Tag Archives: Sagrada Familia

Cemetery of the Week #148: Sagrada Familia


The rear of Sagrada Familia, with construction cranes. All photos by Loren Rhoads.

Sagrada Familia Basilica
c/ Mallorca 401
08013 Barcelona, Spain
Telephone: (34) 932 080 414
Founded: 1882
Number of Interments: 2
Open: The hours change on Holy Days and also according to the season. Entry is only available with a timed-entry ticket. Entry times do sell out, so book online in advance at http://www.sagradafamilia.org.

When it is finally completed, the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família may be the most controversial church in the world. It is certainly the strangest looking. The BBC compared it to a gigantic stone cluster of termites’ nests or a gingerbread house baked by the wickedest witch of all. Even Salvador Dali admired its “terrifying and edible beauty.”

The foundation stone of the Expiatory Church of the Holy Family was laid by its first architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar, in 1882. A year and a half later, Antoni Gaudi took over the project, working on it for 43 years. The church is so enormous that 8000 people can worship there simultaneously.

img_6541Although the basilica became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, work on it continues today. Estimates vary from 10 to 50 years to complete construction. Just a reminder: although construction machinery may be working inside the sanctuary when you visit, the basilica is a “place for prayer, silence, and reflection.” Behave yourself.

On November 7, 2010, the church of La Sagrada Familia was consecrated as a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. A basilica has special privileges, according to the Catholic church. Often they are built above the graves of saints.

At the age of 74, Gaudi was run down by a streetcar at the intersection of Carrer de Bailén and the Gran Vía in June 1926. Taxi drivers refused to believe the raggedy old man was not a beggar, so they refused to transport him to a hospital. Eventually, neighbors carried him to the Holy Cross charity hospital, where he died several days later.


Looking down into the crypt. The candles at the top of the photo burn at Gaudi’s grave.


Although few Barcelonans had actually met Gaudi, thousands dressed in black to line the streets as his body was carried back to the church he had designed and overseen for so many years. Gaudi’s grave is located in an underground chapel beneath the apse where the basilica’s main altar stands. A group called the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi is working to prove his holiness and set him on the road to sainthood.

img_6556In the meantime, devotion for Gaudi must be done privately. It cannot be done publicly until the Church beatifies him. The only way to visit his grave is to attend mass in the crypt, although they are only celebrated in Catalan and Spanish. The mass schedule is available online at http://www.sagradafamilia.org.

Gaudi’s chapel is dedicated to the Virgin of El Carmen, who is also called Stella Maris, the Queen of the Seas. She is the patron of fishermen and mariners.

Buried elsewhere in the crypt is Josep María Bocabella, who conceived the idea of building La Sagrada Familia. Bocabella was a printer of religious books who made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Loreto in Italy. That church contains what is alleged to be the house in which the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce her pregnancy. Angels carried the house to Italy in the 13th century, it was said, to save it from desecration.

An estimated 3 million people visit La Sagrada Familia each year, contributing an estimated 25 million euros annually to its construction costs.


BBC’s feature on Sagrada Familia

An article from 2000 said that so many people want to leave offerings at Gaudi’s tomb that a passage would be opened from the museum, but as of 2016, this had not been done.

Gaudi and Barcelona Club