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Sagrada Família

the architecture of Antoni Gaudí

Spain zone

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facade of the Passion
facade of the Passion


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la Vuelta a Espagna

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New translation, the Magna Carta

the basilica of the Sagrada Família
sagrada’s construction history
admission charges and information
accessing the towers
handicapped access
 background facts 
end notes

the basilica of the Sagrada Família

The Sagrada Familia amongst spring blooms.
The Sagrada Família amongst spring blooms.
Green parrots fly amongst the trees.


Sagrada Família is Catalan for Holy Family.
This enormous building can be regarded as a synthesis and expression of Antoni Gaudí’s previous experimental findings in architecture. His intention was to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing edifice that was perfect structurally.

Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer was a devout and cultivated bookseller, who in 1866 had founded the Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph to promote christianity, which he felt was declining in an increasingly secular society. This project of an expiatory church is based around a silver plaque of the Holy Family given to Bocabella by the then pope during a visit to Rome in 1872. With a limited budget, eventually he bought 12,800 m² of land in Barcelona, paying 172,000 pesetas (now valued at 1.034 €).

sagrada’s construction history

Bocabella chose F. Villar i Lozano as architect, who intended to build a conventional neo-gothic cathedral, using expensive cut-stone pillars. Villar was soon replaced after arguments about costs.

Gaudí was the replacement architect from 1883. Having replaced the pillars with cheaper masonry ones, he proceeded to redesign the whole project as a grandiose building in a Latin cross shape.

Stained glass in the Sagrada Familia
Stained glass in the Sagrada Família

Gaudí realised that the building would take more than a generation to complete, so he worked to leave a vigorous sample of the building to come, that future generations will be encouraged to continue the work, and to which the rest of the œuvre can be added.

Following that reasoning, Gaudí, while he finished the crypt, started the construction of the apse, and then the Nativity facade.

  • Building started in 1882
  • Land area: 12,800 m², delimited by Mallorca, Marina and Sardenya streets.
    Gaudí’s design included:
  • a cruciform plan
  • five-aisled nave
  • three-aisled transept
  • seven chapels in the apse
  • three facades dedicated to the birth (nativity), passion (crucifixion) and glory of Jesus (resurrection)
  • eighteen towers
    four at each side - twelve for the apostles
    four on the transept, surrounding the ‘Jesus’ tower - for the evangelists
    one tower on the apse dedicated to the Virgin,
    plus the central tower in honour of Jesus, intended height 170 metres/560 ft
  • two sacristies adjacent to the apse
  • three large chapels: one for the Assumption in the apse, and the Baptism and Penitence chapels at the west end
  • surrounding cloister for processions that isolates the building from the exterior
  • each part of the church dedicated to a religious theme
  • completion intended for 2026, the anniversary of Gaudí’s death

upward view at the transept crossing. Image:
Upward view at the transept crossing. Image:

Only the crypt, apse and part of the Nativity facade were completed during Gaudí’s life. After Gaudi’s death in 1926, construction was continued by his assistant Domènec Sugrañes. Since then, various architects have continued the work. From 1987, Jordi Bonet i Armengol assumed responsibility.

In 2005:
Zones finished:
the Crypt / the facade of the Nativity
Zones under construction: the facade of the Passion is well advanced, missing only roofing over various sections. The principal nave is covered, while the transept and master alter are being covered. The facade of the Glory has just started, similarly for the choir.
Zones not yet started: the Sacristies / the Baptistry and Chapel of Penitence / the 18 domes / the obelisks / the Chapel of the Assumption.

Since 2005:
Zones finished: the interior was completed in 2010 and was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Zones under construction: the apse ambulatory vaults, the transept and apse vaults.

Sculptural artists include Llorenç and Joan Matamala, Carles Mani, Jaume Busquets, Joaquim Ros i Bofarull, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs (for the Passion facade).

Today construction continues with modern building materials that, according to some, Gaudí did not want to use. Thus, when you visit the basilica, you will see the colour of the stone on one facade is not the same as that of the opposite facade. The style also seems very different from one facade to another.

Because construction still continues, some areas of the building may be inaccessible, however much of the interior is now completed.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrating the Sagrada Familia, November 2010. Image:
Pope Benedict XVI consecrating the Sagrada Familia, November 2010. Image:

Jesus hanging out in front of the Sagrada FamiliaOn the approaches to the Sagrada Familia, particularly near the principal entrance, you will see many technicolour statues. Except... they aren’t!

Here is a local trade - living statues, often of suitably religious personages, like this Jesus on the right. Tourists will pay the statues to be part of a photograph.


admission charges and information

You have to pay to enter the Sagrada perimeter, and tickets to mount the towers are available from guides inside. With the entrance ticket you can visit the Facade of the Nativity and the Facade of the Passion, the central nave, the cloister and portal of Roser. You may also see the museum with the model polifuniculaire, the Colonia Güell, Gaudí's original drawings and scale models of the church.

related pages:









advertising disclaimer

Drawing by Antoni Gaudi Drawing by Antoni Gaudi Drawing by Antoni Gaudi Model of the basilica
Drawings by Antoni Gaudí Model of the basilica

Also, there are the school furnishings and temporary exhibitions. Allow at least two hours for a visit.

13.00 € Adult
11.00 € Under 18, student, retired
The admission charge does not include the lift to the towers. It is only for admission to the church.
Entrance is on the Passion Facade (Sardenya Street).
Sagrada Familia web site

accessing the towers

So far, eight out of the eighteen towers have been built at La Sagrada Família, four on each side facade. The facades are not connected and so have independent entrances. The towers can only be visited by lift, there being one on each facade. Tickets, time-stamped to avoid large queues, can be purchased at the ticket office.
Lift charge: 3 €

For safety, in the event of adverse weather conditions (strong wind or rain) the lifts to the towers may be closed.

For security reasons, children younger than 6 years old are not allowed to go up to the towers, while those under 14 years old should be accompanied by an adult.

The exterior of the Sagrada Familia with scaffolding.
An extraordinary religious work of art, or a dog’s dinner?
The exterior of the Sagrada Família with scaffolding.

handicapped access

Although the main access to the nave is by steps that rise 4 metres from the road, there is also a slope for wheelchairs by both the Nativity and the Passion facades. There are wheelchairs available, to use one, ask at the Information Point.

The non-able are not able to go any further as “People with reduced mobility or a wheelchair are not allowed” into the towers. There are narrow, steep, one-way, stone spiral staircases up into the towers, and down again.

Going up stairs in a tower, Sagrada Familia Going down stairs in a tower, Sagrada Familia
Going up stairs in a tower Going down stairs in a tower
Background facts

Barcelona Coat of Arms: Barcelona

approximate population : 1,510,000
average altitude/elevation : 1 m

basilica dimensions:
interior measurements
length nave and apse : 90 m
main nave width : 45 m
side nave width: 7.5 m
(total nave width : 45 m)
transept length : 60 m
transept width : 30 m

end notes

  1. An expiatory church is one that is funded entirely by donations.

  2. There is available to download the plans and assembly instructions for a paper model of Sagrada Familia. Made by by T.Ichiyama, this project is available as .pdf files to be printed out. There are 4 pattern files and 24-page assembly instructions file. All are available in both A4 and letter format paper sizes. The patterns are best printed on matt photo quality paper.

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