Sagrada Família. Church in Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Família

Church in Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Família Photo © Francisco Aragão

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Sagrada Família

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Sagrada Família - Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família - Sagrada Família. Photo by Roger Ferrer Ibáñez
The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is one of the most prominent landmarks in Barcelona and probably one of the world’s most impressive architectonic works of the late 19th century, conceived and initially developed by Antoni Gaudi (Wikipedia
	Article). Its grand scale and unique architectonic style attract millions of tourists from all over the world. It is located in the La Sagrada Familia quarter in Barcelona, and its dimensions are so impressive it can be easily spotted from Parc Güell, another of Gaudi’s works, located on the other side of Barcelona.

The works in Sagrada Família began in 1882 under Gaudi’s directions, who supervised them until his death in 1926. To this day it remains unfinished and many architects have taken over the works over the years, which has proven to be an especially difficult task since Gaudi didn't leave any definitive blueprints behind. His peculiar way of conceiving architecture and his lack of trust in blueprints and plans on paper (which, he thought were limiting in the conception and development of a three-dimensional space) propelled him to work mostly in an on-site fashion and develop his own personal ways of modeling.

In the 130 years that the church has been under construction, it has relied on donations for the ongoing works. It is expected to be finished in the next 20 years.

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Sagrada Família Exterior. Photo by Bernard Gagnon

The Initial Works

In 1866, Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer founded the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of St. Joseph, and started promoting the construction of an expiatory church that would be devoted to the Holy Family. Lands for the church were bought in 1881 and the works began in 1882 on the feast of St. Joseph, under the direction of architect, Josep Urquinaona, who conceived the crypt in a neo-Gothic style, but abandoned the project shortly after, and the commission was given to Antoni Gaudi.

Gaudi took over the project and in 1914, devoted himself only to it. The dedication he professed to the church can be explained by his true and powerful devotion, which can be perceived inside the church, a church that strikes not only as a magnificent architectonic work, but also as a place built out of love and faith.

Gaudi took inspiration from nature to do most of his works. This can be seen in the many buildings and sites he built across Barcelona. In the main nave of the immense church, the style of the columns is a great example of this feature of Gaudi’s style: they are built in a groundbreaking fashion, emulating the branches of a tree, which makes them more efficient in supporting the weight of the roof, and combining in an intersection of various geometric forms, such as a square base evolving into an octagon, then a sixteen-sided form and finally a circle, as a result of an intersection of helicoidal columns. This creative way of distributing weight eliminated the need for buttresses on the outside walls despite the church’s gigantic proportions.

Gaudi died in a tram accident in 1926, and was buried in the Carmen Chapel of La Sagrada Familia. Since then, many architects have taken part in this project, which is yet to be finished.

Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la
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Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Photo by Leos Kral

Main Features of La Sagrada Familia

The first striking feature as one enters La Sagrada Familia is the way light is used in the nave and chapels. As technology advanced greatly since the original Gothic period, the vitraux can be significantly enlarged without compromising the stability of the structure, and thus huge beams of colorful light enter the church from every angle. This can be noticed more easily when visiting the church in the morning, as the first rays of sunlight encounter the vitraux. The dimensions of the church can be overwhelming from the inside, and going through its many singularities can take a few hours.

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Sagrada Família. Photo by Edgar Moskopp

The Facades of the Church

Sagrada Familia
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Sagrada Familia - Sagrada Família. Photo by Alper Çuğun


The Nativity Facade

This facade is the most faithful to Gaudi’s style, since it was completed by 1930. It is dedicated to the birth of Jesus and it depicts the Holy Family as well as angels and many other important biblical figures significant in the birth of Jesus. It is heavily decorated with many naturalistic elements such as animals and plants. A turtle and a tortoise support each of the columns of the portico, representing the land and the sea. The three porticos are dedicated to the three virtues: Hope, Faith, and Charity. The Tree of life rises above the Portico of Charity.

Passion Facade

Although Gaudi didn't live to see the construction of this facade, he intended the Passion Facade to be bare, resembling the bones of a skeleton. Its construction began in 1954. It was Gaudi’s intention for the facade to be fearsome and dark. It is supported by six large, inclined columns. It depicts many scenes of the last hours of Jesus.

In 1986, the sculptures of the Passion Facade were commissioned to Josep Maria Subirachs, who used his personal style in making them. The contrast between his arid, minimalistic style and Gaudi’s love for details and organic exuberance can be easily noted.

Glory Facade

It is intended to be the largest and most spectacular facade and is currently under construction. It is devoted to the Glory of Jesus. The construction of this facade is being guided by Gaudi’s original plans, who left drawings and directions knowing he would not be alive if the construction were to begin.

Six towers on the Glory Facade, originally conceived by Gaudi, are to be built in the next years: the central tower, located in the center, will be 170 m tall and will be crowned by a cross. The apse tower, dedicated to Mary, and four more towers surrounding the apse tower, will be dedicated to the evangelists.

How to Reach La Sagrada Familia

The church is located in *Carrer Mallorca 401( and can be reached via metro (lines L5 and L2). A museum dedicated to Gaudi can be visited in the church as well. In the museum, his original models and drawings can be appreciated.

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Author: eymili. Last updated: Jan 13, 2015

Pictures of Sagrada Família

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Sagrada Familia - Sagrada Família. Photo by neusitas

Sagrada Família - Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família - Photo by Joan Garcia Silano

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