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Sagrada Familia

I remember the first time I traveled to Europe; it was New Years Eve 2002.  I was a sophomore student in college and was headed to Spain to see first hand the architecture I read so much about in the architecture magazines and textbooks.  Going to Europe was such an abstract thing for me.  Up to that point I only saw it as the “old world”, the other side of the globe, so random and blurred to me.

Sagrada Familia ColumnWhile in Spain, I got exposed to this strange atmosphere that with all honesty, it quite intrigued me.  Out of all the places I visited in Spain, one made a huge impression on me –La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Maybe it was its “work in progress” character, or its grandiose status, or how the light created a ghostly but beautiful space; but this church was… well… unfinished sacredness.

I’m not a fan of Antoni Gaudi –Sagrada Familia’s architect– nor I design anything close to his Gothic/Art Nouveau style, but Sagrada Familia gave me some “illumination” (and it was not the preaching).  For me, this was the first “recognizable” building of a famous architect I had ever seen and experienced in person.  Also, seeing this building as an unfinished “masterpiece” gave me the chance to see the complex and labor intensive process of creation; how something goes from idea to reality, how a space can change its character as it gets built.  Sometimes this is more interesting than the finished piece.

How is it that a building that started construction in 1882 is still unfinished?  Money, politics, controversy, bad timing, you name it… And still, it is not expected to be finished until 2030.  Good luck with that deadline…

Sagrada Familia

I was marveled by the “scene” created by this building.  By how the space changes day by day, piece by piece.  By how thousand of people visit it to literally see a construction site that is not so different from the hundreds of thousands of constructions sites around the world.  But of course, the historical baggage, the tragic death of its architect (killed by a tram more than 80 years ago), and the huge controversy heightens the public’s interest.  Who said we don’t like drama?

Sagrada Familia I learned so much by just looking at this “work in progress”, not because it teaches any important life lesson, but because it opened my eyes to something new, something strange to me.

Believe it or not, in part, this building inspired me to travel.

For some reason – call it divine intervention or just mundane desire – at that point I realized there is SO much more to see throughout the world that I’m missing.

Sagrada Familia made me want to see more of what’s out there on the world; buildings, cities, natural features, cultures, wildlife, etc.  I want to “build” something out of them, some significance, some knowledge, something I can marvel at.

This desire of exploring the world and building something out of my wanderings reminds me of St. Augustine quote:

“The world is a book and those who travel read only one page.”

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia was my second page on the book.

Since then I’ve read many more pages; which have helped me learn, grow, and understand many different things that otherwise would still be blurred for me.

As Mark Twain put it:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

In my opinion, I will never finish this book.  The more pages I read the more pages I see I still want to cover.  It will be somewhat unfinished, a work in progress… like Sagrada Familia.

I haven’t been back to Sagrada Familia since then, but when I do, I’ll definitely see some changes.  I wonder which one would have changed the most, the building or me?

Sagrada Familia

Adventure Awaits


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  1. Really like that picture of the column – is that light coming through the stained glass? Looks almost like party lights…haha.

    1. Thanks! haha… now that you mention it, they look like party lights… but they truly come from the stained glass. Visiting the church during the afternoon gives you a good chance to see that colorful display.

  2. I first saw the Sagrada Familia back in 1989, when I was still in high school. I went back two summers ago with my wife and three year old, and what amazed me most was that the building was alive – it had grown and expanded sine I was there last, significantly – and it was still growing in front of my eyes. I could see the workers toiling away inside the church. I hope to visit again in 10 or 20 years, and see how it continues to evolve. This is rare for a modern building.

    1. Yeah, this is rare for modern buildings since they are built mostly in a year or less. This one has been ongoing for decades and still have some decades to go. It’s been 8 years already since I went, I wonder how it will look like when I go back.

  3. Great article Norbert! I am fascinated by the Sagrada Familia too. I just wish they’d finish it already! Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in the world so I know I’ll be back to see its progress sometime, hopefully soon.

    I just stumbled upon your blog and am really inspired by it. (I just started my own travel blog a couple weeks ago, myself.)

    Keep on travelin’!

