering information on the historical, technical, artistic and symbolic aspects of the temple.
Gaudi’s remains now lie in the crypt. The western facade (The Passion facade) was finished in 2002, depicting the pain and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This was the work of Josep Subirachs and has been criticised for its Gothic style which is in stark contrast to Gaudi’s. The southern facade (the Glory facade) depicting life and death, is currently under construction. Work is also being carried out on the main tower dedicated to Jesus Christ.
A visit to the Sagrada Familia has much to offer, such as observing the details of the facades, visiting the nave, the shop, the crypt and museum, and climbing the towers, which offer spectacular views. The towers can be climbed by elevator and descended by spiral stone staircases that look like snail shells. However, this is not recommended for people with a fear of heights.
Opening Times and Prices
Opening times for the Sagrada Familia are as follows:
November through February: 9 am to 6 pm
March and October: 9 am to 7 pm.
April through September: 9 am to 8 pm.
25 and 26 December, 1 and 6 January: 9 am to 2 pm.