Spain has called to me for a while. I can’t pinpoint why. “The Sun Also Rises,” maybe? There’s something about the sunshine and the attitude that just called to me.
When I decided that Barcelona “seemed” like the place I most wanted to see, I asked around to learn of what I couldn’t miss. Everyone I talked to told me that I had to see La Sagrada Familia, the legendary unfinished cathedral (well, not technically a cathedral because a bishop isn’t seated there) by the modernisme architect Antoni Gaudi. Quite frankly, cathedrals aren’t something I get excited about. I enjoy the feeling of awe in approaching one and walking inside, and I usually find something inside to marvel at, but, well, I don’t really have a proper appreciation for them. At least, I’ve seen some magnificent cathedrals and don’t know what it might take to knock my socks off. Maybe I’m jaded on the Gothic style.
Well. La Sagrada Familia showed me.
My husband and I agreed that everyone would have the best time if he stayed at our rental near the beach with the kids while I took a day to sight-see on my own. (We had learned our lesson the first day.) Having distraction-free time to enjoy my visit really felt like a luxury!
Quite frankly, I struggle to find the words to describe La Sagrada Familia. My jaw dropped when I emerged from the Metro. I have never seen anything like it. Never, in real life or my dreams. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe once in my visit.
It felt enormous upon approach, perhaps due to knowing that it’s not finished. Only eight of the 18 planned spires exist, and the other 10 will be even taller! I couldn’t get far enough away to get a photo of the entire building.
The art of the Passion (west) facade was striking and far less ornate than the carvings of the Gothic cathedrals I’ve grown used to seeing. I was captivated.
I had pre-booked my ticket, which helped me avoid an hour-long wait and forced me to the entrance on the opposite side of the building. The east facade, or the Nativity facade, was finished in Gaudi’s lifetime.
This facade is a stunning collection of vignettes surrounded by his signature “dripping cake in the rain” look (a fitting description which I think I read in a Rick Steves book).
The interior filled the spectrum between the starkness/busy-ness of the two facades. There are elements of nature, beautiful displays of sunlight, remarkable architectural features, and a kind of playfulness that makes La Sagrada Familia inviting and unlike any other place in the world I have visited.
I wasn’t able to prebook a tour of the towers on my timeline, and I regret missing the view over the city. But there were so many details to admire that I certainly can’t call the visit a loss.
Plus, it’s unfinished. I’ll just have to go back again one day! To see a completed La Sagrada Familia will absolutely justify another trip to Barcelona.