Everyone should visit La Sagrada Familia on our Barcelona food tours and cooking vacations. We purposely leave free time in our Barcelona food tour packages so that clients can choose what they want to do in their free time, whether visit museums and monuments, shop, or experience the local nightlife. But one site we recommend everyone see is the famed Gaudí basilica.
La Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882 (although they only obtained a building permit this year!), and it is not expected to be complete until 2026. What is taking them so long? Well, it is a massive undertaking of engineering, it originally relied solely on private donations to fund it, Gaudì died in 1926, and then there were several wars, including both World Wars and the Spanish Civil War that happened 1936-1939. In fact the revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War damaged the crypt and workshop, partially destroying Guadi’s designs, which then had to be painstakingly reproduced before work could continue. Gaudí reportedly replied, when asked about the long construction period (and this was almost one hundred years ago), “My client is not in a hurry.”
Many people only know the basilica as Gaudî’s greatest masterpiece, but the building was actually begun under a different architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar, an architect of Gothic bent who planned on a more traditional design. He was in charge for only a year when Gaudí took over, completely reinventing the project in his own unique style. The building is a masterpiece of Modermisme architecture and engineering. When completed the basilica will have 18 stunning spires reaching toward the skies.
The Design of La Sagrada Familia
If you visit La Sagrada Familia as part of our Barcelona food and wine tours, you will notice the eastern facade, called the “Nativity Facade” because of its depiction of the birth of Christ, and the western facing “Passion Facade,” depicting Christ’s death. Not yet built is the “Glory Facade,” which will face south. The Nativity Facade was begun during Gaudì’s life and is considered the one most loyal to the original design, including the common naturalistic elements such as plant and animal life found in Gaudî’s works. The Passion Facade follows Gaudí’s design but includes modern, angular sculptures by the artist Josep Maria Subirachs. Its aesthetic is more stark and austere compared to the decorative Nativity Facade. The largest facade will be the Glory Facade.
The interior of the church is incredible. I’ve visited a lot of churches, this one is like being in a huge stone forest surrounded by living color that streams through the stained glass windows. Although technically an old design – a Latin cross with central nave and five aisles, the height of the vault and the shapes represented are entirely untraditional. The time that I most enjoy visiting is while the sun is rising or setting, so that you get the full effect of the stained glass. Also fun is going up one of the two accessible spires (you go up in an elevator and down on foot through a narrow winding staircase).
One last thing of note: Gaudí’s tomb lies beneath the basilica in the gothic crypt.
Whether you’re interested in art, architecture, and religion – or not! – La Sagrada Familia is a must see on any Barcelona food tour. Don’t forget to get tickets ahead of time, however, as it does sell out. If you’re participating in our Barcelona Food Adventure culinary tour in Barcelona, or taking one of our hands-on Barcelona cooking classes, we can also organize a private tour of La Sagrada Familia for you. Contact us for details!
Read more about Barcelona in our blog:
- Barcelona’s Mercat del Ninot
- Barcelona’s El Born Neighborhood
- Barcelona Neighborhoods: the Passeig de Gracia
- Eating Tapas in Barcelona
- The Boqueria Market
By Peg Kern
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