The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia or simply Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece, is one of Barcelona's most popular tourist attractions.
Construction on this church will continue at least until 2041, but it has already become Barcelona's most important landmark.
Sagrada Familia - A New Church - The idea of a new church was launched by a devote organization whose goal was to bring an end to the dechristianisation of the Barcelonese, which had started with the industrialization and increasing wealth of the city. A plot of land in the new Eixample district was bought in 1877. The architect Francisco de Paula del Villar designed a neo gothic church and lead the construction which started in 1882.
Antoni Gaudí's Design - One year later, the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí took over as lead architect at the age of 31. From that moment on, Gaudí devoted most of his life to the construction of the church. Instead of sticking to the original plans, Gaudí changed the design drastically. The neo gothic style made way for Gaudí's trademark modernist style, which was based on forms found in nature. When he died in 1926 only one facade (the nativity facade), one tower, the apse and the crypt were finished. Because Gaudí was constantly improvising and changing the design while construction was going on, he left few designs and models. And most of these were destroyed during the civil war in 1936.
18 Towers - Still, architects now have a clear idea of what Gaudí had in mind. The last version of his design called for a church 95m/312ft long and 60m/197ft wide. The church will be able to accommodate 13,000 people. When finished, the Sagrada Familia will have a total of 18 tower. Detail of the Nativity Facade Four Towers on each of the three facades represent the 12 apostles. The towers reach a height of 90 to 120m (394ft). Another four towers represent the 4 evangelists. They will surround the largest, 170m/558ft tall tower, dedicated to Jesus Christ. The last tower, dedicated to Virgin Mary, will be built over the apse.
Construction - After Gaudí's death in 1926 construction slowed dramatically due to a lack of funds and the civil war. Construction pace started to pick up again in the mid 1950s and now two facades and eight tower have been completed. The main nave was roofed in 2000. Currently construction is mainly focusing on the nave and the main southern facade known as the Glory Facade. This facade will picture life and death.
Passion Facade - The first facade, facing east, is known as the Nativity Facade. It was finished by Gaudí himself and is ornamented in a baroque fashion with motifs of animals and plants. Opposite the Nativity facade is the 'Passion Facade'. Construction started in 1954, but only in 1987 sculptures depicting the crucified Jesus Christ were added. As soon as they were installed, the abstract figures caused a storm of criticism, as the style was very different from Gaudí's.
Visiting Sagrada Familia - Even though the Sagrada Familia is far from finished, the remarkable church is well worth a visit. You can visit the crypt were Gaudí is buried. A museum tells the story of this great architect and the history of the church. You can also visit the towers. A lift and a long walk will lead you to the top of a tower from where you have a magnificent view over Barcelona. The climb is not recommended for those with fear of heights or for people with claustrophobia!