Pl. de Sant Jaume, 8, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Once again, welcome to Historic America & UCPlaces’ audio walking tour of Barcelona. We’re glad you could join us! I’m Aaron, your guide (but I also respond to professional history nerd). This is the part of the tour where I fit in my shameless plug for our websites (www.historicamerica.org & www.ucplaces.com) and I invite you to use #historicamericatours on social media while traveling alongside us today. Let’s begin the journey.
To begin, locate the street called Carrer del Bisbe which leads off the plaza to the northwest. Follow this street and as you do, begin looking upwards for a marble bridge connecting the two buildings on either side of the roadway.
C. del Bisbe, 1, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Look up - do you see that ornate bridge spanning the two buildings on either side of you? This is our first stop, called the Pont del Bisbe, or Bishop Bridge. This impressive marble structure is emblematic of Gothic architecture – in vogue from the late 12th to the 16th century. It has characteristic Gothic features, such as columns and pointed arches. However, it is a far more recent addition to the city than it may appear. The Pont del Bisbe was constructed in 1928!
It was built in preparation for the second world fair held in Barcelona, the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. Twenty nations from all across Europe participated in the fair. Hosting the fair was a unique opportunity for Barcelona to showcase their modern industry, fascinating history, and rich culture. Urban development projects were sponsored all over the city, so that Barcelona’s best foot could be put forward. The exposition was originally planned for 1917, but was delayed due to the outbreak of WWI.
This delay meant that architects of all different styles and schools had additional time and opportunity to express themselves through urban development projects. Architect Joan Rubio y Bellver’s Pont del Bisbe was placed in the city’s Gothic Quarter, and reflects a growing movement in the 19th and 20th century to return to historic architectural styles from eras past. The Gothic Quarter (where you now stand) encompasses Barcelona's oldest neighborhoods. It houses important Medieval buildings, and has a layout typical of its age, with narrow, winding streets, periodically opening into large plazas. Walking through here is like stepping into a storybook land. Wouldn’t you agree?
Despite being known as the Gothic Quarter, the majority of the buildings in this particular neighborhood hail from the 19th and 20th centuries. This is because Barcelona undertook a number of revitalization projects starting in the 1800s, purposefully transforming the neighborhood from a somewhat dingy relic of the past into a bright and shiny tourist attraction. Nowadays, historians mourn this fact. However, the neighborhood still has tons of architectural interest, with many of its oldest buildings – such as the Barcelona Cathedral – remodeled in a distinctly Gothic style.
The Gothic Quarter even contains remnants from the Roman Empire. In the Imperial Period, from 31 BC to 476 AD, the land that is now Barcelona was known as the colony of Barcino. The colony was founded by Roman emperor Augustus between 15-10 BC. A fortification wall was built by the Romans during the 1st and 2nd century AD, the remains of which can still be found throughout the Gothic Quarter. But not everything has changed from ancient times — back then this region of Spain was known widely for its wine, and still is today. So make sure to grab a sangria at the end of our tour.
Returning to the Pont del Bisbe, its architect Joan Rubio i Bellver was intent on revitalizing Barcelona’s past with his 20th century work. He had expansive plans to “Gothic-ize” Barcelona, but the city council rejected many of his ideas. Infuriated, he placed a skull and dagger on the underside of the bridge to express his discontent. Legend has it that anyone who looks at the skull and dagger will be cursed; maybe avert your eyes when you walk under, just to be on the safe side. However, some say if you walk backwards under the bridge while looking at the skull, your wishes will be granted.
Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 2, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
When the Carrer del Bisbe intersects the Carrer de Santa Llúcia, turn right. Continue walking until you reach the intersection of Pla de la Sau where you’ll see a cathedral immediately beside you along the eastern edge of the plaza.
Pla de la Seu, 7, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
You’ve arrived at our next stop. Take a moment to get into a good position to better appreciate the building in front of you. This is the Catedral de Barcelona, one of the most impressive pieces of Gothic architecture in all of Europe. This imposing house of worship was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, with most of the heavy lifting done during the 1400s. It is the current seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
It was built over the remains of older religious buildings, some of which date back to the 4th century. The cornerstone for this building was laid in 1298, on the remnants of the earlier churches, and completed 150 years later. The church is made mostly of sandstone and granite, with some concrete used in the naves. It is 28 meters (91 feet) tall at its highest point, and 93 meters (305 feet) long.
