La Sagrada Familia

We were in Barcelona on late March and, as most people who visit that city, we went to Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Going to Barcelona and not seeing La Sagrada Familia is like going to Paris and not seeing the Notre Dame or to Cordoba and skipping the Great Mosque. Whether you are religious or not, Gaudí’s basilica, his magnum opus, is an absolute must see. It’s an architectural wonder, a feast to the eyes and the senses. After finishing the Parc Guell in 1911, Gaudí decided to abandon secular art and devote himself entirely to the Sagrada Familia. He worked on it for over 40 years, living as a virtual hermit in a workshop on the site. When questioned about the slow pace, he is said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry.” Gaudí’s work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the basilica, although still work in progress, is the most visited site in Barcelona (some 3 million people a year). But Sagrada Familia doesn’t appeal to everybody and it’s possibly the most controversial place of worship ever built on such an epic scale. George Orwell said it was “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” and rather hoped it would be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War (fortunately, it wasn’t). Salvador Dalí spoke of its “terrifying and edible beauty.” Well, I’ve visited Sagrada Familia twice, and both times I thought it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. The first time, in 2012, I didn’t quite know what to expect and had only seen a few pictures of in travel guides. As I walked in, I gasped, and was immediately overtaken with emotion, tears running down my face. Very unusual for a non-religious person like me… I was moved by the monumental organic beauty of the magnificent structure. This time, I knew what to expect but still got quite emotional and teary-eyed. I hope to go back in 2026, when it’s supposed to be finished, to see it in all its intended splendor. I’ll probably cry again. By the way, 2026 also marks the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.


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