La Sangrada Familia

On our last full day in Barcelona, we visited la Sagrada Família, a world famous basilica, designed by Antonio Gaudi (Google him, he’s a pretty interesting dude) !The pictures I’ve taken cannot truly capture how incredible this basilica was. We took an audio tour and it was well worth it. There is so much history involved, I can barely keep track of it all so most of what's written has had to be researched... I just couldn't remember it all. If you’re bored with the facts…well….skip this post, or just look at the pretty pictures, I won’t be offended, I swear.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m not much of a history buff nor do I enjoy going to the typical touristy kind of stuff….but this place BLEW my mind away.

The construction of Sagrada Familia had began in 1882, but Gaudi took over in 1883, transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style — combining Gothic and curvilinear, Art Nouveau forms with ambitious structural columns and arches. Okay, so I’m not really an artist and I don’t entirely know what “art nouveau” means… so…you’ll have to Google that too if you want more information about it.
(Here’s me….paying hard attention and trying to remember everything)
And here’s an artist’s rendition of what it is supposed to look like when it’s complete.
Paula del Villa (the original architect)’s plan for the project was to build a Gothic revival church.
Gaudi knew that this project would take a long, long time, but he was often quoted to say that his client (uhh….duh, God) was in no hurry. And there was no rushing at all... Gaudi died in 1926 - 43 years later - and the project was still only one quarter finished.
Luckily, his work continued under the direction of another famous architect, but had to be stopped for awhile because of the Spanish Civil war. Parts of the church, along with Gaudi’s models and workshops were also destroyed, but enough information was salvageable so that Gaudi’s vision could still be used.

The church is still unfinished, but late 2010, opened to have regular religious services. It was also then that it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on 7 November, 2010, in front of 6500 people (including King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Sofia. (Google them too for more info. I have enough facts to get through here…). A further 50,000 people followed the consecration mass from outside the basilica, where more than 100 bishops and 300 priests were on hand to offer Holy Communion.
The church has a total of eighteen spires – each representing – in ascending order the height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires have been built as of 2010, corresponding to 4 apostles at the Nativity façade and 4 apostles at the Passion façade.

The Evangelists' spires will be surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (St Luke), a winged man (St Matthew), an eagle (St John), and a lion (St Mark). The central spire of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; the spire's total height (170 metres) will be one metre less than that of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona. Gaudi’s thought process was that no creation of mankind should be greater than the creation of the Lord. The lower spires are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.

The spires completion will make Sagrada Familia the tallest church building in the world as well as the church with the tallest spire in the world. I wish I could have taken pictures that could truly capture how ENORMOUS this thing is. it is like really, really, really huge.
The columns of the interior are a unique Gaudí design. Besides branching to support their load, their ever-changing surfaces are the result of the intersection of various geometric forms. The simplest example is that of a square base evolving into an octagon as the column rises, then a sixteen-sided form, and eventually to a circle. This effect is the result of a three-dimensional intersection of helicoidal columns (for example a square cross-section column twisting clockwise and a similar one twisting counter-clockwise).


The height of the church was designed so that it was shorter than the tallest hill in Spain, because Gaudi beleived that no work of man should be greater than Gods.
Outside, the Church will have three grand façades (or …like sides/faces): the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South.

