Sagrada Familia, as the Spaniards call it, is the calling card of not just the city but of all of Catalonia. It is impossible to come to Barcelona and not visit this magnificent construction, which Antoni Gaudi himself had a hand in. It’s hard to find a more magnificent building. It looks grim and huge from the outside, but impresses inside with its transparency and vivid colors. Even someone who is far from religion will not remain indifferent within its walls.
Start of construction of the temple
The Sagrada Familia is the largest long construction project of our time. Describing the history of construction, it is impossible to finish the narrative, because the building is not yet completed. According to forecasts, all work will be completed by 2026, but no one can guarantee this, because the construction is being done on donations and can greatly stretch over time.
After receiving a large donation in 1874, the priests in Barcelona decided to build a beautiful temple. They bought a large plot of land outside the city limits at the time and hired an engineer to create the project. The famous architect Francisco del Villar led the work. Under his leadership, and March 19, 1882 and was laid the first stone of the temple. This date is considered the birth date of the construction, which has not yet been completed.
Alas, however, there were disagreements between the architect and the clients about the design of the building, and after just one year, the master refused to cooperate. Since the end of 1882, Antonio Gaudi takes on the construction of the Temple of the Holy Family. He immediately makes significant adjustments to the exterior appearance of the building. From the usual Gothic look remains only the columns and skeleton. He provided many windows and small stained-glass inserts in the walls, which immediately gave the construction lightness and a certain openwork. Gaudí’s favourite Art Nouveau now prevailed over the Gothic.
The outside of the building was decorated with many towers of different sizes. The congregation must have had the impression that numerous pointed peaks like strings were reaching up to the sky from the rocky base. The temple has three facades, each representing a particular milestone in the life of Jesus Christ: the birth, death, and resurrection. Smaller details and sculptures show other religious rites and individual phrases from the Gospels.
The architect planned the main tower to be 170 meters high, one meter less than the hill of Montjuïc. He did not want man’s creation to surpass God’s. He was meticulous about the minutiae of the towers, which surprised many builders. After all, at such a height it is impossible to notice the tiny carvings or mosaics. However, Gaudi claimed that angels could see everything.
After several years of construction, Gaudi realized that he would not have time to complete the work before the end of his life. He had to choose what to do first. So, in 1892 he starts working on the facade of the Nativity, which reflects the first phase – the birth of Jesus.
In addition to working on the facades, Antoni Gaudi also thought about additional constructions for the Sagrada Familia. At the beginning of the twentieth century (1910), a small parish school building opened. This helped to attract parishioners to the still unfinished temple.
For more than 40 years the architect erected the frame of the Temple, worked on the smaller elements and towers, and completed the first façade. At the end of November 1926, the nativity facade was completed. The walls were adorned with unusual sculptures and scripture texts. Antonio Gaudi continued to work, but an accident cut his life short. On June 7, 1926 the elderly architect was run over by a streetcar on his way to church. Three days later he died.
Construction of the church after Gaudi’s death
From that moment on the leadership of the work passed to Gaudi’s pupil Domènec Suráñez, who assisted in the work from 1902. Over the next four years he completed the rest of the building’s facades in the great master’s style.
Further construction was considerably slower due to lack of funds. The architects were constantly changing, so it became more difficult to maintain a consistent style. The political disputes concerning Catalonia also affected the timing of the work. In 1936, for example, the anarchists badly damaged the interior decoration and destroyed many of the building documents. For many years the Spanish authorities restricted Catalonia in financing, so the restoration work stalled.
In the early 80s of the last century, construction went much faster and the trend towards completion was already outlined. However, many artists are skeptical about the Sagrada Familia. They no longer see Gaudi’s intention in this temple. The architects changed too often, and each brought a piece of his own vision. Nevertheless, the Church of the Holy Family bears the name of Antonio Gaudi as the main inspiration and creator.
Exterior decoration of the temple
At the base of the Temple you can see the traditional cross, although its outline is heavily disguised by additional buildings. The size of the foundation is 80 meters long and 60 meters wide. The maximum height of the inner vault is 45 m. Above the surface of the earth according to the project by Gaudi should rise 18 pointed towers of different heights. The central and the highest one symbolizes Jesus Christ. Then follow the towers of the Virgin Mary, the authors of the four Gospels and the 12 Apostles.
The building has three facades:
- The Nativity facade is dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ. It is decorated with a sculptural group based on biblical descriptions. Numerous windows are provided in the wall, complemented by stained glass windows.
- The facade of the Passion narrates the execution of Jesus. It is executed in more restrained tones with angular, bony statues. The central sculpture is the crucifixion.
- The façade of Glory symbolizes the resurrection of the Son of God. It is of enormous size, emphasizing the importance of this event. This side of the temple has been under construction since 2002 and is not yet complete.
The interior of the temple
Once inside the Temple of the Holy Family, one is surprised by such a spacious and luminous room. The famous architect applied his skill of calculation and managed to create a light atmosphere in the surrounding space. All the walls are decorated with numerous stained-glass windows, so the light penetrates from everywhere.
Parishioners can see numerous sculptures and frescoes, mosaics and murals. All the elements are harmoniously intertwined with each other. The details are worked out in Gaudi’s favorite manner, that is, the walls and columns are slightly curved and covered with a sinuous pattern.
The interior rooms seem alive and breathing. They are absolutely no pressure on visitors. Although millions of tourists view the attraction each year, there are no large crowds or crush inside.
Information for tourists
The temple is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. In the summer (April-September), the work is extended until 20:00.
There is a fee to enter the temple. The cost of the ticket is:
- 12.50 euros for adults;
- 10,50 euros for pensioners and students.
For a small surcharge you can use the services of an audio guide.
At the entrance is gathered quite a long line of those wishing to examine the interior decoration of the temple. You can reduce the waiting time in a group tour.
You can get to the Temple of the Holy Family by bus. To the stop Sagrada Familia take routes number 33, 43, 44, 51. There are also trains of the blue and lilac metro line arriving at the station of the same name.