Nativity, Passion, Glory | A Guide to the Sagrada Familia's Facades

More than mere entrances, Sagrada Familia facades are testaments to the genius of Antoni Gaudí, the visionary architect who poured his soul into this Barcelona icon. Each facade pulses with stories, Nativity's radiant joy, Passion's stark truths, and Glory's celestial promise. The minor basilica has been under construction for over 140 years and is the largest unfinished church in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage Site combines Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism, and Art Nouveau architectural styles.

The basilica, when completed, will have 18 towers, which will come together to form three glorious facades, namely, the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory facades. Today, only two of three facades are complete.

What are the Sagrada Familia Facades?

Sagrada Familia Facades - Facades

A facade is a view that a few towers combine and create for the viewer. The Sagrada Familia has three major views, each dedicated to a different aspect of the life of Jesus. Of the eight complete towers, four are part of the Nativity facade, and four are part of the Passion facade

  • The Nativity Facade, facing east, is the oldest among the three, and is dedicated to the birth of Jesus.
  • The Passion Facade, facing west, is dedicated to Christ's Passion/death/resurrection.
  • The third is the Glory Facade, facing south, which will act as the main facade of the basilica and is dedicated to the glorious nature of Jesus even after his death.

Main highlights of the Sagrada Familia Facades

Sagrada Familia Facades - Nativity Facade
Sagrada Familia Facades - Passion Facade
Sagrada Familia - Glory Facade

Sagrada Familia Symbolism | The tale of each Facade

The Sagrada Familia's three facades, each a monumental masterpiece, are not simply doors but doorways into different chapters of Jesus' life and the journey of faith. Each facade is saturated with symbolism, whispering to the soul through intricate carvings, natural forms, and profound artistic choices.

The Nativity Facade
The Passion Facade
The Glory Facade

Bathed in the golden light of dawn, the Nativity Facade celebrates the birth of Jesus with a joyous exuberance. Gaudí, a deeply religious man, infused this facade with the essence of life and nature.

  • Tree of Life: A mighty cypress, symbolizing eternal life and Christ's connection to nature, crowns the central portal.
  • Three Porticos: Each portal represents a theological virtue: Faith (dedicated to Mary), Hope (dedicated to Joseph), and Charity (dedicated to Jesus).
  • Animals and Plants: From turtles representing time to bees symbolizing industriousness, nature's creatures intermingle with religious figures, blurring the lines between the earthly and the divine.

A stark contrast to the joyous Nativity, the Passion Facade confronts us with the raw suffering of Christ's final days. Josep Maria Subirachs, Gaudí's successor, sculpted these harrowing scenes with brutal honesty.

  • Angular Forms: Sharp lines and jagged figures replace the organic curves of the Nativity, reflecting the agony and torment of Christ's crucifixion.
  • Skeletal Figures: Emaciated bodies and contorted faces depict the physical and emotional toll of Jesus' sacrifice.
  • Death and Hope: Skulls and bones intertwine with symbols of resurrection, reminding us that even in the darkest depths, hope for redemption flickers.

Still under construction, the Glory Facade promises to be a majestic crescendo, celebrating the triumph of Christ and the promise of eternal life. Gaudí left behind detailed plans and models, offering tantalizing glimpses of what awaits:

  • Ascension of Christ: The central portal will depict Jesus' ascent to heaven, bathed in celestial light.
  • Angels and Saints: A celestial chorus of angels and saints will surround Christ, celebrating his ultimate victory.
  • Light and Color: Gaudí envisioned this facade as a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, reflecting the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

Passion Facade or Nativity Facade - Which is better?

While both facades are completely different from each other and equally magnificent in their own right, you might have to make a choice when visiting the basilica. When you purchase Sagrada Familia tickets, most tickets limit your visit to the ground level, and if you wish to have access to the towers, you must get a specific ticket with tower access. While making the booking, you will have to choose which tower you want to visit. Here's all you need to know to make a choice between the Nativity and Passion facade.

Sagrada Familia - Nativity Facade

Nativity Facade

The Nativity facade might be considered grander as they depict the birth and the early days of Jesus. The facade being the only one that was constructed during Antoni Gaudi's lifetime, probably best depicts his vision.

