The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (in Catalan, Basílica de la Sagrada Família) is Antoni Gaudí‘s ultimate incomplete masterpiece. The Catalan architect dedicated the last years of his life to this project, which eventually became known as the “Cathedral of the Poor”. This is because the initial funding came exclusively from scarce private donations.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet worked for forty-three years on models of the Catholic temple, even though the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is still under construction. It’s estimated that the works will be finished in 2026, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the master’s death, but… who knows?
So, do you want to know How To Visit The Basilica Of The Sagrada Familia In 2023? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
- How to Get to the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
- What to See at the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
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Brief History of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
Did you know that the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia wasn’t originally commissioned to Antoni Gaudí? Its construction began in 1882, but the project’s promoter – the Catalan bookseller and philanthropist Josep Maria Bocabella – had delivered the work to the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar! Even so, Antoni Gaudí would replace him in the following year, in 1883.
From the moment he takes on the responsibility of designing the temple, Antoni Gaudí begins to experiment with architectural solutions in other of his works. Thus, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia was designed with the typical cruciform plant of the Christian churches (in the shape of a Latin cross). Its interior has not only five naves in the vertical part of the cross, but also three naves in the transept.
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia was heavily influenced by Gothic architecture, as it’s based on the height increase, the visual lightness of the interiors, and the extensive use of stained glass. However, there are also elements characteristic of Art Nouveau, such as natural shapes (especially curvilinear) and the reliefs of animals and plants.
As in other buildings he designed in Barcelona, Antoni Gaudí incorporates numerous figures and biblical scenes in this church, in addition to architectural details belonging to Catalan Modernism. The master started to dedicate himself exclusively to the Sagrada Familia in 1914 and even established a studio inside, where he would spend the night and supervise the works!
On November 7th, 2010, the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and given the official status of a Minor Basilica!
Did you know that the Nativity Façade and Crypt of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia were part of Spain’s sixteenth set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 29th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Durban (South Africa), between July 10th and 17th, 2005.
Only one other Spanish site was announced in the session: the Doñana National Park (an extension from its original inscription in 1994). However, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia wasn’t the only work of Antoni Gaudí to be awarded in this session. In a total of four works by the architect, there were also the Casa Vicens, the Casa Batlló, and the Crypt of Colònia Güell.
Nowadays, Spain is the fourth country in the world and the third country in Europe with the most UNESCO sites, right after Italy and Germany, and tied with France. It has forty-nine heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization!
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit ten of them:
- Alhambra, Generalife, and Albayzín, Granada (1984, 1994)
- Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida (1993)
- Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco (2000)
- Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville (1987)
- Historic Centre of Cordoba (1984)
- Old City of Salamanca (1988)
- Old Town of Santiago de Compostela (1985)
- Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona (1997)
- Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences (2021)
- Works of Antoni Gaudí (1984, 2005) – Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Casa Vicens, Crypt of Colònia Güell, Nativity Façade and Crypt of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Palau Güell, and Park Güell
How to Get to the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia was named an “Expiatory Temple” because its construction is not financed by government or Church funds. Instead, the works have been sponsored with money from donations, alms, and, more recently, entrance tickets.
So, remember that if you visit the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, you’ll be contributing to its completion! Although only the parts completed by Antoni Gaudí are officially a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a mandatory monument in any tourist program.
Lastly, although the Sagrada Familia is very easy to find in the center of Barcelona, it’s super useful to know its access by public transportation. There are two metro stations named after Antoni Gaudí‘s masterpiece, namely in the blue and purple lines.
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The Basílica of the Sagrada Familia is open from Monday to Saturday, from 9 am to 6 pm, and on Sundays, from 10:30 am to 6 pm (from November to February); from Monday to Saturday, from 9 am to 7 pm, and on Sundays, from 10:30 am to 7 pm (in March and October); or from Monday to Saturday, from 9 am to 8 pm, and on Sundays, from 10:30 am to 8 pm (from April to September).
