The Sagrada Familia is Barcelona's most famous symbol and certainly one of its most impressive sights. The church is huge in its dimensions, so it is often called the "cathedral", although it is without a bishop's headquarters. On 11/07/2010, the Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and elevated to the status of a basilica.
The completion of the interior and consecration was a great moment for Barcelona. Now, finally, the imposing, yet ingenious design of the brilliant Antoni Gaudí could be admired. And all this without scaffolding and machinery noise.
The church of the Sagrada Familia is a five-naved basilica. The central nave rises above the others significantly. To each nave a door is assigned to the unfinished glory facade. There are also two side portals that lead to the penance chapel and baptistery. Behind the nave, in the apse, is the altar, in the light of the many windows of the apse.
In the same way that the façades carry a rich symbology, the layout of the church is also full of symbols. Every door, every column, and almost every area has its own concrete or symbolic significance. This symbolism refers to the individual Catalan dioceses and Spanish dioceses, to every church in Latin America, on each of the five continents, to the apostles, to the great religious founders and most revered saints, the theological virtues, the sacraments, and more.
The first drafts of the naves were similar in their basic features to the Gothic style, but without additional support and buttress. In this original design, the walls were still the main elements of each column, and were indispensable for the stability of the building. Gaudí's studies of stability were groundbreaking: the architect created a knotted rope construction in which the columns correspond to the ropes. He turned the construction of the pressure points and hung small weights. In this way he was able to simulate the pressure gradients in the columns.
Barcelona's most famous modernist architect, Antoní Gaudi worked on the Sagrada Familia until his death.
The result of his research is a tree-like column structure. The columns are inclined and branched-like trees. The weight will be routed directly over the pillars in the ground - all this without bearing facade or exterior buttresses. The result of this ingenious solution is spectacular: the pillars and arches supported by them transform the interior of the temple into a stone forest of palm trees, lots of light streaming in through large windows and the vault.
The vertical and partly inclined pillars are decorated with grooves. It creates the impression that the material constituting the pillars has been stretched. At the top the pillars branch out so that each can support multiple points of the ceiling. All sections of the roof are supported by such branched columns.
The columns are made of materials of different hardness. The longest and thickest columns are made of red porphyry, a very hard volcanic rock. The dark, somewhat smaller pillars are made of basalt, granite columns supporting the lighter and the outermost row of pillars in the church building consist of a relatively soft rock from the mountain of Barcelona, Montjuic. The "smallest" pillars support the chancel.
The interior of the Sagrada Familia constitutes the essence of Gaudí’s architecture: there is no model within architecture for the vault-and-pillar system.
The layout of the church has the shape of a Latin cross - with enormous dimensions. The Sagrada Familia is one of the world's largest Church buildings: from the entrance to the apse it is 90 metres, the five naves are limited by a 60 metre long and 45 metre wide transept. The four side naves are 7.5 metres wide each, the main nave is 15 metres - exactly twice as wide. The vault of the main nave is 45 metres high, and the side aisles are 30 metres high.
Construction of the naves was started in 1987, based on models that were created by Antoni Gaudí, and which were not destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
In the outermost naves, the chancels are both situated in a gallery. These provide space for over 1,500 singers.
In contrast to the Gothic style Gaudí’s design requires no supporting side walls, and heavy vault: he used this freedom to incorporate numerous windows that allow plenty of natural light inside.
Within architecture an Apse is known as one half of a dome roofed area. In a church, it is usually the area where the altar stands.
Immediately after the completion of the crypt Gaudí had the apse built above. The Gothic-style apse is surrounded by seven chapels and two side stairs to the left and right.
These lead to spiral staircases from the crypt and continue up into the facades. As an indication of the spiral staircase you see two big stone snails crawling down the wall on the outer walls of the apse. The inside walls of the apse are decorated with angels' heads and tears that should remind one of the suffering of Jesus.
The apse was completed in 1893 by a huge crowned dome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which are supported by massive columns. The entire apse and dome are flooded with light; it is very bright for Gothic Architecture.
In the centre is the raised altar, crowned by the Latin cross with a canopy, decorated with vines and grapes of a vine, as Gaudí's only concession to the traditional church design. Behind the altar are the organ pipes, which, although they have very large dimensions, represent very delicate work.
Metro: Sagrada Familia (L2, L5)
Bus Turístic: Sagrada Familia
25 and 26 December,
1 and 6 January: 9.00-14.00
There are sometimes long queues at the checkout.
Admission: € 14.80
With Barcelona Card: € 13.80
Reduced admission: € 12.80
Audio guide: € 5.00
Lift ride: € 4,50
Disabled (65%): free admission(+1 accompanying person)
With the ticket you can view Gaudí's workshop next to the building of the Museum of the Sagrada Familia.
Tips for visiting the Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in Spain. Therefore there can be long queues in front of the pay booths and the elevators at peek times. In the late morning the queues are the longest. So if you don't want to stay in the queue, use the time to look at the cathedral from the distance, maybe from the two places right and left of the Sagrada Familia.
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