The Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia better known to the world as “Sagrad Familia’s Basilica”, – the same cult place for tourist Barcelona, as the Eiffel Tower for Paris or the Colosseum for Rome.

Even if you are indifferent to architectural monuments and started a trip to Barcelona for the sake of visit of the museum of legendary football club or to begin to spin flamenco rhythms, – surely find time for excursion in Sagrada Familia. It is the business card of modern Catalonia, its unique pearl and pride. Similar you anywhere won’t see any more and you will precisely get under its mystical charm.

Sagrad Familia’s basilica – the main creation of ingenious Antonio Gaudi surrounded with legends and unceasing disputes. It only bears a faint resemblance to the traditional Catholic temple is more similar to freakish creation of the nature, than hands human. One compare it to a castle in the air, others to the sand castle, the third in its fantastic outlines and coral reeves seem.

Construction of the temple lasts more than 130 years and has to be finished according to the most optimistic forecasts – by 2026. Meanwhile, when the young, ambitious architect only began the work on construction of the temple, he promised to finish it in 10 years, and much later, after 30 years, compared the child to temples of the Middle Ages which were under construction centuries. And thus I kept saying: “My customer doesn’t hurry”, meaning Supreme.

Sagrad Familia’s basilica in the list of the most popular and visited sights of Barcelona takes 1 place.

Annually about 3 million tourists from around the world admire the temple. Therefore persons interested to get to a basilica should stand in a queue 1-2 hours. So don’t forget to stock up with water, sunblock cream and patience.

If you plan to stay in Barcelona some days, on the eve of a trip take care of acquisition of the universal ticket of Barcelona Card. It considerably will save your means and time. Barcelona Card provides a free pass from the airport to the downtown, a free pass in public transport on the central regions of the city where the main tourist objects, and free entrance to some museums are concentrated. With this ticket you receive considerable discounts for visits of the majority of remarkable places and entertaining institutions, for purchase of souvenirs in official gift shop of Barcelona, and also a discount at some restaurants and bars. Keep in mind – without discounts travel across Barcelona will cost much enough. For example, thanks to Barcelona Card you pay for an entrance to Sagrad Familia 16% less.

If you in Barcelona in transit are also very limited in time, it is better to book tickets for an express entrance without turn in advance. It will cost time in 2 dearer, but will relieve you of wearisome expectation under the scorching Spanish sun. The cost of such tickets included also services of the guide.

So, having overcome a long way, we reached, at last, Sagrada Familia. Its full name – Expiatory Sagrada Familia. Strangely enough, the idea about its creation proceeded not from official Church, and from “Society of admirers of Saint Iosif” which founders was a local shopkeeper and the bibliophile by the name of Zhozep (“Iosif” in a Catalan way) and his ancient friend, the Catalan priest – too Zhozep. The purpose of Society was to strengthen a cult of Saint Joseph which initially was in Maria and Christ’s shadow, and in the middle of the 19th century the Roman Catholic Church it was declared by her Supreme patron. On their plans the new temple has to be devoted to Christ’s family: To the virgin, the righteous person Josef, Lord’s brothers and their ancestor – the prophet David. Thereby parishioners were wanted to be returned to traditional family values, and also to remind of the main idea of Christianity – the expiatory victim For goodness sake rescue of mankind.

It was supposed to build the temple only to donations of laymen.

This principle was steadily observed during all history of construction, up to our days. And only recently began to attract investors to the fastest its end.

Construction of the temple began in the eighties the 19th centuries. But soon because of disagreements with customers, the architect heading construction of the temple left the project. It was necessary to look for the new performer.

On one of legends, the shape of future architect was to the trustee of the project in a dream. Dreamed it that construction of the temple will be continued by the blue-eyed fair-haired person. Among Spaniards there are some people with such appearance, and on a happy whim of destiny of Antonio Gaudi it appeared one of them. As it is surprising, but further construction was offered to the architect young and little-known at that time. Probably, for economy reasons.

From an initial plan of the predecessor Gaudi I left only the main form of church – a Latin cross, traditional for the Catholic temple. The idea of the temple became more grandiose. To build the Temple in glory of God, it is necessary to understand before God and to find his particle in itself, to try to come nearer to It.

Gaudi’s Temple had to become such ladder to God also. From here an unknown form of a structure – the most vertical, consisting of a set of the towers and belltowers directed up. This temple had to become the highest in the world. Also I became it: height of the central tower devoted to Christ – 170 meters. It is only some meters lower than the highest mountain in those regions – Montjuic. After all, on belief of the master, the creation of the person can’t exceed creation of God.

