Sagrada Familia, nature in a church

The Sagrada Familia, a church in Barcelona Spain, by “God’s Architect” Antoni Gaudí is a man-made marvel of nature. Started in 1882, it’s expected finish is somewhere between 2030 and 2041. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s construction got a major boost when the 1992 Olympics were held in Barcelona. Funding comes from its donors and visitors.
The central tower, which is not yet built will poke out of the center of the church in the photo above. It should be taller than the tallest crane you see in the photo – just under 600 feet tall. It will hold a four-armed (three-dimensional) lit cross, the highest cross on any church in the world.

There is just so much to this church, which was consecrated as a basilica in 2010, that I could never give it its due. In order to appreciate it, you have to stand inside it.

It makes my gardening blog because of Guadí‘s influences in its design – nature. There’s an exhibition within the church showing Gaudí’s organic architectural inspiration in seedpods, leaves, fruit, minerals, vines, tree knots, tree branching, honeycombs, oleander branching, basil growth patterns, passion fruit, buds and spikes of cereals and grasses, the fruit of the cypress, and dozens more. They can be observed both blatantly and subtly, as well as unseen – the structural engineering of the church incorporates engineering Gaudí also found by studying his natural surrounding.

This post just shows the exterior of the church. There are three sides done: the back, the Passion Facade, and the Nativity Facade. The main entrance to the church has not been started. the Nativity Facade was the only exterior to be finished under Gaudí’s supervision in his lifetime. 
Gaudí assumed he would not be its only architect, as he fully expected it to take 200 years to build. Whereas they are pushing the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death in 2026 (hit by a streetcar observing the church) as it completion date, many, like our bicycle tour guide, say it will take the full 200 years to get it done. 
Part of the problem was that, while the church was not destroyed or severely damaged during the Spanish Civil War of 1939, Gaudí‘s plans and his models were. Teams of architects have spent generations piecing together the models and trying to derive his intent.
I’ll post about the interior later this week. The exterior felt a bit schizophrenic to me, with such drastic different visions and designs for the facades. The interior was the most spectacular part of the church, which is high praise when this is what the exterior looks like…
The back of the church is the least interesting,
looking more conventional than the other facades.

The downspouts, rather than gargoyles, were native animals and reptiles.
Peaks of roofs featured different fruits native to the Mediterranean. They are colored mosaic pieces.
Any architect can create a vertical column. These are Gaudi’s take on the columns
on the “Passion” Facade., still being worked on.
The sculptures on this facade are the 12 stations of the cross, usually depicted within a Catholic church. I’m not Catholic but you have to admire the story telling skills of Gaudi and the sculptors.
There’s a faction that believe the sculptures are a bit too modern and even Brutalist, but I love them.
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Mediterranean plantings along the base add lots of texture.
The crucifixion. That is a bible forming the hair on his head.
And typography is incorporated throughout the interior and exterior of the church. Here words in dozens of languages make up biblical terms and names.
This is the door. Lower right is the door handle.
Natural elements, shells, leaves, flowers and the occasional skull are mixed in with the typography
The Nativity Facade features three towers – one each for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Plant and animal impressions busy the facade in a vining, twining pattern on all three entrances to the church.
It’s busy – but everything has meaning. Even the sort of melting dripping stone in the center of the photo, above the sculpture is the outline of a local mountain range – upside down.

The Tree of Life (NOT a Christmas Tree) caps off the church entrance and helps form a passageway between the towers.
It’s busy. But up close you can make out birds, animals, reptiles plants, fish and more. I did not see a kitchen sink.
On the Nativity Facade, the plants offer a colorful respite from the overwhelming-nes of the building.
I just love that typography is part of the design.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

0 comments on “Sagrada Familia, nature in a church

  1. Anonymous

    I have been enjoying the images from Barcelona. We studied Gaudi's work in architecture school, and I have always been fascinated.


  2. I was wondering if you would visit here after writing about the park. Great photos of views we never see in the magazines.Ray


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