The visit to this façade begins with a lift taking you up Saint Jude’s tower. Once you get off the lift, you have to climb up the stairs until you reach a bridge located behind the cypress tree sculpture. The bridge connects the tower with the next tower: Simon’s. From the bridge, you can enjoy spectacular views of the city and discover the details of the towers up close. Afterward, you will head to the Saint Barnabas tower, which is the highest point you’ll reach at 75 meters. On your way down, you can make your way into the balconies, from where you can once again enjoy close views of the towers. As you climb the steps, there will be parts that are dark as they don't get sunlight and have not been fitted with electric lighting, but the view at the top makes it totally worth it.

Sagrada Familia - Passion Facade

Passion Facade

The Passion Facade depicts the poignant essence of Jesus’ life. This facade has a more bare-bones appearance compared to the grandeur of the Nativity facade, which is one of the reasons why visitors prefer the latter. However, the Passion facade depicts more iconic moments in Jesus' life. The Passion Tower is also a little higher than the Nativity Tower. While the facade was built almost 25 years after Gaudi's death, the plans for it have been based on Gaudi's model.

While the facade consists of four towers, you can only visit two of them. The visit would start with the lift taking you up the Philip Tower. Once you step out, you will find a platform at the top of the tower from where you enjoy the ocean view. You would then cross over to the Thomas Tower, where you will reach the highest point at 90 meters high. From here, you will make your way back to the ground level.

Access to Sagrada Familia Facades

Tourists visiting Sagrada Familia in Barcelona can view the Nativity Facade by purchasing a general admission ticket, which allows access to the exterior of the basilica. To visit the Passion Facade, they will need to purchase an interior ticket, which will also grant you entry into the basilica's interior. Both facades offer unique architectural and artistic experiences, making it essential to explore both parts of this iconic masterpiece.

Book Sagrada Familia Tickets & Tours

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Visitor tips 

  • Purchase Tickets in Advance: To avoid long lines and potential disappointment, buy your Sagrada Familia tickets online in advance. This will not only save you time but also ensure you get access to both the Nativity and Passion Facades.
  • Time Your Visit: Try to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds. This will give you a more relaxed and enjoyable experience when viewing the facades and exploring the interior.
  • Guided Tours: Consider joining a guided tour. Knowledgeable guides can provide insights into the history, architecture, and symbolism of the facades, enhancing your appreciation of Gaudi's masterpiece.
  • Respect Dress Code: Remember to dress modestly and respectfully, especially if you plan to enter the basilica. Avoid wearing revealing clothing, as there are strict dress codes in place.
  • Visit Both Facades: Don't miss the opportunity to view both the Nativity and Passion Facades. Each has its own unique story and design elements, offering a well-rounded understanding of Sagrada Familia's significance. Take your time to appreciate the intricate details.

Frequently asked questions about Sagrda Familia Facades

What is the Sagrada Familia Facade?

The Sagrada Familia has 3 facades or faces of the basilica which are depictions and dedication to the birth, death and eternal life of Jesus.

Can I visit the Sagrada Familia Facade?

Yes, you can visit the Sagrada Familia facade by booking tickets. 

Do I need tickets to view the Sagrada Familia facades?

Yes, you will need tickets to view the Sagrada Familia facades up close. 

How many Sagrada Familia facades are there?

There are three facades to the Sagrada Familia, namely, the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory facades. Today, only two of three facades are complete.

How many Sagrada Familia facades are completed?

As of now, only two of the three Sagrada Familia facades have been completed.

What does the Glory facade represent?

The Glory Facade represents the glorious eternal life after the death of Jesus.

What is the Passion facade and what does it represent?

The Passion facade is the facade to the south of the basilica and is dedicated to the death of Jesus.

What does the Nativity facade represent?

The Nativity Facade represents the birth and the early life of Jesus.

Which facade of Sagrada Familia is better?

Both completed facades of the Sagrada Familia are impeccable in design. While the artistic side of you will like the Nativity Facade, the emotional side of you may like the Passion facade.