Gods Get the Nicest Houses: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

DSC_0164_01 (1)During the hectic holidays and happenings over the past two months since my last post, two big pieces of news came out of Spain. The first was that the regional parliament of Catalonia voted to begin the process of seceding from Spain and becoming an independent country. As Time went on to report, this could mean varying things for Europe. The other piece of news, also out of Catalonia, more specifically Barcelona, was that the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s famous Gaudi-designed, still under construction basilica will most likely finally be finished in 2026, more than 140 years after ground was broken and 100 years after the death of its designer.

Construction on the Sagrada Familia began in 1882 with architect and famed modernist designer Antoni Gaudí taking over in 1883. The construction was eventually stalled by lack of funds and the eventual Spanish Civil War, but Gaudí famously joked that his client, God, was in no hurry to see it finished. The massive church finally passed the halfway point of completion in 2010, with modern construction technology making a finished project possible by 2026, a century after Gaudí was tragically killed when struck by a street car.

Gaudí was quite a controversial architect, with some hailing his work as a groundbreaking part of the modernist movement, while others considered his designs tacky and overwrought. Indeed his name inspired the English word “gaudy.” But Gaudi’s work is spread all over Barcelona in places like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà.

Hubs and I were in Barcelona in the spring of 2012. The sun was shining as we climbed down the hill from Park Güell, strolled through the Gracia neighborhood, and stumbled upon one of the strangest and most interesting buildings I have ever seen in my life.

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The exterior is a mishmash of geometrically shaped biblical figures in a modernist style on one side, with the other side embodying more of a warped Gothic style, the stone taking on a kind of dripping effect. Both facades are stunning and overwhelmingly beautiful. Immediately I fell onto the side of Gaudií supporters; yes some of it’s a bit weird and it’s unlike any other church in the world, but that’s what makes it amazing.

A third facade is still under construction. When it’s complete, the basilica will have 18 towers: four at each side for a total of 12 for the apostles, four more on the transept for the evangelists, one large one on the apse dedicated to Mary, and the enormous central tower in the center in honor of Jesus. The Sagrada Familia is enormous now, and will be even larger when finished. Take a look at this video below to get the full vision.

Gaudí wanted the interior of the basilica to resemble a forest, with the columns mimicking branching trees and creating an atmosphere of a living, breathing church. The windows of Sagrada Familia are both clear and stained glass, utilizing Gaudí’s study of light, of which he said, “Light achieves maximum harmony at an inclination of 45°, since it resides on objects in a way that is neither horizontal nor vertical. This can be considered medium light, and it offers the most perfect vision of objects and their most exquisite nuances. It is the Mediterranean light.”

Walking into the Sagrada Familia, the interior is just as breathtaking as the outer facades. The light truly does pour in at captivating angles, and the trunk-like columns make one feel as if they’re outside among the trees rather than inside a decades old, massive structure. It’s the most un church-like church I’ve ever been inside. Walking through it is akin to getting lost in a thick, stone forest.

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The tree-like columns inside Sagrada Familia.
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Underneath the eventual 18th tower.
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Where naturalist tree trunks meet Gothic architecture and traditional stained glass.

Since my visit to Sagrada Familia, a few of my friends have taken separate trips to Barcelona and they’ve all been just as stunned by the beauty of the building as I have. The video above makes the final product seem somewhat unbelievable in its scale, to the point where we’ll all just have to see it to believe it. Save the date for 2026.

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