Sagrada Familia. Or: you are not ready for this.

Several years ago I took a road trip to see some of America’s national parks. I hadn’t been to any, and that felt like a horrible travesty. I camped in Zion. I hiked around Bryce Canyons.

But when I got to the Grand Canyon, I was speechless. Agog. Flummoxed, dazzled, and unable to properly fit into my head what I was experiencing. It remains a moment that sticks out in my mind like a signpost in my life: that was a defining moment simply because what I experienced was so outside of what I could have expected and what my mind was ready for.

The Grand Canyon stunned me with a work of nature that was profound.

The Sagrada Familia stunned me with a work of architecture.

Words just don’t work in this instance. You must experience it.  My friend Mimic and I stumbled around, necks craning to the ceiling, mouths hanging open, literally speechless.  We spent an hour waiting in line to get in, and over an hour wandering around inside.  After that, the rest of the day was devoid of anything that could impress or inspire me.  My beauty receptors had been filled and no more could get in.

When you go, a few tips:

  • Avoid waiting in line.  Get your tickets online ahead of time, which will give you a timeslot to go, and you won’t have to wait with the rabble.
  • If you plan to see any other stuff in Barcelona, see this last.  After this, every building you see, no matter how magnificent, will yield a response like “yep, that’s a building.  Whoopee.”

A quick summary of things to know if you know nothing about this place:

  • It is a basilica designed by Anton Gaudi and done in Gothic and “Art Nouveau” so it looks unlike anything you’ve seen.
  • Gaudi only finished one of the facades before his death.  The rest is being built according to his plans.
  • It’s still under construction, so the outside has cranes going at all times.  They aim to finish this by 2026 for the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi.  Locals think this is highly unlikely.
  • There is so much symbolism in the art and architecture that you could study the history and design for a long time, learning new facts and insights constantly.  At the least, give the Wikipedia entry and the main page a quick gander to understand what you are looking at.

The main entry is under heavy construction, so you enter to the side, through the “Passion” façade, designed to show the horrors of the Passion of the Christ.  It’s meant to be gaunt and depressing.  Giant trunks (supposed to look like sequoia trunks) stretch to up to support the massive structure.

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Double doors with carved words leads you inside.

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Once inside, the impression is of perfectly clean and structured lines, and an overarching sense of geometric precision. It’s absolutely stunning.

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Structure

There is a lot of information about how important the lighting was for Guadi. During the day it is beautiful with natural light streaming in through the windows. During nighttime I understand the same care is taken for the artificial lighting to fill the area, but not overwhelm.

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Intended to be a forest canopy overhead
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One of four organs

Going through to the other side, you get a close-up view of the Glory façade. The detail is outstanding.

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The Glory façade, completed by Gaudi, showing celebration at the birth of Jesus.
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Three kings
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Details of the birth

Back inside there is a fully active church in the lower floor. There was a service going on while we were there.

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The center of the main floor is just mind-blowing in structure, lighting, and size.

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So, another must-do thing on your list if you visit Barcelona. But see this last. Everything else will not compare.

3 thoughts on “Sagrada Familia. Or: you are not ready for this.

  1. Korey, the pictures are incredible–I love the idea that this is rendered in a more modern, timeless aesthetic, rather than the realism so many churches follow. I also love the acknowledgement of nature in the trees.
    Not being Christian, I feel I can comment it’s interesting to see this design appears to include an umbrella over Jesus. 🙂

    1. Well… you wouldn’t want him getting damp, would you? I mean, the poor guy is already stuck on a cross, dying for all mankind’s sins. The least you can do is get the man an umbrella. And maybe some oreos. That would take the sting out of the situation I bet.

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