The building’s architecture is emblematically Gothic in nature. The roof is dotted with gargoyles, formed in the shape of both real & mythic animals. It has distinctive spires, pointed arches, and elaborate ornamentation. The interior is made up of five vaulted aisles, with the outer two aisles divided into chapels. The altar is raised, allowing a direct view into the crypt from the interior.
Speaking of the catedral’s crypt, it contains the body of Eulalia of Barcelona, the saint to whom the cathedral is dedicated and the co-patron saint of Barcelona. Eulalia suffered a rather tragic end. She was a Roman Christian virgin, who was martyred in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians in the 4th century AD. She was also the daughter of a noble family who lived near Barcelona. She is said to have marched to the governor and confronted him directly about his persecution of Christians.
As punishment for her challenge to authority, Eulalia was stripped naked and tortured in one of the city squares, and told that her punishment would only cease when she admitted the error of her ways. She refused to do so, and subsequently died of her wounds. It is said that during her ordeal, a dove flew out of her mouth, and a sudden snowfall commenced, covering her body like a garment. The catedral is now her eternal home.
Let’s end on a slightly more lighthearted note. Each year, on the day of Corpus Christi, the catedral participates in a nationwide Spanish tradition - the dancing egg. How do you make an egg dance you ask? Well, you place a hen’s egg, usually drained and resealed with wax, over the jet of a fountain. The egg is suspended by the streaming water and jostled back and forth. In this way, it appears to dance. Legend has it that the first egg was made to dance right here in the Catedral when acolytes placed an egg atop the cloister fountain. Why did this morph a nationwide tradition? We aren’t entirely sure – in fact you might say that the historical explanations are somewhat scrambled. But it sure sounds like fun.
When you’re ready to move on, turn away from the cathedral and begin walking toward the north west. Cross the small plaza in front of you, the Placita de la Sau. Walk until you reach Placa Nova. Locate the nearby intersection of Placa Nova and Carrer dels Boters. Turn left, continuing towards the Carrer dels Boters towards the south west.
Plaça Nova, 4, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
C/ de la Portaferrissa, 11b, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Continue walking until you reach the intersection of Carrer d’En Bot. Turn to the right. Continue walking straight, until you pass the Carrer de Francesc Pujols. Walk slightly past this intersection, and then enter the plaza on the right hand side for our next stop.
Carrer d'En Bot, 21, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Welcome to the Placa de la Villa de Madrid. To better appreciate the plaza, let’s go back in time. In the Imperial Period from 31 BC to 476 AD, the land that is now Barcelona was known as the colony of Barcino and was ruled by the Roman Empire. The colony itself was founded by Roman emperor Augustus all the way back in 15 BC, and we’ve just stepped foot into this bygone era by entering the Placa de Villa Madrid, containing one of Barcelona’s most well-known collections of Roman ruins: Via Sepulcral Romana. This is an ancient Roman burial ground. You’ll explore this area via a raised walkway around the perimeter of the plaza. Go ahead and take a lap. The ancient funeral monuments are in a sunken garden, left open so that the public can look down and view them at any time of day.
Where we now stand, once lay outside the city limits of Barcino because – in Roman society – it was forbidden to bury the dead within the city limits. Thus, this outlying spot was chosen as a burial ground. The majority of people interred here were from the lower classes; some of them enslaved. In total there are 85 graves with over 200 people laid to rest within. Today, only a small portion of the burial site is left open for the public to explore.
On either side of the path you’ll notice funeral monuments. The most popular monument at this site is called a cupae. This is the technical name for the half-circular rounded monuments that rise out of the ground, resembling a half-barrel shape. It’s rather unique that this burial ground was preserved; most of the other sites like this around Barcelona were built upon and lost to history – either by the Romans themselves or by later civilizations. During the construction of a modern plaza at this site in 1956, the Roman funeral monuments were rediscovered. And they were preserved very well under layers of sediment.
There is a small education center onsite, focused upon two areas of Roman history: road building and funeral practices. Why the road building you ask? Because many of the funeral markers you see below were once situated on either side of an ancient road which connected Barcino to a nearby sister colony. Eventually the stones were relocated here. Talk about a dead end journey.
When you’re finished, return to the Carrer d’En Bot, and continue northward.
C/ de Santa Anna, 17, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Avda. del Portal de l'Àngel, 23, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Continue walking until you reach the intersection of the Avenida del Portal de l’Angel and turn left. We’re now passing through a very famous shopping district on the way to our next stop. If you’d like to return here later in your trip, feel free! Or maybe you’d like to pause the walk and indulge in a little shop hopping right now.