With regards to tickets, they cost €26 (with an app audioguide), €30 (with a guided tour), €36 (with an app audio guide and access to the towers), or €40 (with a guided tour to the towers), when purchased on the official website. Still, there are discounts for students, people under 30, and seniors (€16), besides free admission for children up to 11 years old.
What to See at the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
According to the initial projection by Antoni Gaudí, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia will have a total of eighteen towers, each one symbolizing a biblical character. This means that twelve will represent the Apostles, four the Evangelists, one the Virgin Mary, and the last one Jesus Christ.
Of these eighteen, only eight are ready: four apostles from the Nativity Façade and four from the Passion Façade. Next are the last apostles at the Glory Façade, as well as the Evangelists with taller towers and sculptures at the top: a man for Saint Matthew, a lion for Saint Mark, an ox for Saint Luke, and an eagle for Saint John.
In the center, the pinnacle of Jesus Christ will be 172.5 meters high – which will make the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia the tallest church in the world! It’s known that it will be crowned with a giant cross, personifying Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
Finally, the tower of the Virgin Mary will be the most robust spire and the second tallest, at 138 meters high. And it will have an illuminated twelve-pointed star at the top!
First of all, the apse of a church is the wall behind the main altar, closing the central nave. In the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, the apse serves as a “headboard”, since it stays between the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade. And even though its façade was built between 1890 and 1893, the works on the apse aren’t over yet!
This area of the temple is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, of whom Antoni Gaudí was a great devotee, and will eventually have a chapel in the middle, with two sacristies on the sides. This Chapel of the Assumption is one of the most anticipated parts of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia by devotees.
When completed, the apse will connect the cloisters that extend to both sides, as well as provide new direct entrances through the Carrer Provença. The decoration will have immense statues of saints and angels, reliefs of animals and plants, and even the monograms of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, the various sculptures of snakes, dragons, frogs, and lizards are outside, as they are a representation of the Devil’s forces. They are prevented from entering the sacred temple while draining the rainwater from the building.
Façana del Naixement (or Nativity Façade)
The Nativity Façade of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (in Catalan, Façana del Naixement) is dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ and was designed by Antoni Gaudí in 1892. However, its construction only started two years later, with the first tower – that of the apostle Barnabé – being completed in 1925.
As for the remaining three, they were completed five years later and honor the apostles Matthias, Jude, and Simon. And all twelve towers will have episcopal symbols (miter, cross, crosier, and ring) since the apostles are considered the first bishops of the Catholic Church.
The Nativity Façade of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is divided into three porticos: the Portico of Hope (on the left), the Portico of Charity (in the center), and the Portico of Faith (on the right). The sculptures began to be added in 1899 and were created by Carles Mani, Llorenç Matamala, and Joan Matamala (his son).
These porticos are separated by two columns: one for Joseph (between the Portico of Hope and the Portico of Charity) and the other for Mary (between the Portico of Charity and the Portico of Faith). A third central column divides the Portico of Charity in two and represents Jesus Christ.
These first two columns are based on the figure of a tortoise and a turtle, a symbol of unchangeable time. In reality, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of other symbolic animals and plants scattered around the façade, as well as numerous figures and scenes from the Holy Bible!
Façana de la Passión (or Passion Façade)
The Passion Façade of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (in Catalan, Façana de la Passión) narrates the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to the Holy Bible. Thus, the episodes portrayed range from the “Last Supper” to the “Ascension of Jesus”. For this reason, Antoni Gaudí wanted to make it dramatic and austere.
Even though the architect projected the Passion Façade in 1911, works only started in 1954. The towers’ foundations appeared in 1976 and, since then, the ornamentation of the façade is being developed. Josep Maria Subirachs was responsible for the inscriptions that decorate the entrance gates, based on texts from the Gospels.
In addition, this Catalan sculptor designed groups of sculptures for the façade and the statues of the apostles for their respective pinnacles. They are James the Lesser, Thomas, Philip, and Bartholomew. His contribution to the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia began in 1987 and isn’t completely over yet!
