La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is perhaps the most impressive contemporary building on earth – a total must-see for any traveller.
This piece originally appeared in the Boston Globe of 25 June 2006 under the title “A temple to faith, time and resolve”.
A city of vistas
As you climb higher, the smell of welding fades. The stairs are vertiginous. Voids reveal a thousand ways to tumble to the ground. Barcelona is a city of vistas. But the view from the summit of La Sagrada Família is incomparable.
The Sagrada Familia in 2004 – Photo Robert Pimm
“The tree outside my workshop, this is my master,” said Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), the church’s Catalan architect. Today, the warped-Gothic fantasy he began in 1884 is barely half-finished. Swarming with artisans, it seems almost to grow as you watch: as big as a mountain, yet as organic and airy as a sea shell , a colossal, exuberant explosion of color and form. Everywhere stone drips, pinnacles soar, mosaics glisten, and tantalizing balconies jut from the verticals.
Frogs, salamanders and shellfish
Best of all, staircases riddle the filigree towers. From soaring buttress-bridges you can watch workers on the roof, gaze at the Mediterranean city below, or admire architectural features invisible from the ground: frogs, salamanders, shellfish, snakes, and a cedar tree packed with giant white marble doves.
Asked why there was so much detail so high up, Gaudí replied, “The angels will see it.”
La Sagrada Familia Barcelona – go now
When they finish Sagrada Família in Barcelona — possibly in 2026 — its highest tower will rise 560 feet. My advice is, visit now. Then you can tell your children you saw one of the wonders of the world under construction.
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