The Nativity façade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudí influence. Dedicated to the birth of Jesus, it is decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life. Characteristic of Gaudí's naturalistic style, the sculptures are ornately arranged and decorated with scenes and images from nature, each a symbol in their own manner. For instance, the three porticos are separated by two large columns, and at the base of each lies a turtle or a tortoise (one to represent the land and the other the sea; each are symbols of time as something set in stone and unchangeable). In contrast to the figures of turtles and their symbolism, two chameleons can be found at each sides of the façade, and are symbolic of change. The façade faces the rising sun to the northeast, a symbol for the birth of Christ. It is divided into three porticos, each of which represents a theological virtue (Hope, Faith and Charity). The Tree of Life rises above the door of Jesus in the portico of Charity. Four towers complete the façade and are each dedicated to a Saint (Matthias the Apostle, Saint Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot).Gaudí chose this façade to embody the structure and decoration of the whole temple. He knew very well that he would never live to finish the temple and he would need to set an artistic and architectural example for others to follow. He also chose for this façade to be the first to begin construction and for it to be, in his opinion, the most attractive and accessible to the public. He believed that if he had begun construction of the Passion Façade, one that would be hard and bare, as if made with bones, before the Nativity Façade, people would have withdrawn at the sight of it. In contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble a skeleton if it were reduced to only bone. Dedicated to the Passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion, the façade was intended to portray the sins of man. Construction began in 1954, following the drawings and instructions left by Gaudí. The towers were completed in 1976, and in 1987 a team of sculptors, work sculpting the various scenes and details of the façade. They aimed to give a rigid, angular form to provoke a dramatic effect. Gaudí wanted the Passion façade to strike fear into the onlooker. He wanted dark sharp shadows contrasted by harsh rigid light to really highlight the severity and brutality of Christ's sacrifice.
Facing the setting sun, indicative and symbolic of the death of Christ, the Passion Façade is supported by six large and inclined columns, designed to resemble sequoia trunks. Above there is a pyramidal pediment, made up of 18 bone-shaped columns, which culminate in a large cross with a crown of thorns. Each of the four towers is dedicated to an apostle (James, Thomas, Philip, or Bartholomew) and, like the Nativity Façade, there are three porticos, each representing the theological virtues, though in a much different light. The scenes sculpted into the façade may be divided into three levels, which ascend in an S form and reproduce the Calvary, or Golgotha, of Christ. The lowest level depicts scenes from Jesus' last night before the crucifixion, including The Last Supper, Kiss of Judas, Ecce Homo, and the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus. The mid level portrays the Calvary, or Golgotha, of Christ, and includes The Three Marys, Saint Veronica, and Saint Longinus. In the third and final level the Death, Burial and the Resurrection of Christ are visible. A bronze figure situated on a bridge creating a link between the two towers of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thomas, represents the Ascension of Jesus.

The largest and most striking of the facades WILL BE the Glory Façade, which began construction in 2002 and is far from being completed. It will be the principal façade and will offer access to the central nave. Dedicated to the Celestial Glory of Jesus, it represents the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, while Hell is left for those who deviate from God's will. Gaudi left a sketch of what he wanted it to look like, in general. He intended for the temple, like many cathedrals and facades throughout history, not only to be completed by other architects but also to incorporate other architectural and artistic styles.

To reach the Glory Portico, there will be a large staircase, which will create an underground passage beneath Mallorca Street, representing Hell and vice. It will be decorated with demons, idols, false gods, heresy and schisms, etc. Purgatory and death will also be depicted, the latter using tombs along the ground. The portico will have seven large columns dedicated to spiritual gifts. At the base of the columns there will be representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and at the top, The Seven Heavenly Virtues.

Themes throughout the decoration include words from the liturgy. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna", "Excelsis", and "Sanctus"; the great doors of the Passion façade reproduce words from the Bible in various languages (including Catalan).

The Glory façade is to be decorated with the words from the Apostles' Creed. The three entrances symbolize the three virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. Each of them is also dedicated to a part of Christ's life. Nativity Façade is dedicated to his birth; it also has a cypress tree which symbolized the tree of life. The Glory façade is dedicated to his glory period. The Passion façade is symbolic to his suffering. All in all, La Sagrada de Família is symbolic to the timeline of Christ.

Areas of the sanctuary will be designated to represent various concepts, such as saints, virtues and sins, and secular concepts such as regions, presumably with decoration to match.
This tour took us a few hours and (if I haven’t already said it enough) it was amazing and was one of my more favorite places that we visited. Even though I'm not all into like art and stuff, I couldn't get over the detail that went into everything and the thought process behind it all. It was incredible.

Alright, European Vacation followers….this is officially concludes the last of my posts about the travels.

Tomorrow....my day trip to Bruges, and then it will be back to my random posts about everything, nothing, and how I'm going to overanalyze it to death.

1 comment:

  1. I am officially uber jealous now. Barcelona and specifically La Sangrada Familia have been number one on my travel list for years!! Of course, my bff has already been there so now that we actually get to travel together Barcelona is off the table. Booooo. It's OK, I think we're going to Greece! But still....I'm jealous.

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