My first glimpse of La Sagrada Familia was almost a letdown.
I had looked forward to seeing the basilica considered by some to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and I held my breath in anticipation as we walked up from the underground metro. But the first things I saw were cranes. Cranes, scaffolding, safety screens and other construction equipment.
I knew before I went that the Sagrada Familia is yet to be finished (construction was started in 1882 and it is not expected to be finished before 2026). But I wasn’t prepared for the near-chaos of what seemed to be an ongoing major construction site.
It was a windy day but there were hundreds of people either lining up for a tour of the church or lingering and taking pictures in the square. A taekwondo group was, strangely enough, setting up for a martial arts exhibition.
I had imagined that Antoni Gaudi‘s obra would be situated in a square as grand as the one near the Palacio Real in Madrid. Instead, the Sagrada Familia seems to have been plunked down in a crowded area, surrounded by unremarkable (albeit expensive) apartment buildings.
I can’t tell my Gothic from my rococo. So to my untrained (and astigmatic) eye, the Sagrada Familia appeared to be a giant edifice where all sorts of architectural styles had been jumbled together by someone whose insanity was given free rein. (Clearly, I know nothing, haha.) It was so…different. So weird. I thought to myself, Maybe the weirdness is what all the fuss is really about because I’m not getting it.
Conscious, however, that it was a privilege for me to stand in front of the iconic building (declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site), I got busy taking pictures of whatever corner of the church facade my zoom lens could reach. I just clicked away, thinking less ‘wow!’ than ‘OK, there’s some sort of detail there, let me take a picture of it’.
Back at the hotel, I uploaded the photos to my laptop, clicked through them and … was blown away.
The Sagrada Familia is magnificent.
Every square foot of its facade is so richly detailed, it is obviously the work of a genius who was determined to make it his singular masterpiece.
Biblical characters and symbolism abound in the church’s vari-colored facade.
They say that it was Gaudi’s dream to turn La Sagrada Familia into the architectural equivalent of the Bible, with all major Biblical characters represented therein.
There is a pond and small park facing the Sagrada Familia where one can escape from the crowds, sit on a bench and stare at the building that not a few call a gaudy monstrosity but which others say (rightly, I think) may be the most fascinating structure on earth.
(Note: For a closer look at the details, right-click on some of the pictures in ‘landscape’ mode and open them in new tabs.)