Continue walking down the Avenida del Portal. Stop when you reach a large circular plaza. This is our next stop.
Pl. de Catalunya, 31, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Welcome to the bustling center of Barcelona; the Placa de Catalunya. This is the gateway between the Ciutat Vella district and the Eixample district. In the Catalan language, Ciutat Vella means “Old City.” Accordingly, this is district 1 of Barcelona, the oldest district in this ancient city. It borders the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the urban core of Barcelona on the other.
The Eixample district is known for its shopping, restaurants, and cafes. It’s also one of the most popular areas of the city for tourists to reside in during their stay since the neighborhood is filled with excursions. If grabbing a coffee and strolling through souvenir shops is on your to-do list, you’ll want to spend time here.
Additionally, the Eixample is a strong example of Barcelona’s signature urban layout: a grid pattern of streets crossed by wide diagonal avenues, and dotted throughout with octagonal plazas.
The originator of this once-innovative layout was Ildefons Cerá, a design pioneer who considered both the flow of traffic for carriages, as well as ventilation and sunlight for pedestrians and residents alike. The octagonal shape of the plazas provided roomy corners on avenues for horse-drawn carriages to make wide turns.
This plaza was created by Spanish King Alfonso XIII in 1927. Before it was a plaza, the area was once open land inside the walled city of Barcelona. The district name, Eixample, means “extension” in Catalan, referencing how it was once an outer district, which developed overtime as the population grew.
Throughout the 12-and-a-half acres the plaza covers, there are several monuments and statues. Feel free to take a stroll around before we move on. On one corner of the plaza you’ll notice the beautiful and well-known Placa de Catalunya fountain, famous for its sound and light shows best enjoyed at night.
Remember when I told you about the World’s Fair Barcelona hosted in 1929? Many of the luxurious hotels and shops that dot the plaza were built to house & serve guests of the fair – yet another example of the urban development craze which gripped Barcelona in anticipation of the worldly event.
Cross the plaza, exiting at the opposite end from where you entered. Begin walking along the major road called Passeig de Grácia. Walk until you see a traffic circle, then cross this circle and continue on.
Pg. de Gràcia, 11A, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Keep heading down the Passeig de Grácia. Shortly after you pass the intersection of Carrer del Consell de Cent, look for a house on your left hand side. The house has round windows and is covered in mosaics. This is our next stop.
Pg. de Gràcia, 45, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
What does this house make you think of? How does it make you feel? This is Casa Battlo, one of Barcelona’s finest examples of modernist architecture. This masterpiece is also known by the locals as Casa dels Ossos – House of Bones. The house is the handiwork of Antoni Gaudí, one of Spain’s most famous architects. The original home was built in 1877 by one of Gaudí’s architecture professors. A few decades later, it was purchased by a very wealthy textile industrialist named Josep Battló y Casanovas who in turn hired Gaudí to conduct an extensive remodel in 1904.
Gaudí was given full creative freedom which was not taken for granted. He completely redesigned both the outer facade and the interior of the home. He rearranged the walls to create new rooms, engineering the house to have better ventilation. He paid remarkable attention to detail; for example, the windows of the home are of varying size depending on the distance of the window from the ground floor, to better ensure that each room receives uniform natural lighting.
Casa Battlo is on a notable block in the Eixample district known as Illa de la Discórdia - the Block of Discord. On this block, there are four notable houses designed in the unique modernisme tyle. The modernisme movement took hold in Spain during the early 20th century. As a broad term, it references the Catalonian literature, art, and architecture of the era, which was expressive, abstract, and informed by the art nouveau movement. Decorative arts (disciplines like ironwork, cabinetmaking, ceramics, and glass work) were particularly prominent in modernisme, especially as architectural adornment.
Casa Battlo contains several of these decorative elements. Notice the wave-like sculpted stonework and arched iron work. Much of the house’s front facade is covered with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles. Most striking is the lack of straight lines. Many wonder if Gaudí’s sole design goal was to achieve a sense of curvature. The roof of the house is arched in an almost anthropomorphic fashion; some liken it to a dragon’s back. Throughout construction, Gaudí was inspired by the natural world – marine life in particular. He chose ceramic colors suggestive of coral reefs.
Take a moment to absorb the House of Bones. What inspiration do you draw from this amazing piece of art?
The house is still privately owned. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and highly rated attraction which draws more than a million visitors per year. If you wish, feel free to take a break from our walk and step inside the home for a more detailed audio tour offered onsite.
