Go on a tour of one of Barcelona’s most famous icons, Sagrada Família with ALBA student Anna Wolfston:
The immense towers of the Sagrada Família loomed above the surrounding apartment buildings as I walked towards Gaudí’s most famous architectural achievement. The cathedral is unmistakable – a unique, irregular and unfinished oddity in a context of conventional structures. As I approached, I noticed the insane attention to detail – seemingly every centimeter part of a deliberate and articulate design. I slowly walked the perimeter of the cathedral as I waited for my ticketed entrance time. I gawked at all the variation – Gaudí took no easy route. Each side of the cathedral has a theme, every side tells a story.
While the immensity of the cathedral is intimidating, Gaudí’s playfulness with sculpture is inviting. Until the cathedral reaches completion in 2026, all visitors enter through the Birth of Christ facade, where the first impression one encounters is Gaudí’s joyous ode to nature.
Gaudí’s departure from traditional medieval design creates a cathedral that reaches fearlessly towards the heavens, almost meeting the height of Montjuic. Yet Gaudí believed that the “work of man should never rise above that of God”.
At the cathedral door entrance, the three doors in the birth of Christ facade depict Mary as faith, Joseph as hope, and Jesus in the center, representing love for all humankind. As I passed through these iron doors I was immediately awestruck by the massively celestial interior. My eyes followed the mighty stone columns from the marble floor to their intersection with the starry ceiling. I noticed the columns branching at the top, each like a tree. My audio guide explained that Gaudí consistently combined symbolism and functionality. The splitting tops of the columns double as odes to the strength of trees and as preventers of sound reverberation, ensuring a crisp and heavenly sound within the cathedral walls.
The walls are doused with divinely colorful light, a result of Gaudí’s masterful use of stained glass. Gaudí believed that the, “sun was the finest painter”, and used sunrays as dynamic interior artists. The east interior is cooler – the stained glass green, blue, and purple, a metaphor for the frosty slowness of morningtime. The west interior is warm, bright, and striking – reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks represent the heat and activity of the sunset. The colored light from both sides meets in the middle, playing together to connect the day and to celebrate the grandeur of the nave.
The bronze prayer door in the narthex of the cathedral contains many different languages, welcoming the variation of humanity. The last part of cathedral I studied was the passion of Christ facade. A stark contrast to the celebration of life and nature that permeates the rest of the cathedral, the passion of Christ facade is intensely solemn. Sculptor Josep Subirachs worked from Gaudí’s drawings, incorporating a geometric style that sets the facade apart from the rest of the cathedral. Diagonal pillars reach down from eighteen rib-like columns, representing Christ’s strained torso as he hangs from the center cross.
Gaudí’s body is encased in one of the crypt’s chapels. It is appropriate that he was laid to rest in his most incredible creation.
Sagrada Família is an icon of world architecture and a must visit while in Barcelona.