World Heritage Site
Everything there is to see in the Sagrada Familia is fascinating. The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, in the Eixample district, kept the architect busy from 1883 until his death in 1926. The work continues on the basis of the plans and sketches preserved by the architect. However, they were reinterpreted by different hands, amidst a controversy over the suitability of continuing the work with the confusing sketches and models that have remained.
In 2005, the part built by Gaudí (crypt and Nacimiento façade) was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. In addition, since 2007 it is one of the twelve Treasures of Spain. An essential part to see in the Sagrada Familia.
It has the typical Latin cross floor plan and on each of its arms there are two facades. To the east is the Fachada del Nacimiento (Nativity Façade), the only one completed during the architect’s lifetime. It is decorated with sculptures by Carles Maní and Llorenç and Joan Matamala on drawings by Ricard Opisso.
To the west, the Fachada de la Pasión, somewhat more austere and simplified than the Sagrada Familia. It was started in 1954 -according to Gaudí’s drawings- and has been highly criticised for the personal interpretation given to it by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirach. The sculptor has a more abstract style than Gaudí’s.
A third monumental façade was planned for the southern side, the Fachada de la Gloria, the main entrance to the temple, of which many original sketches have been preserved and the work is still going on.
The part directed personally by Gaudí is formed by the crypt, the wall of the apse and the aforementioned Nacimiento entrance. The first two elements are neo-Gothic, heirs to the original project. They have a naturalistic ornamentation of vegetable and animal forms carved in the stone that you can see in the Sagrada Familia.
Another of the infrastructures that can be seen at La Sagrada Família is the Crypt (1882-1891). It was designed by Francisco de Paula and transformed by Gaudí, who added the capitals with naturalistic motifs on the pillars and vaulted it. The crypt is made up of seven chapels dedicated to the Sagrada Familia de Jesús and arranged in a rotunda. In front of it there are five other chapels in a straight line, the central one dedicated to the Holy Family. The architect himself is buried in one of these chapels in the crypt.
Above it stands the apse with the high altar, surrounded by seven side chapels that can be seen in the Sagrada Familia. In front of the altar there is a transept with three naves and the main body with five. The apse has in its central part the Capilla de la Asunción. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, for whom Gaudí had a special devotion. According to the architect’s project, this space would have the shape of a stone litter. Therefore, an essential part to see in the Sagrada Familia.
The central nave, with its forest of columns in the shape of a tree trunk, would be crowned by an immense dome 170 metres high. It is a symbol of Jesus Christ and is surrounded by five towers as symbols of the Virgin and the Four Evangelists.
It is worth visiting some of the Eight Towers that have been built to date (only one finished during Gaudí’s lifetime). Initially the architect envisioned eighteen. Four in each of the three facades, dedicated to the twelve apostles. One in the centre of the dome tower that would represent Christ, and four around it as a symbol of the evangelists, as well as another one over the apse dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Finally, the complex is surrounded by a cloister, situated four metres above the ground (still under construction).
Next to the church they built several outbuildings that can be seen in the Sagrada Familia. First, the Casa del Capellán (1887 and renovated between 1906 and 1912), a simple brick construction. To it were attached several spaces destined to Gaudí’s office, a model workshop, a photography laboratory and an assembly hall. Second, the Escuelas de la Sagrada Familia (1909), a small building that was used as a school for the workers’ children.
Within what you can see in La Sagrada Família there is a space fitted out as a museum located in the basement of the temple, in the lower part corresponding to the transept, where the workshops were formerly located.