Facts about La Sagrada Familia
Under construction for over 100 years
Sagrada Familia is the pride of Barcelona and an expression of the genius of its creator - Antonio Gaudi. Although its construction has been going on for 139 years, we still have to wait for its completion. Anyway, its creator planned its construction for many years, communicating that his client is in no hurry because he is eternal.
This amazing structure attracts over 3 million tourists every year, making it the most visited tourist attraction in Spain. When construction is completed in 2026, and the tower of Jesus is built, Sagrada Familia will become the tallest church in the world.
1The Sagrada Familia - Holy Family Church is a Catholic church with the status of a minor basilica.
It is located in Barcelona, a city in northeastern Spain, the second largest in the country.
2The basilica is considered to be Antoni Gaudi's significant architectural achievement.
Antoni Gaudi was a Catalan architect and engineer of Art Nouveau (a direction in architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), famous for his exceptional designs. A turning point in Gaudi's artistic life was meeting with the Barcelona industrialist Eusebi Güell, with whom the architect became friends. Güell greatly appreciated Gaudi's art and financed many of his projects. Gaudi created many buildings for him, including a hunting pavilion and a church. He also did commissions for the church and, in total, did about 20 major projects, mainly in and around Barcelona.
3Gaudi's style was very sculptural and Art Nouveau, striving for a stylistic unity by combining different fields of art, especially craftsmanship, interior architecture, sculpture and graphics.
In his architectural work, he used parabolic arches, fantastic forms and intricate patterns, and organic shapes seen in nature. He often referred to the fluidity of the underwater world, which is why today, he is considered a precursor of biomorphic architecture.
4With the experience he gained, Gaudi began to experiment more with his designs.
He used the equilibrium rule of the catenary, creating a spatial model of a building and testing the forces of gravity on it. He tested the strength of different materials, such as basalt and granite and experimented with lighting - for a better effect, he used mirrors or photographs to design. To decorate surfaces, Gaudi used the Catalan style of trencadis mosaic. His most mature works come from this period: Colonia Guell, Casa Mila or Sagrada Familia.
5The construction of the temple began in 1882.
The idea to build a church in this place goes back to 1866 when the founders of the Spiritual Society of St. Joseph started a campaign to build a temple dedicated to the Holy Family. After 15 years, thanks to donations, an amount was raised to purchase a plot of land. The cornerstone was laid on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, 1882. The church project was commissioned to the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, who, however, could not come to an agreement with the association and resigned after a year. His place was taken by Antonio Gaudi.
6Gaudi began work on the church in 1883.
Thirty-one-year-old Gaudi presented a completely new design of the building. It assumed building a church without external arches and buttresses, with an enlarged central tower 172.5 meters high. The church was to be devoted to Jesus Christ. As mystical-religious references were of great importance in Gaudi's work, he prepared a complex iconographic program.
7Gaudi repeatedly changed the temple's design, which over time became more and more visionary, both in innovative technological and architectural solutions and the associated symbolism.
Both the architecture and ornamentation of the facades and interior of the Sagrada Familia are saturated with Christian symbolism. This church, through its size and architectural splendor, was to refer to the most significant Gothic cathedrals.
8The temple is built on the plan of a cross.
It contains three facades: The Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory, each of which is a different style. It has 18 towers that symbolize the 12 apostles, the four evangelists, Christ and the Virgin Mary.
The dimensions are governed by proportions based on the number 7.5, which is the base dimension. The length of the nave is the most important in this five-nave church (as in other churches). In this case, it is 90 m (7.5 x 12), where 12 symbolizes the apostles. The height of the main nave is 45 m (7.5 x 6). The transept (transverse nave) is 60 m long (7.5 x 8 or 5 x 12) and 30 m wide (7.5 x 4). The apse is 75 m (7.5 x 10) high.
9Gaudi's architecture is based on the geometry of complex curves, including the elliptical paraboloid.