Being in young years the anti-clerical, the secular dandy and the dandy, in the course of work on Gaudi’s temple I became sincerely believing Catholic, and to the end of life – the ascetic and the eremite. The architect conceived to embody the New Testament in a stone: history of life of Christ, his martyr death and revival from the dead. And the main ideas of Christianity – divine love, expiatory self-sacrifice and a victory of life over death.


With sunrise morning beams had to penetrate openwork towers with color stained-glass windows, filling with light all space of the temple and announcing the birth of the God’s son, and in the evening the crimson decline had to remind of the termination of terrestrial life of Christ and bloodshed by it. The shine of night stars has to give hope for fast revival.


Gaudi wrote about it so: “I want that the Temple breathed, soft light flew through windows, and it would seem to you that you see a stellar light”.

On Gaudi’s project, the temple has 3 facades which reflect the main milestones of new treasured history: Christmas facade, facade of Passions and Glory facade (or Rise facade). Facades have to have a different color scheme.

On facades 12 belltowers (on four on everyone) – a symbol of twelve Apostles are located. In a structure 4 towers of Evangelists rise. In the center – Christ’s tower, and near it – the Virgin’s tower. Total 18 towers belltowers! Gaudi managed to finish only one of them – Saint Barnabas’s tower. It is possible to rise by some towers of the temple on the elevator to admire Barcelona from height of bird’s flight. And it is better to go down on a spiral staircase more attentively to consider details of a surprising design of the temple from within.

During lifetime the architect managed to embody only the first part of the project – Christmas facade. The facade is formed by three portals, three entrances to church as an embodiment of the main Christian virtues – beliefs form, hopes and mercies.

As the central entrance to the temple the Mercy bridge, or Love – an embodiment of dream and pleasure of life serves. It is presented in the form of a cave and at the same time is a gate of a shed in which Jesus was born. The central column of a portico is twisted from below by an antiquated dragon, and above it is the tape with names of ancestors of Jesus braids down. The almond trees dividing these two images symbolize the birth of the New Testament on a dry trunk Old. Other columns of the temple are decorated by the similar principle: their bases represent sins, and capitals glorify virtues. The entrance to the temple is topped with the sculptural image of Sacred Family which figures are executed full-scale.

At the following levels of a portal are located scenes of the Lady Day and Christmas. And over them, at thirty-meter height we see a scene of Crowning of Virgin Mary.

To the left of a portal of Mercy is located the Hope portal. Its semantic appointment – to give to hope to believers, whatever heartrending experiences sent them the destiny. Main sculptural groups of this portico: a scene of Beating of babies, flight of Sacred Family to Egypt and Iosif and Maria’s engagement.

To the right of the central portal there is Vera’s portico. Its feature that the main Christian postulates are expressed in it not by sculptural images, but the Word. The portico abounds with inscriptions – quotes from the Gospel, Christ, Iosif and Maria’s anagrams, Catholic symbols.

The central portal of Mercy is separated from Hope and Faith porticoes by two columns. The bases of these columns support two big stone turtles: overland from mountains and sea from the sea. In the Chinese philosophy, well-known in Europe at the end of the 19th century, a turtle symbolize stability and stability of the world. At the same time, two big images of chameleons on each side of a facade mean natural variability.

Having passed through one of porticoes, we get in the temple.

The crossing – so is called the central part of the temple – is formed by towers of Evangelists: Matthew, John, Luka and Mark. And in their center there is the highest tower which is already mentioned by us with the huge five-meter image of the crucified Christ inside, under a dome. Near Christ’s tower rises the Virgin’s tower with the image of the Bethlehem star. It is important that on the author’s idea all towers have to be carefully decorated to the very top. After all, the temple not only for parishioners was under construction. “People won’t see, angels so will see”, – so explained the plan Gaudi.

The internal furniture of towers of a cathedral thanks to a form of columns unprecedented hitherto reminds the huge wood with century trees. The columns devoted to apostles and sacred, rise to a dome by height of 70 meters and above branch, forming the peculiar crone decorated with openings in shape of whether stars, whether flowers. The sunlight flowing through color glasses of stained-glass windows creates illusion of a forest thicket and light of night stars.

