on September 27, 2011
La Sagrada Familia (or Holy Church of the Family in English) is one of Barcelona’s most famous landmarks, if not the most famous. It was mainly designed and built by Antoni Gaudi and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, even though it is not finished. It has an interesting history because it has taken so long to get to its current state. Work began on it in 1882 after a Catalan bookseller was inspired by a visit to the Vatican City. Gaudi himself took over a year later, although he was in no hurry to complete the job, proclaiming that ‘my client is not in a hurry’. Even after his death work continued, although regularly interrupted by such things as the Spanish Civil War. Its current design is based on the once lost original designs of Gaudi.The church is a train ride away from the city centre. Getting an underground train from the top of La Ramblas is easy, quick and cheap at just one Euro. The church’s nearest station is right outside the entrance and you will immediately find yourself amongst the many thousands of people who visit it each year. It is impossible to look up at it from ground level and not be wowed. We didn’t actually go inside the church because the queues were absolutely ridiculous, snaking around the side of the monstrous building even first thing in the morning. Under the baking heat of the August sun, we decided to skip the wait and instead walked around the edge. This is absolutely worth doing for a number of reasons. Firstly, as the church is famously unfinished, the front of it is perpetually covered in scaffolding and cranes. Not so around the back, where the work seems to be mainly finished. Secondly, far fewer people wander around here so it is much quieter and far easier to get a good picture. I actually much preferred the back of the church as it seems to have much more of Gaudi’s stamp on it, with the spires and steeples looking a lot more fantastical and cake like. That is the best way I can describe Gaudi’s unique style – it looks like a cake that has been frosted from a child’s imagination. Rather than having straight edges and sharp points, the features have smoother and rounded sides, a bit like icing sliding down the side. It is a fantastic sight and really showcases Gaudi’s extravagant and eye watering vision.If you do venture inside, you’ll see that it is very much like the outside in that Gaudi’s stamp is splashed all over it. It’ll cost you though because ticket sales are the main contributor to its continued construction – the church is not funded by Government or religious groups. The church is open to visitors 9am until 8pm in summer and from 9am until 6pm in winter. Entrance will cost 12 Euros fifty, although it is free for friends of the church, children under ten and those with what the website describes as 65% disability.Over the years, there has been much debate and controversy about whether or not Gaudi’s masterpiece should be completed and work has stopped and started again on a regular basis. The latest proclamation is that it will be finished in 2026 – the centenary of Gaudi’s death. I personally hope it is never completed as that is one of the things that makes it such an interesting and unique building – it is as much about the history as the place itself.
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