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Inside of Sagrada Família

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One of the most famous and iconic buildings of Barcelona is la Sagrada Família. The church is enormous in its dimensions, and it is often referred to as a “cathedral”, but it does not have a the headquarters of a bishop or a bishop’s seat, so it is not an official cathedral. On July 11, 2010, la Sagrada Família was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and it was elevated to the status of a basilica. As beautiful and impressive it is on the outside, so it is on the inside as well. 

Saint Joseph Chapel

La Sagrada Família has a lot of significance and meaning on different levels. Work on la Sagrada Família began on 19 March 1882, in the middle of the feast of Saint Joseph with the laying of the cornerstone of the Temple in a special event with all the required honours featuring top leaders in civil, political, religious, and military areas, as can been detailed in the engraving from that moment. 

This date was specially chosen by founder of the idea of la Sagrada Família, the philanthropist Josep Maria Bocabella, since he was president of the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph. Bocabella aimed to build a temple that would subdue the nerves of a society that was going through many changes in the late 19th century.  

It took three years after the cornerstone was laid, and after the lead of construction was under Gaudí, that the central chapel of the crypt was inaugurated. This would be the first of three inaugurations celebrated at the temple during its history, every one to commemorate a section that was finished. The archives of la Sagrada Família has an original invitation to the event, that was illustrated and painted with motifs designed by Gaudí for the chapel. This celebration also took place on March 19 1985, exactly three years after the cornerstone was placed.

The link between the works of the feast of Saint Joseph and the Sagrada Família are clearly noted in documents collected on the progress of work. The benchmark for the progress has been from March to March over the years to this date. On the 125th anniversary of the placing of the first cornerstone, in 2007, there were a series of events to celebrate the progress, including an exhibition and a holy mass. In more recent years, in the Saint Joseph feast in 2015, the chapel of Saint Joseph in the crypt was re-inaugurated after being meticulously and carefully restored. 

Sagrada Família Interior

The interior of la Sagrada Família forms a plan of a Latin cross composed of five aisles, and it is planned out in the following way. 

The central nave vaults reach up to forty-five metres (148 feet), and the side vaults reach thirty metres (98 feet). The transept (a transverse of any building, that lies across the main body of the edifice) has three aisles. The columns are on a 7.5 metre (25 feet) grid. But, the columns of the apse (a semicircular recess covered with hemispherical vault or semi-dome) that are resting on the foundation made by Francisco del Villar, do not adhere to the grid, which requires a section of columns of the ambulatory to transition the grid therefore creating a horseshoe pattern to the layout of the columns. 

The crossing rests on the four central columns of porphyry supporting a great hyperboloid (quadric surface) surrounded by two rings of twelve hyperboloids, that are currently under construction. The central vault reaches a height of sixty meters (200 feet). The columns are made with materials of different hardness. The longest and thickest columns are made of red porphyry, a very hard volcanic rock. The smaller pillars are made of basalt and the smallest pillars support the chancel. 

The apse in architecture is known as one half of a dome roofed area. In a church, it is usually where the altar stands. Immediately after the crypt was completed, Gaudí had the apse built above it. So the Gothic-style apse is surrounded by seven chapels and two side stairs to the left and right. The apse was completed in 1893 by a huge crowned dome that was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, that are supported by massive columns. Capped by another hyperboloid vault that goes up seventy-five metres is the apse. The intention of Gaudí was for when a visitor would stand in the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, the crossing, and apse; therefore the graduated increase in vault loft. 

The illumination

La Sagrada Família is one of mankind’s most impressive and iconic buildings for many reasons, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. One of the outstanding features the church has is the wide array of stained-glass windows. 

It is common for Gothic cathedrals to have stained-glass windows at the highest reaches, where the sunlight outside hits without much obstruction. In the lower parts, however, the colour filter is less intense. This distribution usually aims to offset one effect with the other, as a matter of balance, working to have more filter where there is more light and vice versa. 

Gaudí wanted la Sagrada Família to be the exact opposite and went for the maximum contrast. The more transparent stained-glass windows are the ones that are highest up, this way they allow the natural light to stream in to illuminate the golden vaults and mosaics that characterise the nave. However, the texts and illustrations are in the lower winds, where visitors can view and read them better.

Gaudí chose leaded glass for la Sagrada Família, with the experience of over six-hundred years of use. The windows are divided by lead lines that allow them to be alive; move, expand and contract, and also it makes it possible to pick the right colour for each piece. 

The parade of colours that Gaudí desired to create can be admired specially well around the winter solstice, when the sun sets before reaching the west. At sunset, when the rays of light are almost horizontal, there is a magnificent phenomenon: the rays stream into the Temple nave almost perpendicular to the windows and the nave is flooded with the reds of the sunset, because of the warm colours. 

You can also see something similar on the Nativity façade with the cold colours in the morning, with the greens and blues, around the summer solstice, in June and early July. The show is spectacular at any time of the year really.