Symbolic visit

Nativity façade

Nativity façade symbolic visit

The Nativity façade celebrates the birth of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God made man. It is also referred to as the façade of Life, of Joy, or of Christmas. It is inspired by the gospels about the childhood of Jesus: Lk 1:5-2:51; Mt 1-2.


Choose the part of the façade to visit:

The portal of faith
The portal of faith
The portal of hope
The portal of hope
The portal of charity
The portal of charity
Upper section of the portal of charity
Upper section of the portal of charity
Bell towers
Bell towers
Choose a place to visit:
The portal of faith
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The sheaf of wheat
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Divine Providence
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The Immaculate Conception
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The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
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The finding in the Temple
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The visitation
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Christ the worker

The portal of faith

This part of the portico is devoted to the theological virtue of faith and to Mary.

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The sheaf of wheat In the foreground, ears of wheat and the Holy Host on the outside of the central naves. Detail of the tester above the altar, with grapes and ears of wheat.

The sheaf of wheat

The Portal of Faith is crowned by a sheaf of wheat, a symbol for the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist instituted by Jesus before the Passion: 'And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.' (Lk 22:19)

Wheat, either in sheaves or in the Holy Host, is also present in other places within the temple, mainly at the top of the exterior windows in the central naves.

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Divine Providence

Divine Providence

An eye looks out from the palm of a right hand (Dextera Dei), surrounded by a halo. The image symbolizes Divine Providence. Its extent is conveyed with the following words from Jesus to his twelve disciples: 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.' (Mt 10:29)

The architect of the Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí, showed absolute faith in Divine Providence.

"Providence protects the Temple: at the Sagrada Família, everything is providential, even my involvement as the architect." Antoni Gaudí, quoted by Cèsar Martinell.

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The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception

A female figure with long hair and an unfathomable gaze crosses her arms across her chest. One of her feet effortlessly steps on the serpent that is coiled around the globe. This allegorical image tells us that Evil has no power over Mary, the new Eve.

(Rv 12)

Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception of Mary as Dogma in 1854, twenty-eight years before construction of the Sagrada Família began.

"The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin." Ineffabilis Deus Papal Bull (December 8, 1854)

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The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

In obedience to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph have gone to Jerusalem to perform the purification rites after childbirth and the redemption of the firstborn. The figure holding Jesus in his arms is the elder Simeon, to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Behind him stands Anna the Prophetess.

(Lk 2:22-38)

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The finding in the Temple

The finding in the Temple

Joseph and Mary gaze at their child in awe. At the age of twelve, his knowledge of the Law is already equal to that of the doctors. They have just found him in the temple in Jerusalem after seeking him for three days among their friends and relatives in the caravan returning from Nazareth. They had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

The figures of John the Baptist and his father, the priest Zechariah, are set at either side, flanking the main scene.

(Lk 1,57-80)

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The visitation

The visitation

Mary has left Nazareth to visit her relative Elizabeth. The archangel Gabriel has announced to her that Elizabeth, despite being old and barren, has also conceived. Elizabeth receives Mary with the following words: 'Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.' (Lk 1:42) The child that Elizabeth is expecting will be known as John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Jesus.

Elizabeth's first words to Mary, together with the archangel's greeting, constitute the original core of the Hail Mary. The song of praise to the Lord with which Mary answers Elizabeth is the Magnificat from the Vespers.

(Lk 1:39-56)

MAGNIFICAT (EXCERPT): "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour, for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden." (Lk 1,46-48)

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Christ the worker

Christ the worker

Jesus works as a carpenter sitting on his father Joseph's bench. He holds the chisel in his left hand; his right hand is about to bring down the mallet.

Chronologically, this image of an unbearded Messiah is the last in a series of scenes about Jesus' earthly life in the Nativity façade. The series attempts to summarize the years between the end of Jesus' childhood, symbolized by the Finding in the Temple composition, and the beginning of his ministry.

(Lk 2:51:4:22; Mt 13:55)

TO CHRIST THE WORKER (EXCERPT): "The fisherman of Galilee, from Thee awaits a ship, to save the Holy Ark from the flood waters of sin; The world awaits a Church with firm pillars of stone; The shelter of humankind, a refuge for everyone" Jacint Verdaguer (1845-1902), Nazareth.

