Sagrada Familia facts – Fun facts about Gaudi’s Basilica in Barcelona

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La Sagrada Familia is a must-see tourist attraction in Barcelona, Spain.

Once its construction is complete, it will be the tallest religious structure in the whole of Europe. Did you know this fact about Sagrada Familia?

How about this Sagrada Familia fact: Construction of this UNESCO Heritage site started in 1882 and is expected to finish by 2026 – that’s a whopping 144 years!

Unfortunately, not everybody seems to be impressed by architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece.

George Orwell is known to have looked at the Basilica and said, “It is one of the hideous buildings in the world.”

Sagrada Familia facts

We present below 23 amazing Sagrada Familia facts, which are sure to blow your mind.

1. Sagrada Familia attracts 5 million every year

Sagrada Familia attracts more than 5 million tourists in a year, which means, on average, two tourists enter the gates of Sagrada Familia every second.

No wonder it is so crowded.

Tip: If you plan a visit, read up on how to avoid queue at Sagrada Familia.

2. Antoni Gaudi wasn’t the first choice for La Sagrada Familia

Antoni Gaudi in 1878. Image: Wikipedia.org

The project first got assigned to Francisco Del Vilar.

He was a Spanish architect designing a lot of churches in and around Spain back then.

He had only finished building the crypt when disagreements with the organizing committee cropped up.

Once he left, Antoni Gaudi was asked to take over the construction of Sagrada Familia.

Many Gaudi fans don’t know about this Sagrada Familia fact.

3. Sagrada Familia will take 144 years to build

The Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza from 2,580 BC to 2,560 BC – 20 long years.

After that, it took the best engineers of those days ten years to build a stone causeway that connected it to a temple in the valley below.

Meanwhile, it took twenty thousand workers 20 years to build the Taj Mahal.

In sharp contrast, when the construction of La Sagrada Familia finally winds to completion in 2026, it would have been under construction for 144 years.

This long duration is an incredible fact about Sagrada Familia, and it won’t be easy to beat in the future.

Unbelievable but true: Did you know that Sagrada Familia has been under construction for 136 years without a building permit?

4. Gaudi used faces of actual people for his sculptures

Gaudi supervised the work on the Nativity facade himself. However, these sculptures of the six Musician Angels were done by Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo. Image: Bluffton.edu

The Nativity facade, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, was built under Gaudi’s supervision.

This facade has three parts – The Portal of Hope, The Portal of Mercy, and The Portal of Faith.

While sculpting the Portal of Mercy, Gaudi used the death masks of diseased Barcelona citizens and builders of Sagrada Familia to shape his sculptures’ faces.

It was Gaudi’s way of paying tribute to the people who contributed.

5. Sagrada Familia’s design has no straight lines

Gaudi had always disliked straight lines and angles.

He said, “In nature, nothing is straight.”

Once you step into this Spanish Basilica, you will realize that everything here – patterns, pillars, sculptures, etc. are free-hand or curvy.

When you visit the Basilica in Barcelona, this Sagrada Familia fact stands out. You can’t miss it.

6. La Sagrada Familia is 170 meters tall because…

Gaudi believed that human-made structures should be shorter than God’s structures.

Since Montjuïc hill, Barcelona’s highest point was 171 meters tall, Gaudi decided that his church’s height should be one meter less – that is 170 meters (560 feet).

7. Most of Gaudi’s plans for the church got lost

In the year 1936, the Spanish Civil War was on.

A group of anarchists and revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and destroyed the workshop, which contained all of Gaudi’s plans and models.

Thankfully, some of them were saved in time.

After the war came to a halt, construction started with whatever limited blueprints were available.

8. La Sagrada Familia is full of symbolism

The sea turtle at the base looks out to the sea while the land tortoise looks out into the land. Both hold the massive columns flanking the central portal. Image: Bluffton.edu

Symbolism has been part of Christianity forever.

For instance, the Good Shepherd with a sheep over his shoulder symbolizing the lost sheep, the white dove, which represents the Holy Spirit, etc.

Gaudi has used this and extended it to natural symbolism.

You can’t miss this fact the moment you step inside Sagrada Familia.

For instance, the massive pillars inside which support the entire structure look like massive trees.

One of these pillars has a turtle at its base, and another has a tortoise symbolizing the balance between land and sea.

