Gaudi’s Barcelona – Sagrada Familia and Park Guell

If anyone is responsible for shaping the aesthetic of Barcelona, it’s Spain’s most revered architect, Antoni Gaudi. From the wondrous La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that has been under construction since 1882, to Park Guell’s gingerbread-like buildings, every Gaudi piece looks like it was conceptualised for a Dr Suess book.

Antoni Gaudi’s most famous building in Barcelona is of course the yet-to-be-completed Sagrada Familia church. This fantastical structure is unlike any church you’ve seen before and tells the story of Jesus’ birth, life and death. 

In Gaudi’s eyes it was a gift to God and every single detail was laboured over in prodigal proportions. He even moved in to the building site at one point so he could keep an eye on everything.

It is worth going inside the Sagrada Familia – it’s incredible from the outside, but to really admire it properly, you need to get in there, regardless of your religious persuasion. The interior of the Sagrada Familia is absolutely stunning with stained glass windows, the starkness of the stone, thought in every detail and amazing fixtures.

Only 8 of the 18 planned towers are built so far. Work will be finished in 2028, 100 years since Gaudi’s death. When completed the Sagrada Familia will be 170 meters high, which is 1m less than Montjuic Hill, Barcelona’s highest point.

The nave is designed to look like a forest…

…the crown of thorns above the altar is a highlight…

Everything inside the Sagrada Familia is there for a reason – the symbolism is endless. Gaudi designed it so the sun would light each side in order, inside to tell the tale. The stained glass windows are stunning. One side is red and orange (fire and earth) and the other blue and green (water and air).

Each side, or facade, is designed to represent a different stage of Jesus’ life: birth, life, death and the resurrection. The nativity facade is sculptured in a subtle and peaceful way, contrasting to the death, which is harsher and more angular.

A visit the towers was sensational, seeing a number of sculptures up close and to see out over Barcelona and down onto the Sagrada Familia generally. These ‘fruits’ that top the smaller towers represent the seasonality in Barcelona…

…and the views are spectacular across Barcelona….

…loved the view up and down the stairwell.

Gaudi is now buried in a crypt under the Sagrada Familia – he was killed by a tram aged 72.

The basilica is for everyone, of every language – the first line of the Lord’s prayer in every language.

This place is so unlike any other church we’ve ever seen. You want to take in every little detail. What surprised me was that we didn’t have a hard time doing so. It’s one of the most incredible buildings we’ve ever been in or seen.

Park Guell is verdant oasis commissioned by Eusebi Guell, a rich industrialist who dreamed of creating an exclusive health resort/housing estate in the mountains of Barcelona where the rich could escape the hustle and bustle of the city. In the end, however, due to the fact that it was so difficult to access, only the park was created, but none of the houses were occupied apart from Guell and Gaudi, pictured below.

The buildings flanking the entrance are remarkable with fantastically shaped roofs, unusual pinnacles and a ginger-bread appearance. They seem relatively inconspicuous in the landscape when you consider the flamboyance of other buildings designed by Gaudi.

Park Guell, has some of Gaudi’s colourful ceramics and masterful mosaics in all their glory, as well as dramatic panoramic vistas over Barcelona.

Apart from the incredible views, the park itself is a magnificent feat of design and landscaping, a mythical wonderland. 

The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves.

Gaudi had a unique style and use of nature in his architecture. His work is a real visual treat. Seeing at least one Gaudi work is, therefore, a requirement for any trip to Barcelona. Even if you aren’t interested in the history of architecture, you will be blown away at what a single creative mind was able to dream up.

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