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The portal of hope
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The Cavall Bernat
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The Patron Saint of the Universal Church
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The Marriage of the Virgin
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Joseph and Jesus
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The Flight into Egypt
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The Massacre of the Innocents

The portal of hope

This part of the portico is devoted to the theological virtue of hope and to Joseph.

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The Cavall Bernat The Cavall Bernat, on Montserrat mountain

The Cavall Bernat

The Portal of Hope is crowned by an image of the Cavall Bernat, one of the most prominent rock formations on Montserrat mountain. Nested atop Montserrat is the abbey that houses the Virgin of Montserrat, the black Madonna widely known as La Moreneta.

On 11th September 1881, during Gaudí's lifetime, Pope Leo XIII proclaimed the Virgin of Montserrat Patron Saint of all Catalan dioceses.

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The Patron Saint of the Universal Church Detail. The dove on the bow of the ship.

The Patron Saint of the Universal Church

In this allegorical image, Saint Joseph grips the helm of the Ship of the Church with a steady hand. A dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit drives on the ship from the top of a gabled roof like that of an ark.

Saint Joseph was proclaimed Patron Saint of the Universal Church in 1870 by Pope Pius IX, during Gaudí's lifetime.

A fervent cult of Saint Joseph in late 19th-century Catalonia led to the foundation of the Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph, the organization that originally promoted the Sagrada Família construction project.

"The Catholic Church rightly honours with a very full cultus and venerates with a feeling of deep reverence the illustrious patriarch blessed Joseph, now crowned with glory and honour in Heaven. On earth Almighty God, in preference to all His saints, willed him to be the chaste and true spouse of the Immaculate Virgin Mary as well as the putative father of His only-begotten Son." Inclytum Patriarcham Apostolic Letter (July 7, 1871).

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The Marriage of the Virgin

The Marriage of the Virgin

Mary and Joseph kneel facing each other, joining their hands to seal their marriage vows. Joseph looks at Mary; she lowers her eyes. Behind them, a priest reaches out to the bride and groom. In the foreground is a bouquet of roses.

God Almighty determined that Mary would conceive a child brought about by the Holy Spirit, but he also determined that Jesus should have a father on earth. The man chosen to be a part of the exemplary family that would take in the Messiah was Joseph, and this is the scene in which the protective figure of the patriarch enters the life of Jesus.

(Mt 1:24-25)

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Joseph and Jesus

Joseph and Jesus

Jesus, portrayed as a young child, holds a dead or wounded dove as he speaks with his putative father. Joseph reaches out to take the bird while he listens to his son affectionately.

The scene takes place in Nazareth, home to the Holy Family, where Joseph has his carpentry shop.

This image closes the series of scenes about Jesus' earthly life in the Portal of Hope.

"And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him." (Lk 2,40)

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The Flight into Egypt

The Flight into Egypt

The Holy Family quickly flees from Israel and seeks refuge in Egypt. In a dream, an angel has warned Joseph that King Herod has given orders to kill his child.

Joseph is on foot; his expression reflects the huge responsibility that weighs upon him. Mary, with the baby Jesus in her arms, is riding on a donkey. The docile animal is being led by an angel.

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The Massacre of the Innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents

A kneeling mother grasps the arm of an armed Roman legionnaire who intends to slaughter her child. The soldier lifts the child up in the air, out of the supplicant's reach. Two slain infants lie at the murderer's feet.

The ruthless order to kill all children under the age of two has been issued by Herod, who wants to prevent the King of the Jews from surviving and the prophecy from being fulfilled. The scene takes place in Bethlehem while the Holy Family is escaping into Egypt.

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The portal of charity
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The Coronation of Mary
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The Annunciation
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The trumpeting angels
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The Holy Rosary
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The Angelic Hymn
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The Adoration of the Magi
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The nativity
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The Adoration of the Shepherds
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The column of Jesus

The portal of charity

This part of the portico is devoted to the theological virtue of Christian charity or love and to Jesus.

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The Coronation of Mary The words Sanctus Deus are inscribed between the angels.

The Coronation of Mary

Mary, who has merited the privilege of rising to Heaven in body and soul, is crowned as Queen of Heaven. Jesus, portrayed with a beard and long hair, places the crown on his mother's head. She accepts it humbly. Joseph, on the left, and a fourth figure witness the scene.

The Coronation, which follows the Passion of Christ, is the only scene that is not part of the overall time framework of the façade (the early years of Jesus' earthly life).

