Barcelona – the famous unfinished church Sagrada Familia

First sight of the famous landmark up close

First sight of the famous landmark up close

Sagrada Familia outside and in – Barcelona

The building is impressive, despite all the scaffolding and cranes and has to be seen to be believed. Each side is different and our first view was of the face depicting the crucifiction. This was also where we got our first glimpse of the queue to get inside. Walking round into Carrer de Provença, we stared up at the mass of spires then turned into Carrer de la Marina to gawp at the astonishingly intricate nativity scene built by Gaudi himself. Turning into Carrer de Mallorca, we found most of the building ensconced in scaffolding. Then we were back where we started staring at a very big queue.

Spires

Spires

The crucifixion

The crucifixion

So many spires

So many spires

Given the size of the queues, the fact that it was well past midday and our breakfast calamari seemed a long, long time ago we decided to grab a quick burger in the MacDonalds that Commando had noticed on Carrer de Provença to sustain us for the long wait. Only in Barcelona could the inside of a fast food restaurant be a work of art, with a huge mosaic covering one whole wall.

The next side

The scaffolding seems like part of the building somehow

A glimpse of stained glass

A glimpse of stained glass

Luckily the massive queue moved quite quickly and we soon found ourselves inside the gate, €22 lighter and starting up at the crucifiction scene. This is the side of the building I prefer, even though it wasn’t Gaudi’s own work. Everyone has their own opinion on this and their own favourite bit, some, like George Orwell, hate it with a passion others love it. One thing is certain, no one can ignore it. It can be appreciated, if not loved, on many different levels. I look at it and admire the design and the artistry that went to create it, Commando looks at it with an engineering eye and wonders at the way such a building was made, others I’m sure appreciate its religious symbolism.

The

The intricate, almost organic Gaudi side

Gaudi's

Gaudi’s nativity

New brick meets old brick

New brick meets old brick

Once inside we marvelled at the beauty of the two large stained glass windows and then again at the massive queue for the lift to go up into the spires. We decided we would try to find some stairs. Neither of us minds walking and I for one could always do with the exercise. Although we found some stairs they were for people coming down only. The only other stairs we saw were half built, like so much else. The inside of the building is littered with building materials and much of it is impassable which is to be expected. Eventually we found another lift on the far side with a slightly shorter queue which we joined. The little lift only took between four and six people and the queue moved agonisingly slowly. There is a charge of €2.50 for the lifts but it is well worth the extra money.

Just about to go inside and a last look up close at the crucifixion

Just about to go inside and a last look up close at the crucifixion

Breathtaking stained glass in the dark interior

Breathtaking stained glass in the dark interior

More stained glass

More stained glass

As we crept towards the lift we looked at the stonework and the array of little circular windows. Intriguingly out of the dozens and dozens of little plain glass circles there was one circle filled with beautiful stained glass. I’m not sure why this should be, perhaps they will all be like that one day and they are replacing plain glass with stained glass one window at a time. I do hope so because it will be truly breathtaking if they do. Just before we got the the huge wooden door which stood about half way between the start of the queue and the lift we were saddened to see graffiti scratched into the stone of the wall. It wasn’t the last we saw and it seems such a shame that someone should want to deface such a great work of art.

A spire up close and personal

A spire up close and personal

Doves

Doves a tiny beautiful detail

More detail

More detail and the ever present mosaic

We were told as we stepped into the lift that the only way down was using the stairs and that there were 230 of them. We had been warned! At the top we started our slow decent down the spiral stair case, looking through the gaps every so often as we went and wondering if it was worth the wait and the money. When we came to the bridge we understood that it was most definitely worth it. The views over Barcelona were spectacular to say the least as were the close up views of the details at the tops of the towers. The stairs themselves were a work of art, spiraling down in an ammonite like pattern. It was a long way down but nothing we couldn’t handle and nothing we regretted for a second.

Another spire

Another spire, like a strange fruit

Looking out over Barcelona

Looking out over Barcelona

Gaudi began work on Sagrada Familia in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926, spending the last months of his life actually living in his workshop inside the church. After he died his body was buried in the crypt so in a way he is still a part of it. From the outset Gaudi knew the project was too ambitious to be completed in one lifetime and that he would never see it finished. I wonder if he realised that 127 years on it would still be surrounded by scaffolding with no end in sight? Some say it will be finally finished by 2026, (the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death) but others say it is unlikely. Who knows? It would be nice to think that I could return to Barcelona one day and see the finished article but I won’t be holding my breath.

The Diagonal

The Diagonal

A close view of the new stone and scaffolding

A close view of the new stone and scaffolding