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Why You Need to Visit the Inside of Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s Masterpiece in Barcelona

An iconic building of Barcelona, many travellers are content enough to see Gaudi’s design. Little do they know, if they were to step inside Sagrada Familia, it’ll be much more stunning than you can expect. At least it was for me.

This post has been at the back of my head for a long time, waiting to be written.. for almost 3.5 years, to be exact. I just couldn’t sit down to craft this post because I knew, no matter what I write, how I write it, no matter the photos that you’ll see here, it’ll never be enough to justify how intense, how breathtaking, this work by Gaudi actually is.

Inside Sagrada Familia, the Basilica

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Years ago in design school, the lecturer asked us to guess just how long this cathedral (actually it has been granted basilica status in 2010) has been in under construction. The answer: since 1882! I stopped feeling sleepy there and then, sitting up to hear about how a building could take so long to be built. It’s more than twice the number of years that Singapore’s been an independent country. I mean, just how much money it must have taken! And the manpower?!?

Work began in 1882, but Gaudí wasn’t the first architect. He took over in 1883, after the original architect – Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano – resigned. First, the crypt was built and completed in 1889. Gaudí received a large anonymous donation by someone called “Isabel”. With the money, he proposed a more lavish, hugely symbolic version of the church. Through sculptures and architecture, teachings of the Gospels and Christian Church will be conveyed.

In 1892, the Nativity facade had its foundations begin construction. This facade was built first instead of the Passion facade because Gaudi knew and said, “If, instead of building this decorated, richly ornamented facade, we had started with the hard, bare and skeletal Passion facade, people would have rejected it.”

For 43 years of his life, Gaudí worked on the temple. During the last 12 years of his life, he had left all other projects, to fully focus on Sagrada Familia. He was so involved that he lived nearby his studio workshop, working on all the scale models, designs, drawings, and taking photographs of his models in order to produce life-like sculptures. In 1923, Gaudí completed the final design for the naves and roofs. By Nov 1925, the first bell tower was completed – it became the only tower that Gaudí saw. In 1926, Gaudi died 3 days sustaining injuries after being knocked down by a tram while leaving the temple.

Domènec Sugrañes, Gaudi’s close collaborator, took over management after his death, until 1938.

The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936. Revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and destroyed the studio workshop. Many large-scale plaster models were destroyed; original plans, drawings and photographs were lost. Despite this, work for Sagrada Familia went on and has always proceeded with Gaudi’s original concept. Over all the years, many architects, sculptors, draughtsmen and modellers have collaborated with Gaudi.

After the civil war’s destruction, the architect Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal, who had worked with Gaudi since 1919, restored the crypt and repaired many broken models. Because of this, construction of Sagrada Familia could continue in accordance with Gaudi’s vision. The directors that followed afterwards were people who had worked closely with Gaudi, then succeeded by a few more. From 2012, Jordi Faulí i Oller has been in charge.

My 2nd time stepping into Sagrada Familia

In 2007, I was in Barcelona and visited Sagrada Familia. At that time, the inner temple was still largely under construction, I passed through without much thought. In 2013, I was back in Barcelona again. My friend has never been to Barcelona, of course we’ll visit Sagrada Familia! After collecting the audio guide at the entrance, we started with the Passion facade.

The Passion Facade

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

I couldn’t take a full view because the left side of the facade was under construction. The Passion facade illustrates the last week of Christ’s life. Gaudi had made a sketch of this entrance in 1911. In 1986, the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs was put in charge of the Passion facade. He presented the story in an inverted S, from bottom to the top, the way Gaudi encourages breaking away from convention. You’re supposed to ‘read’ it from the Last Supper at the bottom to the Crucifixion and Burial at the top.

I actually really like Subirachs’ sculptural style – angular, outlined, dramatic and expressive. Subirachs also implemented Gaudi’s art style referenced from his other projects, paying tribute to the great master in subtle ways.

Entering the Inner temple

After I was done with the Passion facade, I stepped into the inner temple, never expecting to see or feel what would be before my eyes.

My breath was taken away.

inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spaininside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Everywhere I looked, the inner temple was filled with light and colors.

When the sun comes in through the stained glass windows, the colors that enter the temple are simply stunning!

inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Those aren’t spotlights nor painted ceilings, it was the sun shining in through the windows and the colors illuminating the bare concrete of the ceiling! I was lost for words.

Sagrada Familiainside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

The patterns and columns holding up the inner temple were largely inspired by nature, as if you’re within a huge forest.

inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

It was here where I sat, tears beginning to fall.

There I was, feeling really moved by all the light, colours and art in this temple. I wept silently, though not for the beauty that surrounds me, but for the death of something back home. My friend sat down next to me, never saying a word, simply providing company and silent support, which was more than enough. Soft music played in the background. It was right here, that I felt an inner peace wash over me. It was right here, that many things in my life shifted, yet I had not known it would all be for the better.

inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Going up the Towers

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
and this is how you go down, spiralling tunnels

The Nativity Facade

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, SpainA highly ornamental, very intricately created facade at the other side of Sagrada Familia, there’s so many details to look at when you stand in front of Nativity facade. Gaudi, being the master of details, also did mathematical calculations so that the sculptures will look in proportion as you view from the bottom.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, SpainSagrada Familia, Barcelona, SpainSagrada Familia is estimated to be completed in 2026, 100 years since Gaudi’s death. I’m looking forward to visiting the basilica again when it’s fully finished!

Have you been inside Sagrada Familia? Do you intend to visit this basilica?

Tip: Buy tickets online before you go, because they implement crowd control measures, limiting number of visitors at any one time!

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Sagrada Familia • The Petite Wanderess

More posts about Gaudi and Barcelona!

Visited: Nov 2013
information sources: Basilica de la Sagrada Familia | The Culture Trip

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  1. Wow, these are great photos of the inside of the Sagrada Familia. I have visited the cathedral a few times, but only from the outside. The queues to get in were just too long. So it’s good to see some great photos from how the interior looks like. I guess I have to plan another visit to Barcelona to see it again 🙂

    1. It’s a pity you didn’t go in, the interior is really stunning! This cathedral must be visited again, I’m looking forward to my next trip too! =)

  2. I have always heard wonders of the Sagrada Familia…now I understand why! WOW it is just breathtaking, no wonder you cried!

    Telma @ Blank Canvas Voyage

  3. Beautiful!!! I’ve been to Barcelona for like three times but always got turned off by the long queues at Sagrada Familia! But on my next trip in August will include it in my itinerary, for sure. Thanks for the post! Xx

    1. I’ve been twice and both times I MUST enter Sagrada Familia, hee. Book tickets online, sometimes they sell out for the day(s) because of crowd control. It’s not that crowded inside, plenty of space to roam around and admire it =)

      Thanks for coming by, Icy!

  4. The Sagrada Familia looks so stunning, I’ve never seen interior pictures before! I’m heading to Barcelona in a couple of weeks so I’ll definitely have to go inside and take a look for myself!

    1. I think you’ll be very touched to see this place in person too! =) I was very moved even though I’m Buddhist/Taoist.

      Thanks so much for the nomination Jac! To be honest, I’ve turned down blogger awards like this for personal reasons. Let me think about it whether I’m keen to take this up.


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