The Passion Façade of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia faithfully represents the cruel suffering of Jesus Christ, at the moment of his crucifixion. The simplified ornamentation highlights the nakedness of the stone, while the shapes of the structure resemble a skeleton.
Façana de la Glòria (or Glory Façade)
The Glory Façade of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (in Catalan, Façana de la Glòria) only began to be built in 2002 and, therefore, will be the last to be completed. This façade will not only be the largest and most imposing of the three but also the main one, giving direct access to the central nave. A grand staircase will create an underpass decorated with demons, as a symbol of Hell.
Dedicated to the heavenly glory of Jesus Christ, the Glory Façade of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia will have a portico with columns dedicated to the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. If, on the one hand, the bases will represent the Seven Deadly Sins, on the other hand, the capitals will portray the Seven Virtues.
It’s also known that there will be seven doors and a kind of “clouds” with excerpts from the Creed and Genesis. The four towers will be the tallest of the three façades of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, honoring apostles Peter, Paul, Andrew, and James the Greater.
For the interior of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, the architect was inspired by the shapes and colors present in the natural world. For example, the central nave is reminiscent of a “forest” of columns, which branch out when reaching the vaults like trees!
And did you know that Antoni Gaudí was also responsible for the design of the temple’s vast furniture and liturgical objects? Indeed, there’s an indication of the master for each of the lamps and chandeliers, the seats, pulpits, and confessionals.
Like the vaults, the stained glass windows filter the light exactly as Antoni Gaudí idealized. Thus, all the lighting inside the basilica mimics the way the light passes through the leaves of the trees. In addition to the stained glass windows and vaults, natural light enters the temple through other windows and skylights.
The work on stained glass windows has been carried out by Joan Vila-Grau since 1999 and was designed to encourage a moment of worship and recollection. And have you noticed that the colors of the stained glass are darker at the base and lighter at the top?
Antoni Gaudí completed the Crypt of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia between 1882 and 1889, from a plant by Francisco de Paula del Villar. Among the various changes to the original plan, are the highest vault and the pillars adorned with naturalistic motifs in the capitals, just to exemplify.
Another of his innovations was the creation of a trench, to create direct ventilation and lighting. Situated under the apse (and 10 meters underground), the crypt itself is made up of twelve chapels dedicated to various saints and arranged all around. The most visited are the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (where Antoni Gaudí‘s grave is) and the Chapel of the Holy Christ (where Josep Maria Bocabella was buried).
Finally, the Schools of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia are outside the basilica, next to the Passion Façade. This rectangular building (but with undulating surfaces) was inaugurated in 1909, to serve as a school for the children of construction workers.
Other children in the neighborhood also came to this space, which had three classrooms, a chapel, and a vestibule. In addition, there were three outdoor areas for outdoor classes, covered by iron pergolas.
The Schools of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia also suffered serious damage during the Spanish Civil War, to the extent that they began to be restored in 1940. In any case, the building was never designed as a permanent project and was located on the site destined for the Glory Façade until 2002!
Its simplified, functional, resistant, and aesthetic construction has become an inspiration for future architects. Among them, Le Corbusier, Pier Luigi Nervi, Félix Candela, and Santiago Calatrava stand out, all fans of this modest but brilliant building.
The Museum of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia wasn’t open to the public when I visited this UNESCO World Heritage site for the first time, in July 2016. Located under the Catholic temple, its collection mainly features original drawings and scale plaster models, as well as photographs from the time of Antoni Gaudí.
One of the most interesting sections in the Museum of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is the workshop, where dozens of replicas and pieces are still created using new technologies (such as 3-D parametric modeling systems and solid printers), but still following Antoni Gaudí’s empirical method!
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What Photography Gear Do I Use?
- Camera Body: Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless
- Camera Lens: Fujinon XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
- Tripod: Manfrotto Compact Action
- Small Tripod: Manfrotto PIXI Mini
- Smartphone Adaptor: Manfrotto PIXI Clamp
- Memory Card: SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO SDXC