    1. Hey Michael… Thank you. I’m glad you stumbled here and got inspired… 🙂

      Yes, I love that church. And Barcelona is amazing! I haven’t been there in years and I’m dying to go back. I just wonder, will Sagrada Familia be as popular when it is finished as it is right now? hmmm… we’ll see.

      BTW… congrats on starting your own travel blog. Looking good over there. Feel free to contact me for any tips or info.

      Keep it up!

  4. I am in Barcelona now and was just at Sagrada Familia. It is definitely an interesting place. I’m with you on not being a fan of Gaudi, but there is something about viewing a work in progress that spurs something in you, no matter what you think of the architecture.

  5. Hey, reat post! I love the shots. I sooo wish that I had gone up the tower for that staircase shot. It’s so amazing! :]

  6. Very inspirational indeed. Those pictures simply call out to everyone to come, get over here and enjoy the sites.

    1. Thanks Theresa! I say that Sagrada Familia is one of those buildings you must see when in Barcelona, especially now while it is still under construction.

  7. Hey Norbs – I think you meant 1892 and not 1982 🙂 other than that, great read. My family is over there visiting right now and I fwd them you link 🙂 I’m sure they would love to visit this place.

    1. Oh, thanks, Joanna! Yes, I actually meant 1882. :/
      Oh yes, I believe they will like the Sagrada Familia. It is one of my favorite historical buildings!

  8. oh wow!
    i was just looking for something about the sagrada familia and then i stumbled upon your blog instead..
    now i’m torn between reviewing for my board exam(hey! i’m also an architect in the making ^O^)and reading your posts.
    when i was just a kid i dreamed of traveling the universe, after i graduated in college i narrowed it down to seeing the world instead, particularly those countries with deep connections with architecture and history.
    but for now, i need to get busy, earn and be rich.
    I guess i’ll start traveling by 2020, after you finish yours sir norbert!

    1. Oh hey Tina! Sorry for the late reply. Hope your board exam was good! Well, I had that plan too, so we are not too diferent on our goals! haha Only thing is that I suddenly shifted my “getting rich” goal priority to “travel the world.” I can see the world while still making a living, besides, I found out from my own experience that it didn’t matter how much money I could have been making if I wasn’t enjoying life as it was.

  9. I just saw a documentary on Antonio Gaudi. Since I spent my entire Junior year of college (1956-1957) in Barcelona, it brought up myriad memories. Sagrada Familia among them. I spent a great deal of time visiting Las Ramblas as well as so many other points of interest. On my daily trek to the university I would pass Sagrada Familia. The cathedral, of course, was a real, but gorgeous, mystery to me. At 20 years of age I was pretty naive and inexperienced so I didn’t really quite understand many of the marvels I encountered. But, I loved every second of it, so reading about Gaudi and viewing the wealth of visuals available now, bring many of my experiences back to life again. While I was inside that building I do recall seeing men working among all the tools of their trade. I was intrigued that it had been started so many decades before and surprised that it might not be completed for at least another half-century! Happy memories and much gratitude that my parents were able to provide them! And I’m so glad to read that so many of you are enjoying the city as I did. Overseas travel nowadays is so much more efficient! I had to go by ship! But that was no hardship, believe me! A week at sea on an ocean liner can be a great deal of fun (minus seasickness, of course!).

    1. Hi Theresa! Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Wow, I would have loved to see the Sagrada Familia in the 50’s! I saw it in the beginning of 2002 and then again in 2013, and the difference and progress was astounding! Barcelona is such a great city, and from your experience, it was already a great city to be in 60 years ago. I felt so much joy when you mentioned that you went there by sea, which puts an adventurous idea to your trip since traveling overseas was a thing almost reserved to the daring and adventurous.

      Keep on enjoying the world!

  10. In 2017 it was our third visit to Antoni Gaudi’s fabulous La Sagrada Familia and yet again we were in awe!

    The detail in this cathedral is mind blowing… from a distance, it looks very Gothic in nature but then you get closer and every single element leaves your jaw hanging. From the lighting, the tree-like columns, the sculpture… It’s safe to say we have witnessed a work of art in the making!

    Ironically, the most visited building in Barcelona had been building without a legal permit from the municipality. Only recently permission has been given to La Sagrada Familia, in April 2019, after 134 years of construction working. They’re aiming to finish construction by June 2026 – this will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.