Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona’s Most Popular Tourist Attractions. Construction on this church will continue at least until 2026, but it has already become Barcelona’s most important landmark.
The temple expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, which is often referred to as Sagrada Famalia, is a privately funded Roman Catholic church. It has been under construction since 1882 and not expected to be completed until at least 2026.
It is considered to be the master-work of Antoni Gaudí. The projects vast scale and individual design have made it one of Barcelona’s top tourist attractions for years.
According to the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya, 2.26 million people visited the partially built church in 2004, making it one of the most popular attractions in Spain.
Construction History of Sagrada Familia
Gaudí designed the Sagrada Familia and worked on the project from 1883 and devoted the last fifteen years of his life entirely to the endeavour. In 1882, prior to Gaudí’s involvement, Francesc del Villar was commissioned to design a church on the site. He resigned a year later and Gaudí was appointed the project architect, redesigning the project entirely.
The subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have remarked, “My client is not in a hurry.”
After Gaudí’s death in 1926, work continued under the direction of Domènech Sugranyes until interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Parts of the unfinished barn and Gaudí’s models and workshop were destroyed during the war by Catalan anarchists.
The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations. Since 1940 the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner have carried on the work. The illumination was designed by Carles Buigas.
The current director and son of Lluís Bonet, Jordi Bonet i Armengol, has been introducing computers into the design and construction process since the 1980s. Mark Burry of New Zealand serves as Executive Architect and Researcher. Sculptures by J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and the controversial Josep Subirachs decorate the fantastical façades.
Façades of Sagrada Familia
The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Glory façade to the South, which are yet to be completed and the Passion façade to the West.
The Nativity facade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudí influence.
The Passion façade is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being flogged and on the crucifix. These controversial designs are the work of Josep Maria Subirachs.
Interior of the church
The church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach forty-five metres while the side nave vaults reach thirty metres. The transept has three aisles. The columns are on a 7.5 metre grid.
However, the columns of the apse, resting on del Villar’s foundation, do not adhere to the grid, requiring a section of columns of the ambulatory to transition to the grid thus creating a horseshoe pattern to the layout of those columns.
The crossing rests on the four central columns of porphyry supporting a great hyperboloid surrounded by two rings of twelve hyperboloids (currently under construction). The central vault reaches sixty metres.
The apse will be capped by a hyperboloid vault reaching seventy-five metres. Gaudí intended that a visitor standing at the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, crossing, and apse, thus the graduated increase in vault loftiness.
View of Sagrada Familia from Eixample
Key to the symbolism of the church
The towers on the Nativity façade are crowned with geometrically shaped tops that are reminiscent of Cubism (they were finished around 1930), and the intricate decoration is contemporary to the style of Art Nouveau, but Gaudí’s unique style drew primarily from nature, not other artists or architects, and resists categorization.
Current status of Sagrada Familia
The building works are expected to be completed around 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death, although the likelihood of meeting this date is disputed.
Computer Aided design technology has been used to speed up the construction of the building. This technology allows each block of stone to be shaped off-site by a CNC milling machine, whereas in the 1900s, the stone was carved by hand.