Friday, February 6, 2009

Barcelona Sights - Sagrada Familia

Well, the blog is called Barcelona Sights, so I should post regularly about the city's main attractions, right? I started on the right track but have since veered off a little with other things I hope you're interested in, but here goes back to the big guns. And you don't get any bigger than Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona Sights Blog
Almost everyone who visits Barcelona takes a trip across town to visit Europe's wackiest church which also boasts 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites (the Nativity facade and the Crucifixion Facade). If you want to get close to Gaudi, you can do no better than coming here - literally - as he's buried in the crypt.

Official visitor stats testify that over 2.5 million visitors pay the entrance fee to the Sagrada Familia, but I'd guess that the same amount of people probably go and just have a look around outside, or those who arrive in coaches and don't have time to go inside will also contribute to the huge numbers. I'm not going to turn this into a history lesson, as that's not what the blog's about. Just give you a few anecdotes from my experience here over the years.
Barcelona Sights - Sagrada Familia Crucifixion Facade
It's a very cool place, and I've been privileged enough to see it over a period of 9 years - although it has to be said that progress has been fairly slow! Gaudi himself said that

"The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people".

So basically it's funded entirely by donations and the profits from the entrance fees of all the other Gaudi attractions the city has. I have heard rumors that many different corporations have offered to step in and speed up the process, but with the condition that the place is re-named "The Sony Sagrada Familia" (not really Sony but you get the picture). Obviously, these advances have been refused - Gaudi was a Catholic and wanted the church to be the people's church, not owned by anyone but the people.

It's funny to see how plans are going to have to be changed, in order to finish the entrance to Sagrada Familia (the two current facades pictured here are actually the sides). The entrance would now eliminate a huge portion of Carrer Mallorca, and discussions even went as far as talking about moving the street underground, so as to accommodate the entrance, which would sit right in the middle of the road. I think that they settled on a bridge and that there will be steps up to the entrance instead of a street level entrance.
Barcelona Sights - Crucifixion Facade Detail
One thing I was quite surprised about was that the Sagrada Familia is held dear in local hearts. Obviously, it's had a turbulent history - original plans were burned during the civil war, and the place was even bombed. When I was an English teacher, a question on a first day of class for an intermediate group (to get them talking) would often be "If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?" I was VERY surprised to hear (not always in perfect English) "to see the Sagrada Familia finished in my lifetime".
Jesus died at 33 - Barcelona Sights
There really is a wealth of information at the cathedral, and if you read up a little beforehand or have a good guide, then you'll be amazed. There is a plaque on the crucifixion facade for example, which looks like a sudoko puzzle with many numbers in squares on a grid. Well if you add all of the numbers together in any direction, they all reach 33 - the age of Christ when he dies. This is positioned right next to Judas' betrayal kiss. All statues inside and outside the cathedral look towards either Jesus or Mary. Going back to the bomber, Gaudi made a model of the bomber, refusing a bomb from a demon, and looking towards the Virgin Mary.

I always say that you can appreciate the Sagrada Familia more after visiting the Attic in La Pedrera - another of Gaudi's buildings on Paseo de Gracia - and at night, when it's illuminated by bright footlinghts and literally does take your breath away. Gaudi was a crazy guy who challenged the ideas and principles of modern architecture (La Pedrera is a building with no straight lines, for example). There is a model of how Gaudi envisaged the Sagrada Familia - he basically took an iron wheel (his father was an ironmonger), and began to tie small bags of sand to the wheel in the form that he wanted the cathedral to take shape - when he reached the peak, he suggested that if gravity can pull it down in this form, then gravity will also hold it up. So if you look in the mirror on the floor, you see the Sagrada Familia. Amazing.
Barcelona Sights - La Pedrera Mirror
It has to be said that the existing facades of the Nativity (looks like a melting candle, and is 100% Gaudi's work) and the Crucifixion facade are completelty different. Gaudi died before work could continue - tragically run down by a tram in front of the Sagrada Familia - and other architects took over the work. I have heard that an architect will never work as possionately on a job if it is not his own, and as some of the worlds best architects were invited to participate on the Crucifixion facade, it was inevitable for them to change it. They claim that the Star Wars-like figures pay homage to the hugely famous chimneys on La Pedrera (mentioned above), but the truth is that the majority of people prefer the Nativity facade. There are even opposition groups to the advances of other city projects which may affect the structure of the sagrada Familia, and another group of influential artists, architects and culture moguls have also spearheadeed a campaign to stick more rigourously to Gaudi's original plans, in fear that the Sagrada Familia is losing its identity. One thing is certain, and that is that depsite the quarrelling and discussion about the Sagrada Familia - an unfinished masterpiece - the masses will still flock to see the amazing edefice. And you don't want to miss out on that, right?

Like what you're reading? Please comment below, and let me know your opinion if you've seen the Sagrada Familia.

For accomodation, why not try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room. For more information about the Sagrada Familia including more historical detail, see the link.


Anonymous said...

I find the Sagrada Familia absolutely amazing, and I thank you for sharing your insights on such a beautiful work of art. I hope to make it to Barcelona one day to view it for myself. Thanks again.

David Brydon said...

Many thanks for the comment. You also might like to see the inside on this post:

It's certainly a great sight and I hope you'll be able to visit one day!!

Anonymous said...

wow thats around 54 million euros in entrance fees a year kaching!!$$$$$ £££££ who gets the money pope/vatican or cathedral ????

Follow Me on Twitter