Back to La Boqueria
Continue to Old Town
As you may recall, when last we visited the Sagrada Família, there
was a discouragingly long and slow-moving line of people waiting to gain entry. While we’d wanted to see the interior, we
didn’t want to spend a good portion of the day waiting to do so, and we resolved to return later. That evening, as we were
recovering from our exertions of that eventful day, it occurred to us that other in-demand European attractions offered
on-line reservations that had saved us a lot of waiting time. We wondered whether there was a Sagrada Família web site, and
whether this hypothetical web site featured on-line reservations. We cranked up the netbook and checked, and as it turned
out, there was, and
it did. We quickly signed
up, selecting a time during the morning of our last day in Barcelona. We had to pay in advance, by credit card. We were
sent tickets in the form of a PDF file, which needed to be printed. Unfortunately we had neglected to pack the all-in-one, so
we had to figure out how to get the tickets printed. We put the file on a USB drive and asked the front desk if they could
help, and they said sure, asking out of curiosity what they were printing. We told them and they seemed surprised that this
was possible, leading us to suspect that on-line ticketing was something new for the Sagrada Família. The desk attendant
printed the tickets without any problems, and we packed them away to await the appointed time.
On arriving at the church following our quick visit to La Boqueria, we noted a line of people very similar in length to the
one we’d seen previously. We followed it around to the Passion Façade entrance, but didn’t see any obvious entry point for
people with reservations among the waiting throngs. Off to the right was an unfrequented booth with a bored-looking
attendant. We figured it to be an information booth, and we went over to see if the attendant could answer our question. We
were prepared for a complicated explanation, but the attendant just glanced at our printout and waved us in through the
perimeter fence. I’d be surprised if the reservation system is still this quick and easy (people must have discovered it by
now), but it’s got to be better than standing in that line.
On passing through the gate, we found ourselves to be much closer to the Passion Façade than we’d been a couple of days
earlier, and we spent a little time close-up with Subirachs' statues.
We entered the church through a door directly under the façade and found ourselves in a forest. A forest with a great
number of very tall trees, and a canopy of gigantic flowers. All apparently made of stone or concrete. But there was
also stained glass, so it had to be a church.
While getting our bearings we noticed a short line of people near the entry door. They appeared to be waiting for an
elevator. It seemed obvious that the elevator must ascend one of the towers. We figured the line would only get
longer as the day went on, so we got in line while the wait was still short, planning to explore the church more after
our tower adventure. As it turned out, we figured right about all of this, but the elevator ride, while not expensive,
was not free either. There was an elevator attendant with a cash box from which she was able to make change. But the
trip was well worth the cost. The elevator took us part way up the rightmost tower above the Passion Façade, the tower
named after the apostle Philip. We were able to use a narrow stairway to walk further up the tower, and we had a nice
view through the small tower openings of the Nativity Façade towers across the way, as well as the construction in
progress on the top of the church.
And in the directions in which there were no towers in the way, we had a fine view of Barcelona.
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
After enjoying the view for awhile we walked across to the next tower over, this one named after the apostle
Thomas. We had a good look at the interior of the tower of Thomas. The towers are hollow and were built to
hold gigantic tubular bells, with the openings in the towers slanted downward, to direct the sounds at the
populace. But looking up at the interior apex of the Thomas tower, we found that someone had cheated and
installed loudspeakers instead.
Eventually we spiraled down a stairway between the tower exterior and an inner shell, and returned to the interior of the
Back inside the church, we had some time to wander around and look at the work that had been completed and the work still
in progress. The interior appeared to be much closer to completion than the exterior. (This impression was to be validated
a few months later, when the church would be consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7, 2010, in a ceremony attended
by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía among many others.) We looked at the many treelike columns, which were made of varying
heights and diameters, and which were branched near their tops. Apparently Gaudí extensively studied the forces involved
in the structure of the church, and came up with an arrangement of columns (many of which aren’t quite vertical) that can
support the building without need of buttressing. Or such is the idea, anyway. (So far, so good, but there are ten more
towers yet to come.)
We also looked more closely at the stained glass. This is mainly the work of a contemporary Catalan artist named
Joan Vila-Grau, and is quite abstract compared to more traditional stained glass. The colors seem to follow a
general pattern of lighter blues and greens near the top and darker reds and oranges near the bottom, maybe to
symbolize the sky vs. the earth. Or maybe the glory of heaven vs. the flames of perdition. Or maybe the observer
is supposed to make up his or her own mind. Some of the windows have words embedded in them. They’re probably
scriptural, but I couldn’t make out whether they were Latin or Catalan or something else. The colors were pretty,
In the front and center position of the church there was construction in progress that had to be the altar. Above
the altar was a platform on which a worker was busy with a framework that we later discovered to be the basic
structure of a baldachin of Gaudí’s design. A baldachin is a canopy sometimes built above altars, and this one was
completed by the time of Pope Benedict’s visit. And beautifully, judging from the pictures of the event that have
been posted on the Sagrada Família website.
Nearby were some distinctive spiral staircases.
We exited the building through one of the doors in the Nativity Façade, where we spent a few minutes examining some
of the façade’s details.
On the way out we passed through a small museum which had an interesting selection of drawings, photographs and
models related to the church’s construction. At one point there was a window into the crypt, and Gaudí’s tomb
could be seen if we looked downward at a sharp angle.
The museum exit spat us out next to a crowded gift shop back on the Passion Façade side of the church. We bought
a guidebook and a t-shirt with a Gaudí lizard on it, and then we took a last look at the towers and boarded the
Metro for a last foray into the old town.
Back to La Boqueria
Continue to Old Town