One man’s faith – a visit to Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Hi Frugalistas!

I’m not a religious person.  In fact I’m a card carrying atheist.  But I couldn’t help but be so moved when I recently visited the Sagrada Familia – the Gaudi designed Basilica in Barcelona.  Building has been underway for over 100 years now, and there are plans (hopes?) to complete the works in time for the centenary of Gaudi’s death in 2026.

Gaudi was a very religious man apparently, and it was this faith that drove him to spend the bulk of his life (and indeed until the end of his life) dedicated to this project.  But the Sagrada Familia is not just a testament to religious faith.  Regardless of your own spiritual beliefs, consider this:

Gaudi knew the church would never be completed in his own lifetime, but he did it anyway.  He needed to rely on others to continue his work, and to continue to interpret his detailed drawings in accordance with his vision.  Not just architects and engineers, but stonemasons, builders….hundreds of people over the years.

The work continuing, while the tourists throng

The work continuing, while the tourists throng

The current building (in white) and what still needs to be done (in brown) shown from two perspectives

The current building (in brown) and what still needs to be done (in white) shown from two perspectives

Gaudi had complete faith in his design – which must have seemed radical, if not frankly bizarre to 19th century eyes.  His vision was strong and individual – how could he possibly imagine what the finished product would look like and how people would respond to it.

Spires and a facade that appears to drip like a candle - who could imagine?

Spires and a facade that from a distance appears to drip like a candle – who could imagine?

Faith that technology would hold his vision in good stead – Gaudi could not possibly have conceived of what technology was to come and how this would affect the final design and the final experience of the interiors.  Modern lighting and modern materials make for a stunning result.

Modern lighting meets 19th century design in a perfect marriage

Modern lighting meets 19th century design in a perfect marriage

Faith in nature.  Gaudi was deeply influenced by nature – it was artistically perfect (in God’s image, perhaps in Gaudi’s mind), but he also understood that nature was the key to the engineering challenges he faced.  The interior of the church is based on a forest.  The fruit motives decorating spires are just plain fun, and quartz motifs dance with light.

Fruit on the spires may be wacky, but nature is perfect......

Fruit on the spires may be wacky, but nature is perfect……

Quartz religious motifs glow like magic, even on a cloudy Barcelona morning

Quartz religious motifs glow like magic, even on a cloudy Barcelona morning

And the faith continues.  While the interior of the church is completed and it was consecrated a Basilica in 2010, building the exterior continues – this includes the massive central spire which is just emerging from the centre of the site.  Most of workers on the site donate their time – whether it is an act of religious faith, or faith in the project is irrelevant – it is faith completing this glorious project.  Financing for the building comes from entry fees and donations – faith in the project keeps it progressing towards completion.

Gaudi's drawings for one of the facades.....

Gaudi’s drawings for one of the facades…..

.....and the 1980s final result

…..and the 1980s final result

Visit the Sagrada Familia and contribute to this massive project of faith – regardless of what and where your faith lies.  It is a stunning building, dramatic, overwhelming and extraordinary.  The only thing I would say though is, don’t have faith in your ability to just roll up and wander in.  Queues are massive regardless of the time of day – so prebook a timed entry ticket online and jump the queue.  You can stay as long as you like, and the museum in the basement telling the fantastic story of this beautiful building is well worth the visit.

Perfect trees

Perfect trees

Disclaimer:  the author paid for, and arranged her own visit to the Sagrada Familia.

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19 Comments on “One man’s faith – a visit to Sagrada Familia, Barcelona”

  1. FoundTravel 14/12/2012 at 8:17 pm #

    This is one of my absolute favorite places to visit! I wasn’t expecting to like it (not my style!) but WOW! I was lucky enough to be there to hear the organist practicing as well… talk about experiences of faith.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 14/12/2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Yes, me too. I went because I was interested in it as a sort of architectural curiosity, but I seriously underestimated it. I really did find it very moving, even with hundreds of tourists posing for pictures everywhere.

      Thanks for commenting, and enjoying it. It’s a different piece to my usual style, so it’s great to get positive feedback from a regular reader!

  2. Fraussie Grouet 14/12/2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Thank you for this post. We are planning a holiday in Barcelona (a home exchange) in February. and Gaudi is obviously on top of the list. What part of the city would you suggest we aim at for our accommodation? We like to walk as much as we can.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 14/12/2012 at 8:32 pm #

      If you like Gaudi, aim for somewhere around the avenue of discord or around the placa de Catalunya area. You can walk to most of the main tourist sites from around there. I stayed in a hotel on the Grande Via and found it a perfect location – I’m also a walker.

      Thank you for enjoying the post

  3. Tiny Girl with Big Bag 16/12/2012 at 2:11 am #

    It was nice to read about the story, I have not heard it before. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. theloftbarcelona 16/12/2012 at 3:04 am #

    Reblogged this on THELOFTBARCELONA.

  5. Shane Todd 18/12/2012 at 12:37 am #

    Isn’t it impressive! I really want to go back to Barcelona one day!!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 18/12/2012 at 8:10 am #

      Me too! Still so much I haven’t seen, despite having visited twice now. Next time I’d also love to do a trip north to Figueres to the Dali museum, and then perhaps head up into France and beautiful Collioure.

  6. Freya 21/12/2012 at 7:50 am #

    It’s on my list to visit, so beautiful !

  7. tgruber 08/04/2014 at 2:36 am #

    I agree completely, visiting the Sagrada Familia was a very moving and fascinating experience. We had to pull ourselves away. When traveling in Europe you get so used to dark, gothic, very serious cathedrals and then you walk into Sagrada Familia so full of light — you can’t help but me moved.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 08/04/2014 at 3:40 am #

      I think that’s why it is so moving – it’s so different to anything else you see in Europe. The Gothic cathedral in Barcelona is so dark, even by European standards, that I’m sure it must have influenced Gaudi. Thanks for dropping by and commenting

  8. Kristin Henning 24/06/2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Glad you made it through the tourists to view the real spectacle.

  9. frugalfirstclasstravel 19/12/2012 at 7:52 am #

    Thanks for the reblog!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Croc Monsieur: Meet Adam Ruck, The Man Who Cycles in Crocs! – One man’s faith – a visit to Sagrada Familia, Barcelona – English French words | Aussie in France - 19/12/2012

    […] Gaudi knew the church would never be completed in his own lifetime, but he did it anyway. Read more […]

  2. frugalfirstclasstravel guides – a short guide to Barcelona | frugalfirstclasstravel - 05/03/2013

    […] A Visit to Sagrada Familia […]

  3. Sagrada Família Church by Gaudi in Barcelona - Art Nouveau - 13/03/2013

    […] Familia church. Designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi, construction started in 1882 with its completion date set for 2026. Gaudi changed the initial design transforming the church into a combination of Gothic and Art […]

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