Behind the group, a band of angels surrounded by flowers sings the Tersanctus in honour of the Holy Trinity.

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The Annunciation

The Annunciation

The Archangel Gabriel has announced to Mary that the Holy Spirit shall come upon her and she will conceive the Son of God. Mary, kneeling before the archangel, lowers her head in acceptance. 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.' (Lk 1:38) Once Mary has conceived, the word is made flesh and the prophecy of the first coming of the Messiah is fulfilled.

(Lk 1:26-38)

This image is the first in a series of scenes from Jesus' earthly life in the Nativity façade.

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The trumpeting angels

The trumpeting angels

Four trumpeting angels announce the arrival of the Last Judgment. These are the four trumpets of the Apocalypse, the last call to conversion. The instruments are pointing in different directions, representing the scope (land, sea, heavens, light) of the catastrophes being announced.

The Nativity façade makes reference to the Second Coming of the Messiah right after His birth. The same is true of the Song of the Sibyl, a liturgical drama of medieval origin that continues to be performed at the Christmas Midnight Mass, especially in Mallorca.

THE SONG OF THE SIBYL, FROM MALLORCA (EXCERPTS): On the Day of Judgment, he who has done service will be spared. Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Man, and true eternal God, from Heaven will come to judge and will give to everyone what is fair. A great fire from Heaven will descend; Seas, springs, and rivers, all will burn. Fish will shriek in horror at the loss of their natural delights. […] Oh, humble Virgin! You who have given birth to the child Jesus this night, May you pray to your Son so from Hell He will keep us all. (Traditional)

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The Holy Rosary The Holy Rosary The Holy Rosary

The Holy Rosary

A gigantic rosary frames the groups of the Annunciation and the Singing Angels. The fifteen medals represent the fifteen mysteries included in the Holy Rosary in Gaudí's time.

In addition, the sculptural compositions in the Nativity façade include the five Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation, and the Finding in the Temple) and one of the Glorious Mysteries (the Coronation of the Virgin).

Mary's devotion to the Holy Rosary owes its dissemination to the founder of the Dominican Order, Dominic de Guzmán (1170-1221).

"The Rosary is like a bridge between God and man, between the Creator and the creature, and that bridge is Jesus. Without Him, no one can cross the abyss that stretches from the nothingness that is man to divine infinity. And Saint Dominic made that bridge accessible to all." Josep Torras i Bages (1846-1916), L’etern Rosari [The Eternal Rosary]

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The Angelic Hymn

The Angelic Hymn

An angel has announced the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds. Then the voices of a heavenly choir, represented here by nine angels, rise in the angelic hymn: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

(Lk 2:14)

The words of this song of praise are carved in Latin right beneath the angels: 'Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.' The words'glory', 'God' and 'peace' stand out above the rest.

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The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi

Three figures of noble countenance prostrate themselves before the infant, who is prophesied to become the King of the Jews. They have reached Bethlehem following a shooting star they saw in the East. Each one of them bears a twofold gift for the child: gold (symbolizing 'alms'), incense ('prayer'), and myrrh ('sacrifice').

(Mt 2:1-12)

"With the gold that the Magi offered to the infant JESUS, they proclaimed him King; with myrrh they proclaimed him man, and mortal; with incense they proclaimed him God." Josep Formiguera, Alivio de pastors, y past de ovelles [Solace of Shepherds and Pasture of Sheep] (1718)

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The nativity

The nativity

From the humblest of cradles, Mary lifts her child, Jesus, born to redeem humankind from its sins. Joseph protects them both. To their sides are the ox and the mule.

The scene takes place in Bethlehem; Joseph and Mary have gone there from Nazareth to register in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus.

The Christmas tradition of the nativity scene is associated with Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226).

(Lk 2:1-21)

"The blessed Francis sent for this man [...] about fifteen days before the Nativity of the Lord, and said to him, [...] "I wish to re-enact the birth of the Child in Bethlehem, and to behold with my own eyes His infant hardships; how He lay in a manger on the hay, with the ox and the ass standing by." Thomas of Celano, The First Life of St. Francis, XXX 84

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The Adoration of the Shepherds

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Four shepherds of different ages (one of them a young child) kneel before the Son of God. An angel has announced the birth of the Messiah and they have rushed to adore Him. They bear gifts of food from the land.