When you’re ready, continue heading down the Passeig de Grácia.
Pg. de Gràcia, 89, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
LA PEDRERA, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
Once again – locate the rounded, stone building on the northeast corner of the intersection. It’s got a great story to tell.
The avenue we stand on is the Passeig de Grácia. At the turn into the 20th century, properties on this stretch were being snatched up by the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Barcelona. As the elite populated this neighborhood, they competed amongst one another to commission the city’s most lauded architects to design their homes and showcase their wealth.
In 1905, one such couple, Pera Milá and Roser Segimon purchased a large detached property on Passeig de Grácia with a garden. They planned to reside on the main floor and rent the floors above to tenants. The architect they commissioned was none other than our old friend Antoni Gaudí and he created the building you now look at.
Construction lasted 6 years, and was fraught with controversy. Gaudí intended to realize his artistic vision, despite what anybody – including the city council – had to say about it. The height of the building exceeded the legal limits and one of the building’s columns extends onto the Passeig de Grácia – but the city allowed it to remain. Unsurprisingly, Gaudí significantly exceeded his clients budget and made multiple enemies during the building process.
Ultimately, the city decided that the house be designated a monument, and thus exempted from building standards. However, the Milá’s still had to pay a fine of 100,000 pesetas to legalize the structure. This fee, in addition to the very high wage charged by Gaudí, meant the couple had to mortgage out the building upon completion! Gaudí donated the fees to a convent.
Casa Milá is Gaudí’s most iconic piece of civic architecture. It was also the last piece of civic architecture that Gaudí ever designed. It is sometimes known as La Pedrera, which means “the stone quarry,” due to the building’s unusual structure resembling an open stone quarry.
The building itself is a contradiction. The solidity of the stone is at odds with the flowing shape of the balconies. Gaudí selected stone that was light in color, so that sun and shadow could reflect off of it, giving the building different appearances throughout the day and conveying a feeling of movement.
There are two great entranceways to La Pedrera, both of which are made of iron and glass. They continue the theme of natural shapes, fluid and without interruption. Gaudí chose glass in part to make the transition from the outdoor world to the interior of the building as natural and seamless as possible. One of the most innovative features of the building was the installation of an elevator! It was intended to be the resident's primary means of accessing their units - a completely novel idea at the time. Another of Gaudí’s genius ideas was to make the rooftop a functional space. It is designed and decorated as intentionally as the rest of the building in order to bring joy to residents. Up until this time, rooftops were usually forgotten spaces. Gaudí’s genius seemed to know no bounds, and this building may be his crowning achievement.
I wonder what it would go for on Zillow?
When you’re finished, continue walking down the Carrer de Provenca.
C/ de Roger de Llúria, 118, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
When you reach the intersection of Carrer de Roger de Llúria, take a left hand turn. Continue walking until you reach the Avenida Diagonal, crossing the avenue. Once you’ve crossed the avenue, your next stop will be a large home covered in spires on the right hand side.
Av. Diagonal, 6319, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
We’ve reached our third fantastic home on today’s tour: Casa de les Punxes, or House of Spires. It should be easy to find. Built in 1905, it was a home commissioned by yet another of Barcelona’s wealthy elites – Bartomeu Terradas i Mont. Terradas became wealthy through textile trading, and relocated his family to the posh district of Eixample. After his death, he provided a significant inheritance to his wife and four children. The house in front of you was built as living space for his three daughters.
It was designed by modernisme architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. It defied all of the architectural standards and trends of its era, by drawing inspiration from older examples of the castles of Europe. It was heavily impacted by the Neuschwanstein Castle – a 19th-century palace built upon the rugged Alpine mountains of southern Germany and intended to be a private home for the German king – who unfortunately died before it was completed. Rather than let the castle go to waste, it was opened as a tourist destination and Cadafalch himself paid a visit. Its impact can be felt in the house before you.
The House of Spires is actually designed as three separate houses on the interior, seamlessly blending each together so they appear as a singular, cohesive unit from the outside. There are six conical roofs in total, all topped by spires from which the house derives its name. The exterior is highly detailed, and includes ornate brickwork, detailed wrought-iron balconies, sculptural reliefs, and stained glass windows. There is a ring of ceramic rosettes that decorate the building’s upper facade. Although Cadafalch was departing from the architectural standards of his day, the extensive use of decorative arts is an homage to the central role they played within the modernisme art movement.
