Antoni Gaudi was a firm believer, and that’s why his masterpiece Sagrada Familia is also an expression of the Christian faith.
If you are a Christian (especially Roman Catholic), you will recognize all the symbolism as you walk around or walk inside Sagrada Familia.
If you are not a Christian, you can still get a good understanding of Christianity by visiting Sagrada Familia.
More than 5 million tourists of various faiths visit Sagrada Familia every year making it the most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona. More such Sagrada Familia facts
Sagrada Familia – Cathedral or Basilica?
Cathedral: Home church of a bishop or archbishop of a Catholic diocese is called a Cathedral.
Basilica: A Basilica is a name designated by the Pope to an important Church building because it carries a historical, spiritual, or architectural significance.
When Gaudi started work on Sagrada Familia he never planned it to be a Cathedral.
When it came to Sagrada Familia’s ground plans, Gaudi was inspired by other Spanish cathedrals such as Barcelona Cathedral, Burgos Cathedral, Leon Cathedral and Seville Cathedral.
However, he only wanted it to look as grand as a cathedral.
In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI opened the interiors of Sagrada Familia to the public and declared it as Basilica.
Even though technically Sagrada Familia is a Basilica, many refer it as a Church or a Cathedral.
The significance of the Cathedral’s Towers
Since architect Gaudi wanted it to be as grand as a Cathedral, he planned 18 towers for this religious building.
Of these 18 towers, only 8 towers have been constructed till now – since work began in 1882.
Each of the 18 towers of Sagrada Familia represents someone.
12 of these 18 towers represent the apostles and four represent the evangelists.
The Sagrada Familia tower with a star on the top is designated for Virgin Mary, and the tallest tower of them all is for Jesus Christ.
Tower of the Virgin Mary
Tower of Virgin Mary is located over the apse and stands 138 meters tall. This will be a hollow tower – an empty monumental space full of light.
Despite being under construction, tourists can still see it because there is no scaffolding.
Tower of Jesus Christ
Tower of Jesus Christ will be the tallest tower at a height of 172.5 meters.
When completed there will be four bridges which will connect the towers of the evangelists to the tower of Jesus.
Interestingly, the route up to the tower of Jesus will pass through the evangelists’ tower. Another symbolic representation at the cathedral.
Towers of the evangelists
Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have a tower each. When completed by approximately 2022, they all will be 135 meters tall.
Their height will be just a little shy of the Tower of the Virgin Mary and Tower of Jesus Christ.
Religious representation on Cathedral’s facades
There are three facades in Sagrada Familia and two of them are already complete. If you take a Sagrada Familia tower tour, you can go up to see both the facades.
As for which facade is better, the jury is divided. Check out our thoughts on Passion facade or Nativity facade
Work is going on, on the third – the Glory facade.
Passion facade is formed by the four towers dedicated to the apostles James the Lesser, Bartholomew, Thomas and Philip.
The sculptures on this facade represent Passion of the Christ – that of his suffering and eventual death. That’s why the Passion facade is not as colorful as the Nativity facade.
Sculpturer Josep Maria Subirachs used straight lines for his Passion facade figures to evoke sadness. Interestingly, this facade is the only place in the whole cathedral where straight lines have been used. Best views of Passion facade
Nativity facade was supervised by Gaudi and was also completed during his lifetime.
This facade is formed by the four towers dedicated to Saints Barnabas, Jude, Simon and Matthew.
Nativity facade depicts the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrates his life.
The Nativity facade is divided in three parts which represent Faith, Hope and Charity. Best views of Nativity facade
Gaudi had only left a very basic plan for the Glory facade. His successors have designed this and work has already on the Glory Facade.
The Glory facade is also architected like the Passion facade and Nativity facade – with four towers grouped by pairs.
When complete, this facade will show Jesus Christ in heaven with his father, judging every man’s deeds.
Mass at Sagrada Familia cathedral
Sagrada Família Cathedral is a place of worship.
There is a space set aside for just this in the Chapel of the Eucharist, in the ambulatory.
Besides this, you can always attend the international and special masses which are held at this cathedral at regular intervals.
These masses are open to the general public and there is no need to buy any tickets.
The Archdiocese of Barcelona conducts the International Mass on every Sunday and other holi days of obligation.
The International mass begins at 9 am in several languages. And you can start entering the place of worship from 8.30 am onwards.
To attend this mass, you need to enter the Cathedral from the Nativity facade on Carrer de la Marina.
There is no charge to attend, however the capacity is limited so you need to be early.
You need to wear church-appropriate clothes and behave properly as well.
At regular intervals, special masses get conducted at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
For some of these special masses you can buy tickets and for some, attendance is by invitation only.
The best way to keep track of special masses at Sagrada Familia is by following this calendar.
Sagrada Familia Cathedral’s organ
2010 was a watershed year for Sagrada Familia – Pope Benedict XVI opened the interiors of Sagrada Familia to the public and the first organ was installed in the Cathedral.
Sagrada Familia’s massive size and architecture posed a unique acoustical challenge for Blancafort Orgueners de Montserrat, the organ specialists.
They have started with 26 stops and 1492 pipes and the plan is to install a total of 8000 pipes all around the Cathedral. This will help the sound come from every corner of the building.
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