This group is placed symmetrically across from the Adoration of the Magi.

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The column of Jesus Detail of the serpent with the apple in its mouth Detail of the column of Jesus

The column of Jesus

This column in the shape of a palm tree is the base for the Nativity scene. A ribbon listing the names of Jesus' paternal ancestors, beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph's father Jacob, coils upwards along the shaft. It is the genealogy of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew.

(Mt 1:1-7)

The serpent that tempted Eve in Paradise with the fruit of the tree of life is at the foot of the column. Although it is difficult to see, the serpent still has the fruit of temptation in its mouth. An iron grille wrought by Gaudí as a single piece surrounds the base of the column.

"The old serpent will sting and trouble you, but prayer will put him to flight and by steadfast, useful toil the way will be closed to him." The Imitation of Christ, III 12, 24 (Trans. by Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton)

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Upper section of the portal of charity
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The Holy Trinity
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The cypress
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The pelican

Upper section of the portal of charity



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The Holy Trinity 16th-century Throne of Grace by Antoni Marquès, part of the Altarpiece of the Holy Trinity in the Collegiate Basilica of Santa Maria in Manresa.

The Holy Trinity

The highest point of the Portal of Charity and of the entire Nativity façade (except for the bell towers) is a symbol of the Holy Trinity. It consists of a cross made up of several elements: at the very top, a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit; below, a Tau cross (a cross with three arms), the colour of blood, representing Jesus Christ; and, embracing this Tau, another gold cross that represents God the Father holding his crucified Son. It is a new representation of the theme of the Throne of Grace, which has a long-standing iconographic tradition.

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The cypress

The cypress

Standing above several symbols of the Eucharist, the Portal of Christian Love or Charity is crowned with a cypress tree surrounded by white doves. The cypress, a long-lived evergreen associated with hallowed ground since ancient times, symbolizes the eternal love of Christ. In Catalonia, the cypress is planted as a sign of welcome in local farmhouses.

At the foot of the cypress are two ladders evoking Jacob's ladder. Behind the tree, a bridge connects two bell towers.

"What will become of me, O Lord, and where can I find the ladder that will allow me to climb up to the Heaven on high?" Ramon Llull (c. 1232-1315), The Book of Contemplation, II 32, 29. .

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The pelican

The pelican

Above a crown and an egg with the Christogram (JHS), a pelican feeds its two chicks. This allegory of the Eucharist, of medieval origin, is based on an even older legendary image of the pelican. It was believed that a female pelican could feed her young with her own blood; thus its association with the sacrifice of Christ..

ADORO TE DEVOTE (EXCERPT) Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican; Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what Thy bosom ran - Blood whereof a single drop has the power to win. All the world forgiveness of its world of sin. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) (English version: Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.)

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Bell towers
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The episcopal symbols
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The Tersanctus
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Barnabas

Bell towers

The bell towers are dedicated to the twelve apostles.

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The episcopal symbols

The episcopal symbols

The bell tower pinnacles are dedicated to the bishops, who hold the highest rank within the Sacred Ministry as successors to the apostles. The pinnacles are made up of episcopal insignia: the ring, the staff, the mitre, and the cross. The shape of the pinnacles is the staff; the top is the mitre, which contains the cross; and the hole is the ring.

"Look at that ending! Does it not seem to unite the earth with the heavens?" Antoni Gaudí, quoted by Cèsar Martinell

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The Tersanctus

The Tersanctus

The bell towers are adorned with three inscriptions drawn from the liturgy of the Eucharist. The most visible of the three, placed halfway up, is the Tersanctus in Latin: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus ('Holy, Holy, Holy'). Higher up, under the pinnacles, we see the words Hosanna and Excelsis written vertically ('Hosanna in Heaven,'if the phrase were complete). Lower down are the words Sursum Corda('Lift up your hearts'). Hence, the placement of the inscriptions follows the liturgical order.

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Barnabas

Barnabas

This bell tower, dedicated to Barnabas the Apostle, was the only one Gaudí lived to see. Each bell tower is dedicated to an apostle, but not necessarily to one of the twelve original apostles. Barnabas is one of the exceptions, together with Saul of Tarsus (on the Glory façade), with whom he preached the Good News.

The figure of Barnabas, depicted in his seat, is flanked by a series of letters that spell his name and the word 'apostle'in Latin: Barnaba Apostolus.

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