The ornamentation of the house also references the three sisters who lived within. For example, on the side belonging to Ángela Terradas, there is a stained glass depiction of an angel. On the side belonging to sister Rosa, there is an abundance of floral ornamentation, including a vase of roses.
In comparison to the other modernisme homes of Barcelona, less is known about the intimate history of Casa de les Punxes. This is because the Terradas died without descendents, and the brother who inherited the home, named Bartomeu after his father, sold it off rather than keep it in the family. It was declared a national monument in 1975.
Once open to visitors, public visitation ended when the pandemic hit. Nowadays, a co-working space is housed on the lower levels. Hey, maybe that’s how you can get inside! Do you have some emails you need to fire off? Perhaps take a break from our tour and get some work done inside a building that has come to define Barcelona’s skyline.
When you’re ready to move on, walk east down Avenida Diagonal.
Pg. de St. Joan, 374B, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
Continue walking until you pass the intersection of the Carrer de Bailén. Once you pass this street, begin looking for a long park that will be on your left hand side. Cross the park in front of you, and walk towards the third building on Paseig de St. Joan. Look for a building with detailed windows and a sign labeled ‘Macaya.’ This is our next stop.
Pg. de St. Joan, 108, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
Welcome to our final modernisme residence on today’s tour: Palau Macaya. This building was also designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Very similar to Casa de les Punxes, it was conceived as a family residence for a wealthy textile merchant. Romá Macaya was the patriarch of this clan, and made his money in the cotton trade.
The building is distinctive from its surroundings due to its light stone facade made of stucco, stone, and brick. The central entryway was designed large enough to accommodate the passage of an entire horse and carriage! The smaller archways are for foot traffic. The main floor of the house was designated for Romá Macaya himself, while the upper floors were set aside for his sons. There is also a mezzanine in the home, originally used as a servants’ quarters. The house is so magnificent that it has come to be known as Palau Macaya, meaning Macaya Palace, rather than the Casa Macaya - Macaya house.
One of the decorative arts used on the exterior of this home is called ‘sgraffito.’ This is when you lay down a preliminary layer of plaster, cover it with a second layer of plaster of a different color, and then scratch off the top layer to create a design using the emergent color underneath – just like those scratch off tickets you buy at the gas station!
One of the first features you notice about this building is the incredibly detailed stonework surrounding the arched windows. This work was done mainly by two artisans who partnered with i Cadafalch – Eusebi Arnau and Alfons Juyol.
Look closely at the stonework to the left side of the main entrance. Nestled amongst the ornamentation is the figure of a cyclist. This decidedly modern flourish was incorporated into the design by one of the sculptors who was also working at another nearby historic site, Amatller House, and cycling between his two jobs.
This building is no longer a private residence; after the Spanish Civil War it was acquired by a Catalonia-based nonprofit organization called La Caixa. The center is open to the public, and focuses particularly on the life and legacy of Puig i Cadafalch. It also explores the impact of modernisme throughout Barcelona and Europe as a whole. Feel free to take a look inside before we head to our final two stops.
When you’re ready, continue walking down the Paseig de St. Joan, heading to the northwest.
C/ de Provença, 372, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
When you reach the intersection of the Carrer de Provenca, make a right hand turn. Continue walking for a few blocks until you reach the intersection of Carrer de Sicília. You should see a large square park on the right hand side of this intersection - this is where we’ll stop next. For the best experience, walk a bit further into the park, so that you’re in the center and clearly in view of the Sagrada Familia while listening to our final two stops.
C/ de Provença, 426, 08025 Barcelona, Spain
Welcome to the Placa de la Sagrada Familia, the beautiful city square from which you can view the architectural masterpiece for which Barcelona is known the world over. We’re mostly going to use this park as a platform to discuss the Sagrada Familia itself. Since we’re looking at it from a distance, let’s begin with the basic history of the church, and then learn some quick facts about the exterior.
The Sagrada Familia is the largest unfinished Catholic church in the entire world. It all sprung from the brain of a very devout bookseller named José María Bocabella, who after visiting the Vatican, returned to Barcelona feeling that his city needed a church just as spectacular. Donations for this project began pouring in in 1882, and construction began shortly thereafter, with architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in charge.
However, Villar resigned from the project just one year later, and who should take over? You guessed it – Gaudí. Man, this guy was everywhere!
