La Sagrada Familia: 10 Facts To Know Before Visiting Gaudí’s Masterpiece
Antoni Gaudí is responsible for more than a dozen properties in and around Barcelona, each of which demonstrates his exceptional creative contribution to advanced construction technology and architecture in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The most renowned of all of his eclectic, organic creations is La Sagrada Familia, which is the most popular visitor attraction in Barcelona. You can visit the Sagrada with us here at Real Barcelona on our Sagrada Familia Semi-Private Tour!
From the very beginning, his designs created much controversy and divide, particularly in the architectural and art historical communities. Love or loath the products of his powerful imagination, Gaudí's work is astounding, incredibly unique, and highly sophisticated. Rather than following accepted norms and contemporary styles, his designs were radically different from anything else at the time.
A deeply pious Catholic in later life, nature and God were Gaudí’s primary inspirations. La Sagrada Familia is a personal record of this unwavering religious faith and an expression of his love of symbolism, mystery, and poetry in architecture. Nature, in all its forms - flora, geology, water, sunlight, the star system, animals, humans, skeletons - is so intrinsically embedded in the organic, abstract, and often bizarre designs of his buildings and ornamental schemes.
To pique your interest and provide a foundation of useful knowledge before your trip to Barcelona, here are 10 fascinating facts about Gaudí’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia.
1. It’s Still Not Finished
Nope, this is not a joke! Although construction began in 1882, Gaudí’s pride and joy is still not complete. However, the finish line is in sight, with an expected completion date of 2026-2028. Not long to go! Six additional towers have yet to be added, including a 170-metre (560-ft) central tower. Hopefully it won’t take another 135 years, but you never know - it’s an incredibly complex building.
2. It’s The Tallest Church in The World
Well, it will be the tallest church in the world when the 170-metre central spire is finally added at some point over the next few years. At the present time, it’s almost the tallest church in the world, which is still quite impressive. Currently, the record is held by Ulm Minster in Germany, which reaches 530 ft (161.5 m) at the peak of its central spire.
3. Gaudí is Buried Here
In 1926, at the age of 73, Gaudí died in a tragic accident when he was hit by a tram in Barcelona. He was laid to rest in the crypt of Sagrada Familia in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Up until his death, Gaudí had been working exclusively on Sagrada Familia for 12 years.
Join us on our Gaudi's Imagination Tour, where you'll enjoy insights into Gaudi's creative imagination and some of the most famous streets in Barcelona. A child friendly tour, this is an engaging option for the entire family!
4. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Along with six other properties in and around Barcelona, Sagrada Familia was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the collective entry of “Works of Gaudí”. The other buildings are Parque Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, Casa Batlló, and the Crypt in Colonia Güell.
5. It’s not Barcelona Cathedral
Despite many people assuming that Sagrada Familia is the city’s cathedral, it’s not. The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is actually Barcelona Cathedral, which was completed in 1420 and is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.
6. It’s Received Mixed Reviews
Louis Sullivan - legendary American architect, the “father of skyscrapers”, and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright - described Gaudí’s creation as “spirit symbolised in stone.” That’s high praise indeed from Louis.
George Orwell wished for it to be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, saying it was “one of the most hideous buildings in the world”. A tad harsh, George.
Walter Gropius - one of the pioneering masters of modernist architecture and founder of the Bauhaus School - gave high praise to its technical perfection.
Salvador Dalí considered it a “terrifying and edible beauty” and thought it should be protected under a glass dome. That’s definitely a big compliment from Sal.
7. It Features on a Prince Album Cover
The cover of Prince’s 1994 album shows the singer standing in front of the iron gates of Sagrada Familia. Shot at night by documentary and political photographer Terry Gydesen, the stained glass windows and the eerie outline of the basilica’s skeleton-like angular piers create the perfect gothic backdrop for this imposing, other-worldly, and somewhat sinister album cover.
8. It’s Lots of Architectural Styles and None at the Same Time
Sagrada Familia is incredibly botanical in its design and lends itself to a number of architectural styles, including neo-Gothic, Spanish Baroque, Art Nouveau, and the architecture of Morocco, but it’s really quite unique in the extreme originality of its design. It doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, though many people continue to try!
9. Each of its 18 Towers Has Religious Significance
Christian symbolism is imbued and expressed throughout every design aspect of Sagrada Familia.
The 18 towers of the church - although not all completed - have special significance. The middle spire is dedicated to Jesus Christ. The four surrounding towers represent the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and john. The spire above the apse, which is crowned by a star, represents the Virgin Mary. The remaining 12 spires represent Christ’s Apostles, or ‘Disciples’.
10. It’s Height Must Not Supersede God’s Creations
Whilst aiming to make a lasting impact on Barcelona’s skyline and create a building that could be seen from all parts of the city, Gaudí’s design of Sagrada Familia had to be consistent with his unwavering respect for God’s work. Part of this belief was that no man-made object should supersede the work of God, thus Sagrada Familia is (and will remain when completed) a few metres below Barcelona’s highest natural point, which is the hill of Montjuïc.
At Real Barcelona we are extremely passionate about giving you the best possible experience of this beautiful country (and city!) we call home. Seeing some of Gaudi's most famous work is an experience you'll never forget; but if you'd like to see a bit more of the city as well, join us for our Highlights of Barcelona Tour where you'll also discover Barceloneta and many other sights along the way.