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Night view of the Sagrada Familia and the Torre Glòries tower in Barcelona, Catalonia

The Sagrada Familia, Antonio Gaudí’s most important work in Barcelona

Barcelona

You’ve sure to have heard of it: one of the most famous works of architect Antoni Gaudí, the greatest exponent of Catalan modernism, and an essential part of the Barcelona skyline, which is one of the most frequently visited monuments in Spain. It’s a work that amazes visitors with its architecture, its shapes and its cultural relevance, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. If you’d like to learn more about the past, present and future of this incredible basilica, read on.

More than 135 years after the first stone was laid, the building is still under construction. The first proposal for the structure was put forward in 1882 by Francisco de Paula de Villar, a project made up of designs that ultimately bore no resemblance to the basilica’s final appearance. Paula de Villar had mapped out a basilica abounding in neo-Gothic elements, but, in the end – due to various setbacks and misunderstandings – he was relieved of his duties one year later and the project was handed over to Antonio Gaudí, a promising architect who changed the direction of the construction.

Night view of the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, Catalonia

From the very start, Gaudí imprinted his very particular personal style on the building to which he would dedicate most of his life – 40 years, 15 of which he devoted exclusively to the basilica. However, the creator of this architectural masterpiece only lived to see certain sections of the basilica completed – very few, in fact – with only the crypt and part of the Nativity façade reaching completion before his death. The vision of this brilliant architect was based on two main lines: Christian discourse and the observation of nature. For Gaudí, nature was clearly related to religion, as it was a work of God. It is for this reason that many of the spaces are organic in form or inspired by natural elements, such as the central nave and its columns, which represent a leafy forest teeming with trees. 

Detail of one of the façades of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Catalonia

Light is another fundamental element in the basilica, as it serves not simply as illumination, but also to create spaces overflowing with significance in which to fully appreciate the brilliance of their architect. One of the best examples of this is the way in which its various doors are lit. The rising sun at dawn lights up the door of the Nativity, symbolising birth, while the Passion Door is placed so as to catch the sun as it sets, thus symbolising death. Lastly, there is the Gloria façade, which receives sunlight the whole day through, lighting up the entire nave in a symbolic rendering of the Resurrection. Construction work on the Sagrada Familia Basilica is currently scheduled for completion in 2026, but you can already visit many parts of this house of worship and discover its secrets. What are you waiting for?

Interior nave of the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, Catalonia
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