Gaudi brought with him a characteristic attention to detail, and epic overall vision. Resultantly, the design changed – and construction slowed to a crawl. Gaudí then died in 1926, at which point it is estimated the church was only 15-20% complete. He is buried in the church’s crypt, eternally housed inside his greatest masterpiece.
Construction continues to this day. The church has three main facades: the Passion facade facing west, the Nativity facade facing east, and the Glory facade facing south. The Glory facade is the only one still unfinished. The east facade, facing toward the rising sun, represents the birth of Christ through highly detailed and naturalistic sculpture. In contrast, the Passion facade, facing toward the setting sun, represents the crucifixion. It is meant to strike fear into the onlooker, with its skeletal, brutal design representing the pain and sacrifice endured by Christ.
Once completed, the Glory facade will be the largest and grandest, framing the entrance to the church’s central nave. It represents the path to God by means of death, judgment, and glory. The facade will also include a section dedicated to Hell – the path of those who deviate from God. It will also include seven large columns standing atop depictions of the seven deadly sins, and topped by the seven heavenly virtues.
Besides the Glory facade, the main piece of the puzzle yet to be completed are the 18 spires denoted in Gaudí’s original design. Eleven of the spires have already been built. In total they will be dedicated to the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ. The Virgin Mary’s spire was completed just recently in December of 2021.
When you’re done admiring the church from a distance, let’s finish our tour by crossing the plaza in order to get up-close-and-personal with this truly fantastic building.
Plaça Sagrada Família, 15, 08025 Barcelona, Spain
Now that we’ve moved nearer, let’s talk a bit about the interior, containing 36 columns and 5 naves. A nave is a term for the central part of a church, intended to house the bulk of the congregation. Like all Cathedrals, the Sagrada Familia is a cross shape, and the shorter arms of the cross are called the transept, beyond which is situated the choir area. At the far end of the church is found the altar – strategically placed so as to be illuminated by the sun streaming through the stained glass windows. Above the altar hangs a bronze depiction of the crucifixion.
Like any good Catholic church, this one contains a fabulous organ. It was installed in 2010 and consists of 1,492 pipes. Even an instrument of this incredible size isn’t large enough to fill the whole church with sound, so there will be more organs installed before construction is completed.
There are exactly three entrances to the church, which symbolize the three virtues: hope, faith, and love. The symbolism doesn’t end there however, because the 36 interior columns represent the twelve Apostles, the 4 evangelists, the 15 Spanish cities with archbishops, the four Catalan bishoprics, and 5 of the world’s continents. The columns are uniquely modeled after tree trunks, giving visitors the sensation that they are nestled deep inside a forest, rather than in the center of a city. The columns connect together at the top to mimic a forest canopy. As you can tell from the handful of Gaudí designs we’ve already seen on today’s tour, he almost never uses straight lines in his architecture. This is because Gaudi was first and foremost inspired by nature, which rarely contains straight lines.
In fact, there are naturalistic elements in every direction inside the cathedral. The altar is adorned with grape vines. Gates are adorned with honeycomb shapes. Animals which were displaced by the church’s construction are honored and represented in the gargoyles found strewn about. Two of the 36 pillars have a turtle and a tortoise at their base, representing the union between the earth and the sea.
The location and color of the windows is deeply symbolic, as well as functional. The upper windows are transparent, allowing unobstructed sunlight to flow in and illuminate worship activities. The lower windows are stained glass. The windows on the Nativity side are stained yellow, blue, and green to symbolize the birth of Christ, poverty, and light. In contrast, the windows of the Passion side are stained red, orange, and yellow, which symbolizes Christ’s death and resurrection.
As of this recording, the church is approximately 70% finished and the estimated year of completion is 2026, a full 144 years after donations for the project were first collected. Antoni Gaudí was in no hurry to finish his masterpiece, as he believed God to be his only client. He set out to create one of the most unique and truly awesome churches ever built by man. Do you think he succeeded?
Entry is free to visitors, so please go inside and have a look!
Not only is La Sagrada Familia Barcelona’s foremost attraction, it’s also the final stop on our tour today.
As our tour ends, I want to thank you for taking this historic walk through Barcelona with me. I encourage you to explore the different stops on our tour route more fully as time permits - although after all this walking, a glass of wine and a plate full of paella sounds good.
Wherever the day leads, I hope the stories from this tour will travel with you.
I’m Aaron Killian and this tour has been a joint production of Historic America and UCPlaces. To learn more about our trip planning services, public & private tours and digital content make sure to visit us at historicamerica.org and to find more audio tours, go to historicamerica.org and UCPlaces.com.