Saturday, July 20, 2013

Segrada Familia

On our last day in Barcelona we spent a most enjoyable afternoon in this basilica known as the Sagrada Familia... yet another UNESCO World Heritage site designed by Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).  

Mr. Gaudi designed several remarkable properties in Barcelona and the closer I examined his work and style the greater was my appreciation of his genius.

We could walk here from our hotel easier than take the Hop On-Hop Off bus... and the ticket lines were much better later in the afternoon... less than 20 minutes.  

Construction commenced in 1882 and in 1883 Gaudi became involved, transforming the project with his creative style.  He devoted his last 15 years totally to this project and when he died in 1926 less than one quarter of this project was complete. 

We read that Gaudi was hit by a street car when crossing the Gran Via in Barcelona and died three days later.  He was 73.

Gaudi was often asked about the extremely long construction time for the church and he replied, "My client is not in a hurry."  

Gaudi knew that he would never see the sanctuary completed in his lifetime. He intended for the cathedral to not only be completed by other architects, but also to incorporate other architectural and artistic styles.

Twins getting photographed by parents at the entrance doors.

Words are used in several places in the design.

Construction passed the mid-point in 2010... and on November 7 that year the church was consecrated with 6,500 in the congregation. 100 priests and 300 bishops were on hand to offer Holy Communion. 

When we walked into this sanctuary we were blown away... totally amazed by the absolute grandeur.  

We went and sat down in the pews to meditate and pray... I didn't want to leave. The organ music helped to mitigate the sounds of a thousand people talking and milling around taking pictures.

The current goal is to have this church totally completed by the 100th centennial of Gaudi's death.  That will take some doing.  There is considerable work in completing all the exterior.  

This central vault reaches 200 feet high.

When these huge columns were made it was all hand work... which was very time and labour intensive. But today in the construction of the remaining towers most of the materials can be prefabricated using computers with CNC technology.  This will help speed things up considerably.

I borrowed this exceptional photo from Wikipedia... and there is more online. Wikipedia has a great photo history of this project and is the source of most details in this blog.

This simplified model shows all the spires... 18 in total.  The tallest represents Jesus Christ, next is the Virgin Mary, then there are the four evangelists and the 12 apostles. 

What ever happened to having a single steeple on the church?  

When finished the Jesus steeple will be 560 feet high, making this the tallest church building in the world.

So far only eight spires have been completed and they correspond with four apostles at the Passion facade.

And four apostles on the Nativity facade.  It is interesting how the character of these two facades is totally different.

Constructed between 1894 and 1930 this Nativity Facade was the first facade to be completed... so Gaudi was still alive when most of this was done, or at least commissioned.

This facade was dedicated to the birth of Jesus... and here Joseph with Mary on a donkey are travelling to Bethlehem.

The three wise men came bearing gifts for the Christ child.  The sculptures just go on and on.

Gaudi loved nature and included many scenes with birds and animals... full of symbolism. 

For instance, the three porticos are separated by two large columns, and at the base of each lies a turtle... one representing the land, the other the sea.  The turtles are symbols of time... made in stone, unchangeable. 

On the passion facade the style of the characters is quite different... more plain and simple.  Construction on this facade began in 1954.  

See the rooster lower left... Jesus told Peter his faithfulness would be tested... that he would deny even knowing Jesus that night... before dawn when the rooster would crow three times.

Notice the totally different style of figures.

The flowers and details on the top of the spires are all different.  This is not prefabbed.  Some tile man climbed up about 400 feet of scaffolding... or had to ride in a crane basket to go to work on this. How would you like to have this job on your resume?

This 4.44 minute video of the tops of the spires is amazing.  It is just a clip out of a longer documentary on Barcelona.  No words... just photos from a helicopter and music...five minutes well spent.  

The side nave vaults reach 30 metres (100 feet high).

There are both stairs and an elevator that one can take to ascend into the spires and get a view of the city of Barcelona. We look forward to doing that next time we come here. 

There is so much to see in this place, you can't see it all in just one visit.

Organ pipes in background with alter above.

Hand holding without even a monopod makes this kind of telephoto shot hard to capture.

The beauty of the windows is reflected off the pipes of the organ, which was installed in 2010. It has 1492 pipes, 26 stops, two manuals and a pedalboard.

 Because of the vast size of this sanctuary, they plan to add several additional organs with up to 8,000 pipes, which can either be played individually or all together from a single console. 

In doing research on Segrada Familia I stumbled on a local Barcelona photographer with exceptional photos of Guadi architecture. Just click on this link to see more of Clement Celma's work. Best viewed on full screen.

Just for fun check out Celma's interactive 360 panorama's... like this one of Santa Maria Del Mar in Barcelona... or Torre Agbar... that bullet shape building downtown.  Use your arrow keys to move around... use shift to zoom in.  Very cool site.

"God is in the details." 
-Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Shirley and I pooled our best photos for this blog.


  1. I think the stained glass is my favorite part... but I'd have to see it in person to be sure! :)

  2. You are right, you have to be there... and then you can get the effect of feeling the whole package... the windows, the organ, the amazing volume of space, the huge columns, spectacular vault design... it all goes together. It is the sum of all the parts that makes this the most spectacular church in the world to me.