Barcelona 2


 Sagrada Familia- the amazing, still unfinished cathedral


Barcelona is proud of Antoni Gaudi. It is Gaudi's city. The two seem to be almost indivisible after Gaudi delivered some architectural wonders to the city he loved. Park Guell and Sagrada Familia are two architectural masterpieces he created and gifted to his city. Though Sagrada Familia is now in UNESCO World Heritage sites, I perceived it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I was stumped when the temple façade loomed up for the first time. Awesome! It is an incredible beauty! The only similarity to the Gothic architecture was the Latin Cross Floor Plan which Gaudi maintained in his design. The core in the Plan is occupied by four aisles of 7.5 M wide each and a nave of 15 M wide totaling 45 M The complex geometries developed by Gaudi deviated significantly from the Gothic designs. Such as introducing a system of angled columns and hyperboloidal vaults to do away with the need for flying buttresses. This enabled transfer of horizontal loads through columns on the interior. Gaudi utilized three-dimensional forms comprising ruled surfaces which included hyperboloids, parabolas, helicoids, and conoids. The complex shapes and choice of materials made possible thinner and finer structures which, in turn, helped in enhancing the acoustics and quality of light in the interiors. Gaudi’s design embraced more of Catalan Modernism or Art Noveau styles. Being a highly pious man, Gaudi created a visual representation of Christian beliefs by embedding religious symbolism in each aspect of La Sagrada Familia. The Façade of Nativity is dedicated to apostles St. Barnabas, St.Simon, St. Jude Thaddeus, and St. Matthias. The Glory Façade was designed by Gaudi for dedication to the glorification of Jesus. It includes the central nave of Sagrada Familia. To express how Christ’s message is conveyed to the people, Gaudi placed four Evangelists with wings in the Glory Façade. The four Evangelists are St.Luke (Ox), St. Joan (Eagles), and St. Mathew (Man), St. Marc (Lion). Different colors of stained glass windows form part of the Passion Façade.

The uniqueness of the Basilica lay in the stunning blend and effect of nature, light, and color with the architecture of the temple. Dexterously woven by the Catalan maestro, the spectacles of design in the entire space of the cathedral take us through awestruck moments. The entire story of Jesus is cast on the outer façade of the temple. For instance, the exterior of the Nativity Façade which displays the birth of Jesus Christ is designed to receive the first rays of the sun in the pinnacles. The reflections from the first rays capture the joy and life associated with the birth of Christ. Love and warmth spread by Christ are captured on the Gloria Façade, which gets painted by the mid-day sun. The Passion Façade is associated with Christ’s departure and faces the setting sun to produce shadows and lack of light.



The protagonist itself is a huge forest. Nature columns like trees, branches lead to the vaulted ceiling.Assisted by Joan Vida Grau,the columns have been so designed so as to provide an impression of growth as one approaches deeper and deeper into the basilica space.Thus imbuing a feeling of strolling into a deep forest, and at the same time creating a soothing and conducive space for prayer and meditation. Numerous skylights, enormous windows almost two stories high, and vast columns create a soothing and conducive space for prayer and meditation. The most amazing light play in the interior of the entire cathedral is the tracking of the skylight. Early hours produce a soft bluish-white light throughout the interior when the sunrays stream from the East; followed by a change to light orange and ochre during mid-day; and finally as the day ends the interior becomes darker matching with the sun setting in a forest.


It was in 1883 that Gaudi was entrusted with the work on the Basilica. His increasing piousness made him concentrate exclusively on the Basilica project from early 1900. His original design shows 18 spires of which the tallest will be the central tower representing Jesus. The height will be 172.5 M which will include a giant cross surmounted on the central spire. When completed La Sagrada Familia will be the tallest cathedral in the world. But it will be lower than Montjuic hill in Barcelona, as Gaudi believed that his work should not surpass that of God’s. As per the construction updates, 12 spires were completed when we visited Sagrada Familia in 2019. Work was in progress for the six immense steeples which are scheduled to be completed by 10th June 2026 to mark the 100th death anniversary of Antonio Gaudi. It is said that Gaudi continued his devotion to this architectural marvel till his accidental death in June 1926. While on his daily walk to a local church in his area, he was run down by a tram on route no.30. There was a delay in his treatment as people initially assumed him to be a beggar. He was buried in the oldest constructed portion of the Sagrada Familia, i.e. the Crypt of the Chapel of our Lady of Mount Carmel. There was the usual lull after his death. The Spanish Civil War and World War II followed. It was only in early 1950 that Gaudi’s reputation started to recover when his work was championed by Salvador Dali and architect Josep Lluis Sert. A tour of the Basilica revealed that Gaudi was not only a great architect and artist. He was a genius.


 As a Lighting Consultant, an Illumination Designer, and a student of Optical Engineering I admire and appreciate Gaudi’s deep concept of lighting. In the early twentieth century, when Gaudi drew up the initial plans, Photonics was at its nascent stage. Much ahead of his time, Gaudi's God-gifted perception enabled him to seamlessly integrate into his architecture a  far-reaching visualization on the precise application of optics and color mixing. Like circular apertures in the vaults to filter the daylight, where at places Venetian glass tiles of green and gold colors have been used. Astute use of unobstructed sunlight is found at the highest reaches of the stained–glass windows, providing brilliant colors in the Gothic Cathedral. Gaudi did extensive research on stained-glass windows, lead glass, superimposition of yellow, cyan, magenta glass pieces to arrive at trichromatic hues, and finally designing the distribution of the glass windows and filters to arrive at effective daylight illumination inside the cathedral. The way he let the skylight play through different zones in the interiors goes to prove how he perceived the nitty-gritty of every space in his design. For instance, he designed the roofs almost flat to allow large windows above the nave so that skylight can be used most effectively.


When we finally came out of the temple after a somewhat lengthy sojourn, I was in a state of stupor for a brief moment but soothingly blessed at the same time Outside, at one side of Sagrada Familia, a row of shops and restaurants on a wide pavement greeted us. I had ice cream and my wife had coffee and pastry. We occupied a table and watched La Sagrada Familia from outside. The complex geometries of the facades from outside; the sun bouncing, gliding, and sparkling at some crevices put me in a fleeting trance. Stunningly beautiful! That’s how I could sum up my perception of a cathedral still incomplete

Madrid was the next station on our itinerary. For Madrid, we opted for ALSA, a very comfortable bus service for traveling within Spain.

Photo Credit: Arundhati Sengupta (Ruby)
sagrada familia
La Sagrada Familia
sagrada cathedral
Outside the famous cathedral
basilica image
Image of basilica displayed in the museum
cathedral interior
Inside the Basilica
basilica lighting
Lighting arrangement inside the Basilica
museum display
History of Basilica displayed in the museum
sculpture gaudi
A sculpture of Antony Gaudi
Basilica model
A model of the Basilica
latin cross
The Latin Cross Floor Plan
cathedral interior
Inside the Temple
central nave
Inside the great Cathedral

stained glass

illumination 3

exterior view
Exterior view of the Basilica
exterior of basilica

stained glass
Stained glass window

stained glass 2

cathedral facade
Story of Jesus cast on the facades

la sagrada interior

The following videos were taken inside the cathedral


Warren Julian said…
Gaudi’s ideas were amazing. I believe the cathedral is being finished by an Australian using CAD to detail the complex shapes so that they can be made more quickly and that the building can be completed soon.
What a vivid and detailed description of the Basilica!
Shared this with a few of my Catalan friends who loved it.
I specifically liked the writer’s perspective of the optics and illuminations.

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