The same symbolism exists in Gaudi’s Park Guell too. Check out amazing Park Guell facts.

9. Gaudi wanted Sagrada Familia to guide ships

Gaudi didn’t just want his church to be seen from every part of Barcelona.

He wanted it to be seen from the ocean – as a guiding light for the sailors and their ships.

To ensure it was helpful for seafarers, he had glass mosaics embedded at its highest points.

These glass mosaics reflect both the sun and moonlight and act as beacons.

10. Gaudi built a school for his artisans’ kids

Antoni Gaudi was quite a thoughtful man.

In 1909, Gaudi built a school called Sagrada Familia Schools building at the church’s construction site.

He said this would help the fathers build a magnificent church and not worry about their children.

The school building contained three classrooms, a hall, and a chapel.

The school existed on the site till 2002, but it was relocated nearby due to a space crunch.  

Recommended Reading: Are Sagrada Familia towers worth it?

11. Interior ceiling of La Sagrada Familia mimics trees

Drawing inspiration from nature, Antonio Gaudi has created a forest-like feel inside the Basilica. Dnaveh / Shutterstock.com

Gaudi always took inspiration from nature, and for this masterpiece, he did just that.

Sagrada Familia’s interior is full of nature symbols, and the best example is the Basilica’s ceiling.

Even though these ceilings are 200 feet high (61 meters), they are held together by columns that look like trees branching out.

As the columns branch out and hold the ceiling, they give the appearance of a thick forest.

Gaudi used geometric branching structures almost 125 years back – one fact about Sagrada Familia, which still enthralls architects.

12. Sagrada Familia is a UNESCO Heritage site

UNESCO seems to love Antoni Gaudi, for seven of his buildings are UNESCO World heritage sites.

The best among them is Sagrada Familia, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

It got recognized for its innovative and artistic design and construction techniques.

Gaudi’s other masterpieces that made it to UNESCO’s list are Park GuellCasa BatlloLa Pedrera, etc.

Ticket/tourCost
Sagrada Familia fast track tickets€31
Sagrada Familia with Tower access€40
Sagrada Familia Guided tour€50
Sagrada Familia guided tour + Tower access€59
Guided tour of Sagrada Familia & Park Guell€79
Tip: 90% of the visitors opt for fast track ticket, which is the cheapest way to explore

13. Sagrada Familia started as a church but is now a Basilica

When the construction began, Sagrada Familia was to be a church.

When Gaudi took over the reins, he wanted it to be a bit grand, so he planned for the Sagrada Familia cathedral.

For this, he even took inspiration from the Barcelona Cathedral for the floor plan.

As it became popular amongst the public, its priority in the eyes of the religious leaders grew.

After a few decades of its construction, they designated Sagrada Familia as a cathedral.

And in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI declared it a Basilica. Find out the difference between a church, cathedral, and a Basilica.

14. All the 18 towers of the Basilica represent someone

It is a fact that all the 18 towers of Sagrada Familia represent someone.

Twelve of these 18 towers represent the apostles, and four represent the evangelists.

Virgin Mary gets a tower with a star on the top, and the tallest tower represents Jesus Christ.

As of today, only eight of the 18 towers are complete.

Out of these eight towers, four belong to the Nativity facade and four to the Passion facade.

Check out views from Nativity facade and views from Passion facade.

If you are visiting the Sagrada Familia you should opt for the Sagrada Familia towers tours.

15. Antoni Gaudi is buried in La Sagrada Familia

Antoni Gaudi died on 10 June 1926 – a few days after being hit by a tram.

Since he wasn’t carrying his papers, people couldn’t identify him.

He was believed to be a beggar and hence didn’t get proper treatment.

Gaudi’s tomb is in the underground level of the building and is in the chapel dedicated to the El Carmen Virgin.

Many tourists don’t know this Sagrada Familia fact and don’t visit his tomb during their visit.

16. If it were not for computers, it would have taken longer

Gaudi didn’t have computers. Neither did the architects who followed him after his untimely death.

During this period, they relied on paper sketches to draw up their plan and execute.

However, everything changed with the onset of computers. Now the speed of construction is many times faster.

If it were not for the computers, we would still be at least 100 years away from completing this massive Basilica.

Crazy but true: Heard of the man who built Sagrada Familia and 200+ other monuments with just toothpicks?

