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Sagrada Família Facade

The Sagrada Família consists of three façades and are quite outstanding. There is the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South (that is still to be under construction). It is the first thing you can view and admire from the outside, and every side has its own style and decorations. 

The Nativity façade represents the birth of Jesus, the Passion façade reflects the suffering endured by Jesus during his crucifixion, and the Glory façade represents the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, Glory and Hell. La Sagrada Família façade is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site since 2005 along with six more building designed by Gaudí.

Nativity Façade

The Nativity Façade was built between 1894 and 1930, and it was the first of the three façades to be completed. As the name reflects it, the Nativity façade is dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ. Also, it is the façade with the most direct style and influence by Gaudí himself. The façade is directed to the northeast facing the rising sun, in representation for the birth of Christ. 

The Nativity façade is divided into three porticos, and each one was made in representation of a theological virtual; Hope, Faith, and Charity. The three porticos are divided by two large columns, and there is a turtle lying at the base of each column in representation of the land and the sea; as each are symbols of time as something that is set in stone and remains unchangeable. Opposite to the to figures and symbolism of the turtles, there are two chameleons that can be found at either side of the façade, and represent constant change.  

Inside of the Sagrada Familia, there is a Tree of Life that rises above the door Jesus in the portico of Charity. The façade is completed by four steeples and each one is dedicated to a Saint; Matthias, Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot. 

sagrada familia inside façade

From the beginning Gaudí intended for the Nativity façade to be polychromed (practice of decorating architectural elements), and for each archivolt (ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch) to be painted with a wide array of colours. This would allow the figures of humans to of humans to appear as much alive as the ones of plants and animals. 

Gaudí intentionally selected to work on this façade first to begin construction and for it to be the most attractive and accessible to the public. He was very much aware that he would not see the building finished and wanted to set an artistic and architectural example for others to follow. During the Spanish Civil War some of the statues were destroyed, and they were reconstructed afterwards by Japanese artist Etsuro Sotoo. 

close-up of the sagrada familia towers

Passion Façade

The Passion façade is stark, plain and simple, in opposite to the vastly decorated and ornamented Nativity Façade. It is carved with harsh straight lines in resemblance of the bones of a skeleton. Construction for this façade started in 1954, with instructions and designs left by Gaudí for future architects and sculptors. The Passion façade, as the name represents it, is dedicated to the Passion of Christ, meaning the pain endured by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, this façade was intended to depict the sins of humankind. It faces the setting sun, in relation and symbolic to the death of Jesus Christ. 

The Passion facade is held by six large columns that are inclined, made to resemble Sequoia trunks. Every one of the steeples is dedicated to an Apostle; James, Thomas, Philip, and Bartholomew. The steeples were finished in 1976, and in 1987 Josep Maria Subirachs lead a team of sculptors to work on the sculpting the various scenes and details of the facade. Their aim was to give a rigid, angular form to evoke a dramatic effect. 

The intention of Gaudí with this side was to strike fear into the observer: he wanted to “break” arcs and “cut” columns, and also to use the chiaroscuro effect to enhance even more the harshness and brutality of the sacrifice of Christ. And also like the Nativity facade, there are three porticos, each one representing the theological virtual, but in a different light. 

The scenes that are sculpted into the facade can be separated into three levels, that ascend in the shape of an “S” and reproduce the stations of the Via Crucis of Jesus Christ. The lower levels show scenes of the last night of Jesus before the crucifixion, including the Last Supper, Kiss of Judas, Ecce homo (when Jesus is presented scourged), and the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. You can see on the third and final level the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ. 

There is also something special about this facade, it contains a magic square based on the magic square from the 1514 print Melencolia I. This square is rotated, and one number in each row and column is reduced by one, so the rows and columns add up to 33 instead of the standard 34 for a 4×4 magic square. 

Glory Façade

The Glory facade will be the biggest and most noticeable of all of the facades, the construction began in 2002. It is meant to be the principal facade and will offer access to the central nave. It is dedicated to the Celestial Glory of Jesus, it reflects the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, while Hell is left for those who diverge from the will of God. 

Gaudí knew that he would not live long enough to see this facade completed, so he made a model that was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, but the fragments were used as the base for the reconstruction of the design of the facade. To be able to complete this facade, it may be required to partially demolish the block of buildings that are across the Carrer de Mallorca. 

In September 2008, the door the Glory facade were installed by Subirachs. They have an inscription of the Prayer of the Lord, these central doors have the words “Give us our daily bread” in fifty different languages. The door handles are the letters “A” and “G”, that arrange the initials of Antoni Gaudí within the phrase “lead us not into temptation”.

close-up of sagrada familia entrance

The Glory Portico will be reachable from the the large staircase that will lead over the underground passage built over Carrer de Mallorca with the decoration representing Hell and vice. It will be adorned with demons, idols, false gods, heresy, etc. There will also be depictions of purgatory and death, and tombs will be used as well. The portico will also have seven large columns dedicated to gifts of the Holy Spirit; the base of the columns will have representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Seven Virtues will be at the top. 

This facade will have five doors that correspond to the five naves of the temple, and the central one will have a triple entrance, that will give the Glory facade a total of seven doors representing the Sacraments.