The facade of Christmas is of the special value of the temple and draws attention of visitors. After all in it surprising style of Gaudi is brought to perfection. Here favourite the master the gothic style is generously decorated with natural ornaments, characteristic for landscapes of Catalonia. It is harmoniously combined with floridity of baroque and angularity of a modernist style. The linear geometry takes organic shape of trees, giving dynamism to architectural outlines and turning the temple into the divine wood. Bible characters are most naturalistic and recognizable in neighbors and the master’s friends. And often plaster casts for sculptures were made from simple citizens. Christian symbols closely intertwine with the folklore images clear only to Catalans. But the main thing – the surprising technology of reactionless construction invented by Gaudi. Thanks to it the grandiose stone construction looked so fragile, weightless and air that contemporaries of the architect were sure: sooner or later towers surely have to collapse. Actually Gaudi’s designs are so strong that can sustain the strongest flaws and earthquakes. The matter is that the architect refused external supporting frameworks, traditional for a gothic style. He called them crutches for a ridiculous and clumsy look. Besides they were vulnerable before spontaneous natural phenomena. Because of it Gothic construction could collapse because of destruction of one or several such support. And here the wood won’t fall because of death of one tree. And Gaudi “planted” the wood of columns in the temple. To redistribute weight in construction, it, first, as much as possible extended designs down, up. And secondly, I transferred the main load of internal columns of the temple. The branched tops they formed the continuous arch. And the collapse of one column wouldn’t lead to destruction of other parts of a structure. Besides, durability of the designs invented by Gaudi is that ferroconcrete columns go to the earth on depth of 20 meters and leave up on 70 meters. And natural ease is reached by strict observance of geometrical laws. Application of geometrical figures with a line surface – a hyperboloid, a paraboloid, a conoid and others – facilitates connections of details of a design because these surfaces can be formed by the movement of a straight line, and their crossing too is a straight line.

Gaudi almost never strictly followed drawings. When he only started construction of the temple, it even had no finished project. During work the initial plan often changed under the influence of sudden inspirations of the genius. The master saw this spontaneity, unpredictability and variability of process of creation in the nature – the chief architect of the real world. And, like Ancient Greek masters, I studied at it. Only now, in a century of computer technologies, the secret of designs of Gaudi is solved and their compliance to laws of mechanics which cornerstone exact mathematical calculation and the thinnest knowledge of properties of materials is proved.

But then all calculations were born in the ingenious head of great Gaudi instinctively. And only closer to the end of life when it became clear to him that he won’t manage to finish construction, the master started development of drawings of the rests of a basilica.

The facade of Christmas was under construction more than 40 years with big breaks. It is explained by insufficiency of collected donations and grandness of a plan. During these Antonio Gaudi compelled idle times created other masterpieces which defined the unique image of modern Barcelona. And only the last 15 years of the life he completely devoted Sagrad Familia. Obsessed with the creation, Gaudi practically lived in a workshop near the temple. It gave all means received for other works on construction of a basilica. Speak the ingenious architect at that time resembled the poor tramp more. Sometimes he took to the streets of Barcelona with an old hat in hands to collect donations on the temple.

After ridiculous, tragic death of Antonio Gaudi at the age of 73 years construction of the temple was continued by his pupils. But also here continually there were obstacles disturbing to completion of construction. During civil war in Spain in the thirties of last century the part of the building suffered from the fire, and the majority of drawings, sketches and plaster models were destroyed. They on particles were restored within 20 years. Then, in the 50th years of the 20th eyelid construction of a facade of Passions was begun and the museum of Sagrad Familia which works and now in the territory of the temple is open a bit later. In it is possible to see drawings, construction plans, sketches and models of the temple.

Only relatively recently – in 2000 construction of the last, third part of the temple – Glory facade was begun.

And in 2010 the temple was recognized suitable for carrying out in it church services and is consecrated by the Pope Benedict of XVI. Slightly earlier Sagrad Familia’s Basilica, despite the incompleteness, was entitled “Property of Mankind” from UNESCO.

The parts of the temple constructed after Gaudi’s death significantly differed from Christmas facade created by it. New designs though were built according to drawings of the master, lost ease and fluidity of forms. Modern architects began to use materials which would be chosen hardly by Antonio. All this caused furious disputes on the opportunity to continue construction of the temple after death of his creator.

And anyway, this temple itself became the Gospel of the architectural genius, the new Word in art. The gospel from Antonio Gaudi. His contemporaries couldn’t understand – the genius it or the madman. And if you ask today’s Catalans about Gaudi, it will become clear to you: they idolize him. In the last 10 years there is an active campaign for Gaudi’s canonization. And it is quite possible that soon architects will receive the defender – Saint Anthony.


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Author: Natalia Petrakova
Translation: Albina Akhmedova

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