La Sagrada Familia
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La Sagrada Familia
Perhaps one of the world’s most iconic buildings, the Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (otherwise known as the Sagrada Familia) is a Roman Catholic church in Barcelona designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (also known for famous architectural works in the city such as La Pedrera, Casa Battlo and Parc Guell). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts almost 3 million visitors a year and has become an emblematic monument of the Spanish city, yet it remains an unfinished masterpiece.
The History of La Sagrada Familia
The foundation stone of the Sagrada Familia was laid in 1882 but when Gaudi became involved with the project the following year, he changed the original plans for a neo-Gothic church in order to create something much more visionary. He wanted to the inside of the cathedral to look like a forest and envisioned it being able to seat 13,000 people with a central tower 170 metres high above the transept. The tower would be surrounded by 17 smaller towers representing the apostles, Virgin Mary, the four evangelists and Jesus. Gaudi also imagined the façade to show scenes from the nativity and other biblical elements. The Sagrada Familia, along with Gaudi’s other work in Barcelona, showcases his unique style that combines elements of Art Nouveau, Catalan Modernism and Spanish neo-Gothic design.
Gaudi worked tirelessly on the project until his untimely death in 1926 but less than a quarter of the church had been completed. Finishing Gaudi’s architectural wonder has relied solely on private donations and as a result, the Sagrada Familia’s construction has progressed slowly, particularly following a hiatus during the Spanish Civil War. In July 1936, revolutionaries broke into the crypt (where Gaudi is buried) and set it on fire, destroying Gaudi’s original plans, models and drawings. It took almost two decades for those working on the project to put fragments of the master model back together and continue fulfilling Gaudi’s vision. In the last few years, technology advancements have allowed construction to progress at a quicker rate and it is now anticipated that the church will be finished by 2026, a century after Gaudi’s death. When the Sagrada Familia is completed, it will be tallest religious building in all of Europe.
Visiting La Sagrada Familia
No trip to Barcelona is complete without seeing the famous Sagrada Familia and it is a unique experience. Although the church remains a building site, the completed sections and the museum, the underground Museu Gaudi, can be explored. Guides are available for a group tour or if in a small group, you have the option of a guided or audio tour. The price of the admission ticket depends on which areas of the church you see and depending if you visit the highest part of the Basilica.
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