17. La Sagrada Familia was conceived by a bookseller

Josep Maria Bocabella was a bookseller who first planted the seeds of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona’s residents. 

He owned a religious printing press and bookstore, and his business had taken him to the Vatican.

At the holy city, he visited numerous churches and got inspired to build something similar in Barcelona.

Once back, he started sharing his idea with others in the community.

It took him ten years to get enough funds to start the construction of the church in 1882.

Besides Gaudi, Josep Maria Bocabella is the only person to be buried in Sagrada Familia.

18. Passion facade of Sagrada Familia is controversial

On the Passion facade, Jesus’s story is told in the shape of a “S” – from the bottom to the top. But the purists and Gaudi fans don’t like the approach. BAHDANOVICH ALENA / Shutterstock.com

Of the three facades at Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi himself completed the Nativity Facade.

After the Passion facade was ready, Spanish sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs joined the team.

He was to sculpt the figures which would adorn the Passion facade.

His angular, sad, and expressive sculptures were very different from Gaudi’s sculptures on the Nativity facade – and some didn’t like them.

Some even wanted these sculptures to be shot down by machine guns.

19. Towers of La Sagrada Familia have lifts

If other buildings have lifts, it is normal. But remember, Gaudi designed these towers 100+ years back.

Besides, these towers are thin, and to build a lift in them, which carries six people at a time, is marvelous.

These lifts allow people to go up the towers in the Nativity facade and Passion facade and look at the towers, sculptures, and Barcelona city from up close.

Not sure which Tower tickets to buy? Read about which is better – Nativity facade or Passion facade.

20. Contributions from tourists keep the construction going

Here is a financial fact about Sagrada Familia: The annual cost of continuing the construction of Sagrada Familia Basilica is 25 Million Euros.

This money comes from donors and the sale of tickets to visiting tourists.

In short, if you visit this Barcelona attraction, you would have contributed to the building of this World wonder.

21. Gaudi changed the designs after he took over

Francisco Paula del Villar, the first architect of this Church, wanted to build a standard Gothic revival church.

However, when he resigned due to creative differences with the sponsors and Gaudi took over, the plans changed.

What you see rising from the center of Barcelona was envisaged by Gaudi.

22. Gaudi didn’t worry about the time to build the church

Gaudi just wasn’t concerned if he would complete the construction in his lifetime or not.

His objective was to create a masterpiece.

He is known to have said, “My client is not in a hurry.”

Since he knew he had to ensure continuity after he was gone, he encouraged fluidity in the plans.

He even made changes to his plans on the fly while visiting the construction site.

Recommended Reading: Best time to visit Sagrada Familia

23. Technology is speeding up construction at the Basilica

When Gaudi died in 1926, only 25% of the construction was over.

In 2010, during the second estimate, they found out that only 50% of the construction was over.

However, advances in technology will ensure that the Basilica will be complete by 2026.

The second half of the construction of Sagrada Familia will take only 16 years, primarily due to the advances in stone-cutting technology and 3D modeling using computers.

In 2015, the Basilica’s chief architect Jordi Faulí implemented 3D printing technology into the construction process.

He said, “If Gaudi were alive today, he would have brought 3D technology to its maximum exponent since he had conceived much of his work tri-dimensionally.”

Ticket/tourCost
Sagrada Familia fast track tickets€31
Sagrada Familia with Tower access€40
Sagrada Familia Guided tour€50
Sagrada Familia guided tour + Tower access€59
Guided tour of Sagrada Familia & Park Guell€79
Tip: 90% of the visitors opt for fast track tickets, which is the cheapest way to explore

# Camp Nou facts
# Casa Batllo facts
# La Pedrera facts
# Park Guell facts
# Casa Mila facts

Sagrada Familia
Park Guell
Casa Batllo
Casa Mila
# Barcelona Zoo
# Camp Nou Experience
Barcelona Aquarium
# Montjuic Cable Car
# Fundacio Joan Miro
# Dali Theatre-Museum
# Gaudi House Museum

Jamshed V Rajan: He is a two-faced traveler, who enjoys both the hustle-bustle of an urban holiday and the serenity of a break from the rest of the World. During some of his vacations, he is a resort hopper, and on others, he barely spends time in his hotel. He loves to try mouth-watering local cuisines, especially non-vegetarian dishes. Favourite Cities: Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Dublin, Prague, Vienna

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