Sagreda Familia is one of the busiest tourist attractions in the world, yet it will be under construction for another 20 years or so, and many people have never heard of it.
Ticket lines can be several hours long, so we reserved ahead of time online. Even then, we had few options for times. There are elevators that take visitors up two of its completed towers for magnificent views over the city, but those were already all booked up. When the final towers are completed, this will be the tallest church in Europe.
It is a church, but not just “another church.” We have been in maybe 40 or 50 churches in the last few weeks in Europe. No two were alike, but most were breathtaking, usually due to art, sculpture, chandeliers, marble, woodwork and the like, especially when compared to most American churches.
Sagreda Familia, while controversial, is certainly like no other. It was consecrated by Pope Benedict five years ago as a Basilica, since Barcelona already has its Cathedral. But this church, conceived 150 years ago, has been under construction for almost as long.
It is largely the genius of local architect Antoni Gaudi. Genius because he created a building over 100 years ago that we would consider modern even today and well into the future. Genius because of the construction techniques, the geometry, the lighting, and the acoustics. Both the inside and the outside look nothing like any church you have ever seen.
There is a large museum in the basement, with models used in the construction; there is even the working 3D modeling area for current work. Inside the church, there is a glass tube elevator, not part of the final plans, but used only by construction workers who need to scale large heights to do the continued work.
There is so much going on outside the church, it is difficult to summarize. But there are quirky features like a turtle holding up a column or colorful balls that look like fruit at the top of the spires. It is art and brilliant architecture. When you walk into the church, it is so light and so colorful, with the sunlight reflecting through the massive stained glass windows. Columns with unusual shape and form. All unexpected and difficult to put into words. You just have to be there.