La Sagrada Familia - I'm not paying that!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Slug on March 4, 2012

I've visited what is perhaps Barcelona's most famous landmark, Gaudi's massive and unfinished cathedral 3 or 4 times, and each time am fascinated by Gaudi's mind and eye for design, and yet horrified at the entrance price (it was 16 Euros to see inside the Cathedral and to go up the towers), the crowds and the indecent haste in which the building is being thrown up to achieve completion.

This time around, for each of these reasons we simply enjoyed the cathedral from the outside rather than visit the innards. I'm not too sure what the famously humble and pious Gaudi would make of the huge charges made to visit his cathedral creation. I'm guessing he would not be too impressed.

In Gaudi's day each block of the cathedral was lovingly carved from stone and placed according to his plans. After his death in 1926, and the partial destruction of the cathedral during the Spanish Civil War, I suspect many thought his Cathedral would never be built. Indeed I remember my student house mate (an architect student) visiting the site in 1986, musing that he would never see the building completed in his lifetime.

Since those days, donations (largely from the Israel and Japanese community) saw a revitalisation of effort to complete the La Sagrada Familia. Of course, the days of cheap labour in the western world has largely disappeared, and in replacement of the original carved blocks, a fair bit of the building is now constructed with concrete; cheaper and easier to work with. The age of the original work, together with changes in pollution control and the materials used means that the different constructions viewed from the outside of the Cathedral looks quite different – new bits are concrete, older bits are blackened stone.

The main carving of the entrance ways are also interesting in their contrast – the softer statues produced by Gaudi, contrast hugely with the angular and gaunt style of the architect roped in to construct this later entrance, Josep Maria Subirachs. While it is a controversial choice, I actually prefer the work of the incomer. I'm not religious in the slightest, but it clearly shows the suffering of Christ on the cross. I don't want to see a happy, well fed Christ there. You can get a good view of both ends of the cathedral without paying the entrance fee.

Inside, the church now has a roof, and last time I visited some three years ago, I could appreciate for the first time, the tall forest feel that Gaudi was looking to achieve with the columns he built moving ever more slender and divided as they progress upwards. A few of the windows also had bold stained glass windows installed, and I'm sure that more of the interior is now closed from the elements.

The highlight inside is to climb up the towers, to get a closer view of the ornate carving (or moulding) of those fanciful spires. The climb is not for the fainthearted, as Gaudi designed holes at the outer edges of the circular stairwells, meaning that as you descend you can see to the floor. Likewise, there are a couple of arched bridges taking you from spire to spire; I remember crawling on my knees across a particularly high but low walled one in the past.

Unfortunately, each time I visit, it seems I see less of the architecture and more of the Cathedral the building is destined to become. While I appreciate others of a religious persuasion will be more excited by the progression to fully functioning place of worship, I cannot but regret those more incomplete days where you could more easily wander around the structure.

From the outside, you can cross the road to a park area with a lake to get a good view of the cathedral. Quite a few folks linger here a while with a picnic or an ice cream. As with the rest of Barcelona, keep an eye on your belongings as you wander around looking for that perfect shot.

I will no doubt pay to enter the interior at some point in future as the development progresses further; not least, I am interested to see how the interior is dressed as time goes on. However for now I got a reasonable impression of how the Cathedral has progressed since my last visit and I regret that those innocent days when the place really was nothing more than a huge building site are gone forever.
La Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Barcelona, Spain, 08013
+34 93 2073031

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