It consists of two planes of symmetry having a single axis. Their number and infinity may symbolize the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
10The Sagrada Familia has three facades.
They take their names from the portals adorning them that are closely related to the gospels, and their moodiness alludes to the three main literary types.
- Nativity façade - (the only one largely completed during Gaudi's lifetime) has a lyrical, joyful character related to the birth of Jesus.
- Passion façade - has the poignancy and bleakness of drama.
- Glory façade - has epic overtones.
11In his design, Gaudi expressed the perfection he saw in nature.
He included in the design:
- The plant kingdom - massive upward branching columns resembling a dense stone forest. Thirty-six of the "trees" connect only with the vault; the other sixteen are incorporated into the temple walls. Their total number - 52 - indicates the number of Sundays in the whole year (except Easter Sunday).
- The animal kingdom - animal symbols are widely present in the temple's ornamentation - most of them are on the Nativity façade. These are animals symbolizing good (a lamb, a dove) and also evil (a snake with an apple representing Satan, reptiles, amphibians).
- The mineral kingdom - the undulating surface of the Nativity façade reflects the landscape of the Catalan mountains of Montserrat.
- The kingdom of man - is most clearly reflected in the main portal of the Passion Façade, which is the most naturalistic. Using the angular masses that make up the Passion sculptures, it speaks most powerfully to those who view it. At the bottom are six upward climbing columns that symbolize the primary bones of man (the crucified Christ) along with the structure of the adjacent tendons. They are complemented by 18 other columns - a total of 24, the number of bones a human rib has.
12Gaudi began work on the Sagrada Familia when he was thirty-one years old.
For the next forty years, he worked intensively on the temple's construction, devoting the last fifteen years of his life entirely to it. He even took up residence on the construction site.
13Gaudi did not complete the temple, as he died on June 10, 1926, from injuries sustained three days earlier when a streetcar hit him.
After his death, he was buried in the basilica's crypt, following his wishes.
14During Gaudi's lifetime, 4 of the basilica's 18 towers, one of the three designed facades, the Nativity Facade, and the crypt were completed.
Although he claimed that the temple under construction might not be the last one he built, but probably the first of a new generation, he was probably aware that he would not live to see the completion of the Sagrada Familia - hence the crypt.
15After Gaudi's death, several architects took over the completion of the building.
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, some of his designs were destroyed, so the final appearance of the building is not determined. The construction has not been finished until today. It is scheduled to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of the death of the temple's architect.
16Sagrada Familia was designed not to exceed a height of 173 m because this is the height of Barcelona's Montjuic mountain.
Gaudi believed that a natural, God-created mountain should tower over the city, not a man-made structure.
17Although construction has been going on since 1882, it was not until late 2001 that stained glass windows appeared in the basilica.
A Spaniard, Joan Vila-Grau, made them.
18Sagrada Familia is the most visited tourist attraction in Spain.
More than 3 million tourists come there every year. Since the construction continues thanks to private donations and tourism, the funds obtained from tourism make a measurable contribution to the temple's building. Construction costs are approximately 25 million euros per year.
19In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Holy Family Church, elevating it to the dignity of a minor basilica.
Sixty-two thousand people attended a solemn Mass led by the pope.
20After 136 years of construction of the temple, it was revealed that it was being built without a formal permit.
Maybe not entirely true, as Gaudi had obtained the appropriate permit from the municipal authorities of Sant Marti de Provenals, which is now part of Barcelona. Barcelona authorities in 2019 approved the decision to grant permission to build in the city and, according to an agreement with the diocesan curia, a sum of 36 million euros will flow into the city coffers from the basilica authorities over ten years.
21In 2005, the Facade of the Nativity and the crypt of the Sagrada Familia temple were included in the UNESCO heritage list.
22The basilica building is 60 meters (197 feet) wide and 95 meters (311 feet) long.
To get to the tower's top, you must climb 400 stairs or use the elevator.