Why Is It Famous? – La Sagrada Família

By: Joanna Wallace

Have you ever heard of the church that’s been under construction for over 100 years?

I had not in the summer of 2015, but when I saw the Basílica de la Sagrada Família in person, I immediately understood why. When I came to stand in front of the nativity facade of this insane building, I was almost visually overwhelmed. My eyes couldn’t process what they were seeing because there was just so much to look at and it was SO different from any structure I’d ever seen.

This basilica has been under constant construction since 1883, and was completely and meticulously designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí was a different and new kind of architect that used natural designs as inspiration for his architectural ideas. He designed many buildings and an entire park on the mountainside overlooking Barcelona, all with interesting organic shapes and styles.

La Sagrada Família, though, is his most well-known structure, and it has a very complex background:

  • Around 1880, a fundamentalist Catholic named Josep Boccabella wanted to make a church dedicated to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus called the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family. After his first architect quit early in the construction, Gaudí took over finishing the crypt.
  • After receiving a large anonymous donation, Gaudí suggested altering the design to a much grander symbolic temple with soaring towers. Work on the Nativity facade started immediately. In 1914, Gaudí decided to dedicate all of his time to the temple, and in his final years lived on the grounds of the church making scale plaster models of the rest of the design. Gaudí died in 1926 and only saw one of the towers completed, but because of his extensive notes and models, construction could still be continued by the other architects he worked with before his death.
  • In 1936, the studio was burnt and many of the plaster models were damaged during the Spanish Civil War, but were mostly restored shortly after by an architect that worked closely with Gaudí. Work continues slowly and with high costs, but it has never fully stopped. Starting in 1955, a fundraiser has helped majorly in collecting funds to keep construction going, mostly through ticket costs for visitors to enter the church, and donations.

My photos below are from 2015, so more work has been done since then, including the completion of the Passion facade.

In recent years, excitement has been increasing, though, because the end of the construction is becoming more and more reachable. The projected end date for the church’s construction is 2026!

When completed, the basilica will be the tallest religious building in Europe, standing at 564 feet, about 40 feet shorter than Mount Montjuïc, a hill in Barcelona, because Gaudí didn’t want his creation to overshadow God’s creation. Below is a video of what the completion of the Sagrada Familia will potentially look like:


Here are pictures of some of Gaudí’s other creations I saw in Barcelona, including his amazing Park Guell and the Casa Milà:

All photos taken by me.

Featured Photo: 1

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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