Explore the Iconic Facades of Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia basilica or the Basilica of the Holy Family is a phenomenal architectural wonder situated in Barcelona. 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?
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.
Explore the Sagrada Familia Facades | Main Highlights
The oldest among the three Facades is the Nativity Facade which is dedicated to the early life of Jesus. The Nativity facade was constructed between 1894 and 1930 and is the only part of the Sagrada Familia that Gaudi saw built during his lifetime.
The facade is divided into three portals upon careful observation. The one on the left is dedicated to Joseph and is known as the portal of Hope, the one on right is called the portal of Faith dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the middle one dedicated to Jesus is called the portal of Charity. One can see the sculptures of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds, and the three Magi, along with angels around them. The doors and walls have influences from nature and designs of leaves and flowers and marble animals like turtles, salamanders, and pelicans, and a huge tree of life surrounded by white marble doves. It represents the birth of Christ and is symbolic of birth, life, and light. The facade culminates with four bell towers dedicated to St. Barnabas, St. Matthew, St. Jude, and St. Simon.
Guided by drawings made by Gaudi, work on the Passion Facade started in 1954 and was completed in 1976. The Passion Facade represents the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ and is often considered the most iconic facade of the basilica. According to Gaudi, this facade was to be “Hard, bare and as if made of Bones” and the facade does elicit the as if it were made so. Strikingly different in form when compared to the Nativity Facade, this façade has a skeletal feel, with pillars resembling bones and expressive sculptures re-enacting the last week of Christ's life.
The Passion facade is supported by six large columns which resemble Sequoia trunks. It features a pyramidal pediment with 18 bone-shaped columns atop the six columns and all this culminates in a large cross with a crown of thorns. There are scenes sculpted into the facade which are divided into three levels— Jesus' last night before crucifixion at the lowest level, the Calvary of Christ at the middle level, and the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ at the highest level. At the highest level, one may observe a golden sculpture of Jesus which shows his ascension to heaven.
The newest one is the Glory facade which, upon completion, will provide access to the Basilica's central nave. The Glory Facade represents Christ’s eternal glory and features scenes of Christ’s rise to heaven and eternal bliss. The construction of the facade began in 2002 and is still far from being completed. Although unfinished, it is already the tallest of all the facades. Gaudi was well aware that construction of the Glory facade would not be completed in his lifetime and hence drew just a few sketches with a general idea of what his vision and plan were, and this included representations of Death, Final Judgement, Hell, and Glory. While his models were demolished in 1936. the original fragments were used to develop the design for the façade.
The facade will have tall columns dedicated to the seven holy gifts and will depict the seven deadly gifts at the bottom and the seven heavenly virtues at the top. The facade will have five doors corresponding to the five naves of the temple, with the central one having a triple entrance, making a total of seven entrances representing the seven sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Holy orders, Marriage, and Anointing of the sick. The central doors are inscribed with the words "Give us our daily bread" in fifty different languages. The handles of the door depict the letters "A" and "G" that form the initials of Antoni Gaudí within the phrase "lead us not into temptation".
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.
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 as well as view details of the towers from 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.
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.
How to view the Sagrada Familia Facades?
You can view the Sagrada Familia by first booking tickets to the Basilica. Tickets are available online and it is best to book tickets in advance to avoid any last-minute hassle. The Sagrada Familia is laced with exquisite texture, colorful mosaic art, and incredible glass works that are best viewed during the sunset - almost transporting you to a different world altogether.
- Spend enough time learning about the history of the Sagrada Familia via audio guides.
- For a fully immersive experience, it is best to go on a guided tour; this is a great way to ensure you catch all the main highlights and understand the historical and architectural significance of the basilica.
- Do not miss out on the scenic views from the top of the Sagrada Familia Towers
- It is best to wear comfortable clothes if you plan to go to the top of the towers which are accessible by stairs.
- Since you are entering a basilica, which is a religious place, it is best to wear clothes that are fully covered.
- Do not carry heavy luggage to the basilica as only provisions for small bags to be deposited.
- If you are wearing hats while in the city, ensure to remove them before entering the basilica.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sagrda Familia Facades
A. 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.
A. 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.
A. As of now, only two of the three Sagrada Familia facades have been completed.
A. The Glory Facade represents the glorious eternal life after the death of Jesus.
A. The Passion facade is the facade to the south of the basilica and is dedicated to the death of Jesus.
A. The Nativity Facade represents the birth and the early life of Jesus.
A. 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.