Gaudì in Barcelona
  • Europe /
  • Spain /
  • Barcelona

In any corner of Barcelona, one encounters Gaudí. He is present everywhere with his art that shapes the city's streets.

The Sagrada Familia
Heritage place of interest.
Heritage place of interest.
Heritage place of interest.
Heritage place of interest.
Heritage place of interest.
Heritage place of interest.

After immersing ourselves in the artist’s world, having visited Parc Guell outdoors, we reach Gaudi’s ‘most famous, decisive and still unfinished work: “La Sagrada Familia”. We walk for about twenty minutes and arrive at the intersection of Carrer de la Marina and Carrer de Provenca. In front of us rises the Sagrada Familia, unfortunately still with its ever-present scaffolding but hinting at its magnificence.

Construction of the church began on March 19, 1882, on the design of architect Francisco de Paula de Villar, but immediately the following year, due to different visions with the organising association, another young architect, Antoni Gaudi, was chosen. The name means basilica and reconciling church of the Holy Family and was designed by Antoni Gaudi. When he assumed responsibility for the project, the Catalan genius modified it entirely, although he kept what had already been built while continuing the construction of the crypt. Gaudí worked on the project for more than 40 years, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to this undertaking. This intense dedication, in addition to the enormity of the work, also stems from the fact that Gaudí defined many details as the construction progressed; for him, personal presence on the construction site was of paramount importance. Indeed, he considered this work to be that of his life, following it every step of the way. 

Thanks to several large donations, Gaudi twisted the original design, designing a work that was majestic in size, shape and light. It consists of three facades. The first façade built was dedicated to the representation of the Nativity. Gaudi chose to start with this façade because it was the most distinctive and impactful to people’s view, precisely to receive quick donations needed to continue the project. The Nativity of Jesus is depicted in 13 scenes on the family of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

As the building rose, the style gradually became more and more fantastic, with four tapered towers reminiscent of termite mounds or children’s dripping sand castles. These are forms inherited from neo-Gothic architecture, according to whose canons the church was originally conceived: nevertheless, they drew their inspiration from natural forms. The towers are crowned by 115 m high geometrically shaped spires, covered with brightly coloured ceramics, which were probably influenced by Cubism (they were finished around 1920). A large number of elaborate decorations can also be admired there, which are traced back to the Art Nouveau style.

On the evening of June 10, 1926, Gaudi, having finished his work and headed on foot to the San Filippo Neri church to pray, absent-mindedly crossed the street and was hit by a passing streetcar. Elderly and unkempt, he remained on the ground unrecognised and unassisted by the pedestrians. Out of pity for some passerby, he was finally transported to the hospital in the poor ward, where he died after three days of agony. Only a few days later, people became aware of his death when some friends, not seeing him, linked his disappearance to the accident.

After Antoni Gaudi’s death, several architects followed. Construction of the church was interrupted due to the Civil War and resumed in 1938 based on documents and photographs that escaped the war, continuing on Gaudi’s design. With architect Josep Maria Subirachs, the second, more modern and sombre facade designed by the same artist was also completed, dedicated to the Passion showing the Passion of Christ, his death and resurrection. The third facade (dedicated to Glory) has yet to be built and will be the front facade representing the origin and end of humanity. Before entering, visitors can admire a bronze front door, 5 meters high, which bears the “Our Father” prayer in fifty languages.

Inside are visible the pillars supporting the roof that recalls nature, trees and branches and helps the diffusion of light and sound. The stained glass windows, with the play of light and colouring, create a sensational tranquillity. Below the altar is the crypt, the oldest part of the basilica and the site of Gaudi’s tomb. The vault has seven chapels dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus: St. Joseph, the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Conception, St. Joachim, St. Anne, St. John and the chapel of St. Elizabeth and St. Zacharias. The chapels are arranged in a semicircular shape, in front of which are five other chapels in a straight line: the central one is dedicated to the Holy Family (which houses the altar), flanked by those dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Jesus Christ, the Virgin of Montserrat, and the Holy Christ (where Josep Maria Bocabella is buried). In the chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Carmen is Gaudi’s tomb.

In a combination of shadows, lights, colours and imaginative shapes, it is possible to feel the artistic vein of Gaudi, a genius who unleashed art as never before through passion and dedication to hard work. Today, Barcelona, with its Sagrada Familia, attracts millions of visitors every year for its distinctiveness and style, thanks to the hand of Antoni Gaudi. Because of this itinerary, we can better appreciate each city’s forms and better understand the combination of history and artistic value behind every detail.


1. Plaça Reial

2. Guell Palace

3. Casa Battlò

4. Casa Mila – La Pedrera

5. Parco Guell

6. The Sagrada Familia