La Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona.
Construction of La Sagrada Familia began in 1882 and is still underway. It has recently been announced that La Sagrada Familia will finally be finished by 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
The basilica has 3 facades, which are also filled with precise symbolism: the Nativity Facade on the east; the Passion Facade on the west; and the Glory Facade on the south. Each facade has 3 portals representing the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.
The Nativity Facade on the east side, dedicated to the birth of Christ, was completed before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudi influence. The birth of Christ is depicted in the center, with the Adoration of the Magi on the left and the Adoration of the Shepherds on the right. Above is the Annunciation and Coronation of the Virgin Mary.
The Passion Facade on the west side, dedicated to the suffering and death of Christ, is nearly complete. It is decorated with striking, angular sculptures by Josep Maria Subirach (begun 1952).
High on the Nativity Facade us a spire with a cypress tree, symbolizing the tree of life. At the foot of the tree is a pelican and angels holding chalices, symbols of the Eucharist. At the top of the tree is a red Tau cross with an ‘X’ representing Christ’s name and a dove representing the Holy Spirit.
The largest and most striking of the façades will be the Glory Façade, on which construction began in 2002. It will be the principal façade and will offer access to the central nave. Dedicated to the Celestial Glory of Jesus, it represents the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, while Hell is left for those who deviate from God’s will.
Although there are only 8 completed now, it is intended for La Sagrada Familia to have 18 spires. Two largest represent the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, four are the writers of the Gospels and 12 smaller ones symbolize Christ’s apostles.
There is endless natural symbolism within La Sagrada Família. The interior structure is supported by large pillars that look like trees. One pillar has a tortoise at its base, and another a turtle in order to show the balance between land and sea.
The holy place was built to be seen from all points of the city. It has glass mosaics at its highest points, which when reflected by sun or moonlight act as beacons to guide seafarers home.
When Gaudi was asked why he was putting so much time and effort in making the tops of the spires so elaborate, when no one could see them properly. He responded, “The angels will see them”.
Gaudí believed that no man-made object should be constructed higher than the work of God. Therefore, La Sagrada Família, when completed, will tower at 170 meters (560 ft), which was intended to be one meter less than Barcelona’s highest point, Montjuïc hill.
La Sagrada Familia is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
La Sagrada Família attracts around 3 million visitors a year.
Salvador Dalí spoke of its “terrifying and edible beauty”, saying it should be kept under a glass dome.
Walter Gropius, master of right-angled architecture and founder of the Bauhaus, praised its technical perfection.
George Orwell said it was “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” and rather hoped it would be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
Louis Sullivan, the great American architect, and “father of skyscrapers”, described it as “spirit symbolized in stone.”