on April 25, 2012
I had always wanted to visit the Sagrada Familia, now having done that, I can definitely say that if you only have time to see one landmark in Barcelona, then it should be this.It was Gaudi's most ambitious project. Work started in 1882 and is still going on. They estimate it will be finished in 2026. It is very much a construction site, there are lots of cranes, men at work, noise and things going on, but it does not at all detract from the church and its atmosphere. Gaudi was working on this project at the time of his death in 1926 when he was run over and killed by a tram.The building is bizarre and incredible. When we emerged from the metro station, we were all taken aback and nothing could have prepared us for our first sight of the Sagrada Familia. It is something like a combination between a melted candle and sandcastle from a distance, but when you get closer the carvings and detail on the facade is mindblowing.We had to queue for about 20 minutes to get in. It looked a bit daunting at first, but the line moved along quickly and we got time to study the facade while we waited. It is covered in religious symbolic objects and the detail is wonderful. The entrance cost is 12.50 euros for adults and children are free. It costs extra for an audio-guide, but I would definitely recommend getting one, it really brings the cathedral and its story to life and enhances the visit. They also do a great audio guide for children costing 3 euros. This was informative and interesting and our son enjoyed it very much. The downside though, was the queue for the audio-guides was almost worse than the line at the entrance!Gaudi was commissioned by the Josephines - a right wing faction of the Catholic Church to build Sagrada Familia. They believed the city of Barcelona was too decadent and needed a place of atonement where the people could go and do penance for their sins. There was no budget - money was no object, no completion deadline and they gave Gaudi a free hand to design what he wanted.The crypt and apse was finished before Gaudi died. He became obsessed with the project, moved into the workshop on site and lived a bit like a hermit, working all the time he could on this project. In the school building in front of the church, they have an interesting exhibition, it includes Gaudi's desk which is how he left it the day he was knocked over - very poignant and sad.There are no straight lines in this church - everything is flowing. Inside it is light, white and dazzling. There are lots of people and noise, but it still feels like a special, sacred place. The columns are marvellous and the sense of space and light is incredible. They plan to have 4 organs installed - as yet there is only 1.The Nativity Facade was the first one to be finished. Construction stopped in 1936 for 20 years due to the Spanish Civil War. They finished the Passion Facade in 1990. There are 18 towers representing the 12 Apostles, 4 Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Everything inside and out has something symbolic about it, the building has such a story to tell.Unfortunately during our visit the tower was shut - you can actually take a lift to the top and get a view over the city. Construction work was going on though, so I am not sure when it will open again.You don't have to be any type of art historian or expert to see how wonderful the architecture of this church is. There is no symmetry, it is modern, unusual, has lots of handcrafted decoration and a fairy tale quality. It is a must-see.
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