La Sagrada Família

Antonio Gaudi’s masterpiece in Barcelona, Spain

“Glory is light, light gives joy and joy is the happiness of the spirit.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

The highlight of our Spanish road trip to Barcelona was our visit to Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Basilica De La Sagrada Família. Probably the world’s most famous construction site, the church was begun in 1882, and is expected to be completed for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death in 2026.

“My client is not in a hurry.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

Today it is unusual for even major buildings to take more than a few years to complete. Technology has sped up the building process, but fine craftsmanship and details take time, and that type of work is rarely found in modern buildings.

Seeing the church both inside and out was awe inspiring. It is unique among churches, cathedrals, and architecture in general. We were there for several hours and could have stayed longer to appreciate all the details and symbolism. If you go, the audio guide is excellent, and make sure to visit the on-site museum to learn more about Gaudi and his work.

The Nativity Façade celebrates the birth of Jesus the Messiah, and represents life and joy.

About La Sagrada Família

The Sagrada Família was begun on March 19, 1882, from a project by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. At the end of 1883, Antonio Gaudí was commissioned to take on the project, which he continued until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work, following the guidelines set out by Antoni Gaudí. From its start, the church has been funded through donations and today also ticket sales from visitors.

When the church is finished it will have 18 towers: the highest adorned with a large cross representing Christ, one to Mary, 12 dedicated to the apostles, and 4 to the evangelists. It can hold 15,000 people, and a choir of 1000.

“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

Detail of the Nativity Façade

“Because of this, originality consists in returning to the origin.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

“Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

“Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

Ceiling detail.

“The amount of light should be just right, not too much, not too little, since having too much or too little light can both cause blindness.”

~ Antoni Gaudi

Part of the joy was watching other people’s reactions as they entered the church.

Its doors at the main entrance are printed with words from the Bible in various languages including Catalan.

The nearly completed Passion Façade, in contrast to the Nativity Façade, is stark with bone-like pillars. Fitting, as it represents the suffering and crucifixion of Christ.

The Glory Façade, which is the main façade, will be the last to be finished.

About Gaudi

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) was a Catalan, born in Reus, a small town south of Barcelona. He went to Barcelona to study architecture, and upon completion of his studies, the director of the school commented “Today we have given an architecture degree to a madman or to a genius”.

Entrepreneur Eusebi Güell met Gaudi after seeing his work at the Spanish Pavilion at the 1878 World Fair’s in Paris. He became one of Gaudi’s best friends and clients, allowing him to develop his style on projects without interference, including Park Güell.   

Gaudi took on the Sagrada Família project at the age of 31. He was one of the world’s most outstanding architects and one of the Barcelona’s most well known residents. Seven properties built by Gaudí in or near Barcelona are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and his work is one of the city’s main cultural attractions.

The workshop at La Sagrada Família

Gaudí’s work is exceptionally creative, and he furthered the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gaudi was inspired first by nature, but also by art nouveau, gothicism, surrealism and modernist styles.

Gaudí was a devout man, attending church twice a day, and believed his architectural ability was a gift from God.

Gaudi’s room, in the house where he lived in Park Güell – today the Gaudí House Museum. Even though he created buildings and objects of beauty, he lived a simple life with few possessions.

On June 7, 1926, Gaudí was knocked down by a tram and seriously injured. He died three days later, and his body was buried on June 12 in the crypt of La Sagrada Família. His last words were “Amen. My God! My God!”

Plan your Visit to the Sagrada Familia

  • The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is located in Barcelona, Spain.
  • If you are planning to visit, purchase your tickets on the official Basilica de la Sagrada Familia website.
  • Tickets can be purchased online up to two months in advance. Same day tickets can be purchased at the ticket office onsite, subject to availability, but we highly recommend getting them online in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Tickets with audioguide are 26 € at time of writing.
  • We recommend the audio guide to fully appreciate and learn more about Antonio Gaudi and the history of the Basilica.

A view of the Sagrada Família from Parc Güell, over-looking the Mediterranean Sea.

The design of the Sagrada Família is challenging and still somewhat controversial. What’s your opinion?

30 replies
  1. Sue Reddel
    Sue Reddel says:

    Wonderful write up on Sagrada Familia! I’ve visited twice and can’t wait to visit again to see what else has been completed. It is truly an inspirational place on earth. Your photographs were simply amazing.

  2. Susan Moore
    Susan Moore says:

    Magnificent photos Shelley! I visited Sagrada Familia and I was underwhelmed by the place. It is a great piece of architecture but just not my cup of tea. My favorite of Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona was Casa Batllo – I plan to see it again next month when I will be in Barcelona for a couple of days. I do LOVE Barcelona!!!

  3. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go says:

    Wow! Your photos are amazing and your post couldn’t have been more timely since we’ll be arriving in Barcelona at the end of April to spend a whole month in this amazing city. And, Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia as well as his other architectural sites are at the beginning of our list! Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  4. Suzanne Fluhr
    Suzanne Fluhr says:

    I was very excited to see the title of your post as I too will be in Barcelona next month/ At the top of my “must see” list is a return visit to see the progress on La Sagrada Familia. I was last there in 2008. Judging by your fantastic photos, there has been much amazing progress in the interior. I have to figure out how to beat the crowds!

    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      Have a great visit in Barcelona Suzanne! I think getting tickets in advance might help. Once inside we even enjoyed watching the crowds looking around in wonder. Going on a sunny day was a bonus too, so the light was streaming in the stained glass windows.

  5. Josie
    Josie says:

    Hi Shelley and Darrell,
    I agree with the other commenters — yours are the most beautiful photos I’ve seen of the interior of Sagrada Familia! Fantastic job!
    Gaudi’s architecture is just one of the many reasons I adore Barcelona and the entire region. Can’t wait to get back there!

    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      Thank you Josie 🙂 Our time in Barcelona was too short, and we would love to go back and see more. Sad we can’t make it for TBEX Spain this year.

  6. Suzanne Stavert
    Suzanne Stavert says:

    I visited La Sagrada Familia about 8 years ago, it took my breath away. Your photographs are outstanding and truly manage to take the reader with you! I think the very first Gaudi quote is my favorite: “My client is not in a hurry.” I need to go back to see the progress!

    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      I hope you have a wonderful visit Betsy! In the church, we missed going to Gaudi’s tomb and also climbing the stairs to see the view from above, as they closed earlier. So my tip is to try to see that part before it closes.

  7. Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings says:

    Wow! The details!
    Your photos are superb – I’ve seen so many photos of the exterior – But your photos of the interior are totally captivating 🙂
    And I so love this Antoni Gaudi quote:
    “Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first.”

  8. Leigh
    Leigh says:

    I can’t get over your photos – the best I’ve seen of the interior. I love the colour range you show.

    I didn’t go in when I was in Barcelona because of long lineups. I regret it now.


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